Movie review: Doctor Strange 

Movie reviews

Hello hello hello!

The newest Marvel film – Doctor Strange – has premiered in some places around the world, and since I’m lucky enough to live in one of the places that got the movie real early , I can already give you my thoughts on it! Since this review is ahead of the wide release of the film, some of it will be spoiler-free and then I’ll give a big spoiler warning for those who want and can continue to read further. Let’s go!

IMDb summary: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

First, I will begin this review by stating that I’m a Marvel fangirl, so that could color my judgment (I would love to be a DC fangirl as well, it’s just that DC doesn’t allow me to be one yet – praying that Wonder Woman will be good). I have reviewed more than a couple of Marvel films already and gonna link them for those who are interested: Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Civil War.

Also, I would like to briefly mention that, once again, the screening that I attended had a predominately male audiences, like the majority of the comic book movie screening this past year. This kind of audience breakdown explains why Marvel doesn’t want to make a Black Widow movie but I do hope that Captain Marvel will bring more girls/women to the cinema.

I was really looking forward to Doctor Strange for quite a while, I was really excited to see magic being introduced into the MCU. I was also interested to see if Marvel Studios will be able to launch another successful franchise, which revolves around a weird character. So far, their gambles (Guardians and Ant-Man) have paid off, so Doctor Strange will probably follow suit, because, let me state this loud and clear – it is an amazing movie. I will go through the different aspect of the film in and give you an informative but a spoiler free overview. Then, I will give you a spoiler warning and talk about interesting story points. Lastly, although the first part of the review will be spoiler free (I’ll try my best), I would still advise you to read it at your own discretion. It’s gonna be a long post, so get some snacks or drinks.

Writing

A few people worked on the script as well as the story of the movie, including the director Scott DerricksonC. Robert Cargill (writer of the Sinister movies) and Jon Spaihts (wrote Prometheus and these upcoming pictures: PassengersThe Mummy and Pacific Rim: Maelstrom)I wasn’t that familiar with their previous work but they impressed me a lot with the story and dialogue of Doctor Strange. Although the movie’s narrative revolved around the origin story, it was executed really well, without making it cliche or stereotypical. The dialogue and the jokes were also marvelous. All of the comic relief worked and tied the movie to brand that is Marvel (in contrast to DC). The familiar types of jokes were a reassurance that one was watching a Marvel movie since the visuals were so unique, different and nothing I’ve seen before in a Marvel film, or in any film for that matter. The dialogue and the character interactions were snappy, emotional and clever. The seeds have also been sown for future sequels and the references to the wider universe (Avengers and Infinity Stones) were also present.

My only gripe with the writing was, and I cannot believe I’m saying this, the villains. AGAIN. Marvel, come on! Either cast more appropriate actors, or have better writing for your villains. Don’t get me wrong, they were not that bad, just not quite right and as high of a quality as the rest of the film.

Directing

Scott Derrickson, who has mostly worked on horror films, directed the movie and did a spectacular job. However, half of the praise should also go to the cinematographer Ben Davis (A Long Way DownGuardians, Age of UltronGenius), because the visuals of the movie were its strongest point. They are really hard to describe and deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Despite the visuals being indescribable, I will attempt to explain them somehow. Basically, all the warping and shaping of reality gives off feelings of madness and has a slight Mad Hater/Wonderland aura. All of the folding buildings do remind a bit of Inception, but I would also say that Doctor Strange takes this type of visuals to an extreme. The mirror effects, the kaleidoscopic folding, the clockwork-like structure and the domino-like movements really make the film a sight to behold and marvel at.

The variety of different locations were also really great – they added a global aspect to the film and even more flavor. I absolutely loved the fact that the Ancient One lived in Nepal – it kinda tied the sorcerers and magic to Buddhism and monks (at least that’s the connection I made in my mind). Doctor Strange was also one of the only films in which magic and the modern world worked well together because I usually enjoy fantasy films that are set in the past more, but this picture broke that tradition. The action was also great – the movie found a balance between physical and magical fights as well as their mixture.

Lastly, I loved all the costumes of all the characters, but especially Strange’s. His cape was wonderful – not only a costume but also a tool, a living tool – so cool! Other gadgets that he had were also neat and have a lot of merchandise potential (read the spoiler part to find out what I’m definitely buying).

On a separate note, Doctor Strange was the first movie to feature the new Marvel Studios logo. This one looks more cinematic than the last one and it also has a sense of nostalgia and grandeur – something along the lines of ‘oh, look how far we’ve come’.

Acting

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange was AMAZING (probably have repeated this word like 100 times in this review). His American accent was believable and his whole portrayal of the character – impeccable. He made me both like and hate Strange at first. He was funny, funky, posh, annoying, charming and charismatic – such a well-rounded performance with layers. Another great casting on Marvel’s part, another great leading man. I also loved his purely physical acting – the hand movements. I liked how all the sorcerers were moving both their hands and arms. This makes their magic appear different from Scarlet Witch’s as she relies more on the finger movements. Also, I’ve mentioned that his character’s gadgets had a lot of merchandise potential. Well, for one, I want that dimensional travel ring since I wear a lot of nerdy jewelry. Also, his costume will probably be at the top of everyone’s cosplay list, while I can at least be happy that my winter coat is the same color as his cape. Recommended actor’s movies: Sherlock, The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness, Black Mass, The Fifth Estate, The Hobbit 2.
  • Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One was superb too. Some people were annoyed that they gender flipped the character, others had racial issues. I didn’t have any problems with Swinton being cast because I really admire her fluidity as an actress – she plays with masculine and feminine a lot and I think she could probably transform into a different ethnicity for art’s sake if that wasn’t so frowned upon these days. I’m not saying that Asian actors shouldn’t be cast in Asian roles, but I also cannot agree with those that are saying that creative liberties cannot be taken when adapting a comic book to the big screen. Recommended actor’s movies: We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, A Bigger Splash, Hail, Caesar!.
  • Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer was excellent as well. I liked the fact that McAdams was finally cast as a franchise character because I’m a fan of her and would like to see more of her. I liked how she played probably the only normal person in the film and how she reacted to everything that was happening around her. She was both relatable and really funny. Recommended actor’s movies: Midnight in Paris, Southpaw, Spotlight.
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius to me, sadly, was the weakest link in the cast. His performance seemed a bit off and I cannot pinpoint why. I’ve seen Mikkelsen play a wonderful and scary villain in Casino Royale, so I’m quite annoyed and devasted that he wasn’t as good in this picture as he could have been.Recommended actor’s movies: Casino Royale.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor was exceptional as Karl Mordo. I loved how emotional his performance was, how it could go from extremely energetic to a very subtle in a heartbeat. Would love to see more of his character and cannot wait for him to be the villain in the sequel. Recommended actor’s movies: The Martian, 12 Years a Slave, Triple 9, Z for Zachariah.
  • Benedict Wong as Wong was really nice. I liked how funny he was but, at the same time, how he could hold his own against Cumberbatch’s Strange. I would love to see more of his character’s and Strange’s friendship because the two actors had great chemistry! Recommended actor’s movies: Prometheus, The Martian.

In short, Doctor Strange is another win for Marvel. The film successfully told an interesting origin story, introduced a bunch of characters and blew me away with the visuals. I’ll most likely see it again in a few weeks time.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Doctor Strange trailer

SPOILER DISCUSSION

In this part, I would like to talk about a few plot points as well as a few action sequences that really stuck a cord with me. To begin with, let’s look at the characters and their interactions. I loved the writing for Doctor Strange – he started as a super cocky yet efficient person and had an amazing story of hero’s growth. I really liked seeing him as a surgeon, just being in his element in contrast to him being completely lost and failing miserably during his magical training. Strange’s interactions with the other doctors as well as with Christine were also amazing: funny and kinda annoying but still enjoyable. I also thought that the love story worked and wasn’t forced. It seemed organic and was full of both bad times (the fight in the apartment – amazing back and forth dialogue) and nicer ones (Christine saving Strange’s life). I loved Strange’s relationship with his mentor – the Ancient One – too and I liked the pep-talk that she gave him before dying. I also enjoyed the ideas and lines that the scriptwriters wrote for her character, including ‘Not everything makes sense, not everything has to’. Strange’s and Mordo’s relationship was also interesting and had more than a few moments of foreshadowing. The biggest hint at what will happen in the future was, of course, the post-credits scene, in which Mordo was seen stealing powers from the other sorcerers. This probably means that he will be the main villain the sequel .

As I have said, the movie had plenty of jokes and quips. Some of the best ones came from Strange’s and Wong’s interactions: ‘Wang? Like Adele?…Or Aristotle?…Or Eminem?’; ‘Try me, Beyonce’, followed by a shot of Wang listening to the song Single Ladies; ‘People used to think I was funny. Did they work for you?’. The wifi moments from the trailer was still funny as well, despite the fact that I’ve seen it numerous times. The mid-credits scene’s self-refiling pint of beer was extremely entertaining too.

All of the action sequences were amazing and they were all also kinda distinct. Doctor Strange’s first encounter with the Astro plane was crazy – so cool and so mad.  That taster we got in Ant-Man was nothing compared to this. It got a bit creepy at times, though, especially with those tiny hands (Deadpool?!).  The fight in the Astro plane in the hospital was cool too and expanded on the idea that we are now dealing with multiple realities (that voltage and magic relation – great). Same with that mirror world – I liked the fact that we got to travel to it and through it quite a lot.

The time gem, which is the eye of Agamotto, really came into play in the last act of the film and was utilized well. I liked the turning back of time, the stopping time, the time loop and the breaking the laws of nature plot-points quite a bit.

The villains of the film were my biggest and only issue. The way that Dormammu was realized seemed a bit cliche and, for such a powerful being, he seemed to be defeated to easily. I hope he comes back in the sequel. The character of Kaecilius was only okay, while he could have been amazing. He had reasons to be angry and also had a kinda personal relationship to the Ancient One but he just didn’t seem to be used fully.

Moving forward, Doctor Strange will definitely show up in the Infinity War and his time gem will have to get stolen during the first part of the Avengers 3. The mid-credits scene with Thor might also be an indication Strange will show up in Thor Ragnarok – that would actually be really cool, would love to see Strange and Loki interacting!

So, that’s it for the spoiler part. I would love to hear what you liked and disliked about the movie in the comments!

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Movie review: High-Rise

Movie reviews

Hi!

I really wasn’t sure whether I would go to the cinema this weekend. However, I decided that I need some fresh air – I have been binging on Daredevil Season 2 since it dropped on Friday – and went out to see the new British film High-Rise. It’s a dystopian movie (my favorite genre!) starring Tom Hiddleston (one of my favorite actors!). Let’s go!

IMDb summary: Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control.

This movie wasn’t on my radar. I would have missed it if they wouldn’t have showed its trailer before the screening of Allegiant last week. High-Rise actually premiered last year at various film festivals, including Toronto International Film Festival. It will be released in the US (in limited release) in May and on video-on-demand. Since it’s a British film, it was released in the UK a bit earlier – this weekend.

British cinema

I am a huge fan of contemporary British films and I have told you this many times before. If you want to read more of my reviews of UK films, I invite you to look through posts on Legend, Far From The Madding Crowd, Suffragette, and Testament of Youth.

When I saw this film’s trailer, I thought that its main idea resembled that of Snowpiercer. After having watched High-Rise, I still think that the core theme and the premise are both similar to those of Snowpiercer. However, that’s where all the similarities end: while Snowpiercer was a dystopian and sci-fi action movie, High-Rise is a dystopian art film – I would even classify it as belonging or at least partially resembling the genre of experimental/avant-garde films. To be frank, when watching these types of motion pictures, I question my mental abilities: do these films just not make any sense or am I just too stupid to understand them?.

Story

The film’s screenplay was written by Amy Jump based on a book by J.G. Ballard. I haven’t read the book and I am not familiar with Jump’s previous work. Speaking about the story of the film, I wouldn’t say that I liked it (in the normal sense of the word), but I definitely found it interesting and I do applaud the writing.

The film’s main story was told in a flashback, so this was definitely not your typical narrative movie. The movie’s plot was also very fragmented and this fragmentation was carried out into editing (more on the montage style later).

The film revolved around a community of people living in the 40-story building, with the richest and the most privileged ones living at the top, and the poorest families  at the bottom. The main character of the film, played by Tom Hiddleston, resided on the 24 or 25 floor – in the middle of the two groups.

This movie explored the themes such as human savagery (showed people ’embracing’ their animalistic nature) and social hierarchy. It also touched upon humanity’s dependence on technology and power – it basically critiqued our consumerism. I thought about the building’s community as a metaphor for our society, but I also read online that it might be a metaphor for not just any society, but for the digital age/Internet society and I can definitely see why some people, who saw this film, think that way.

Ballard wrote his book in the 1970s and also set the action of the book in the same decade. The Internet did not exist back then, so if Ballard predicted all of this, he is not far from genius.

The movie was brutal in its humor and also raised a lot of questions. For one, what was up with that kid? Was he just another metaphor of how the future generations are the ones responsible for the survival of our society? Human society?

 

Directing and Editing

The film was directed by Ben Wheatley. I do admire his work on High-Rise but I don’t think that I will be intentionally seeking more movies of his. He and the screenwriter of the film – Amy Jump – were also responsible for the editing of the film. High-Rise was edited in a very old-school kind of way, using montage to connect contrasting images into one synthesis, from which distinct meaning may arise. We spent a week (at least) on this topic in my film course, reading essays and watching films by Kuleshov and Eisenstein – the godfathers of montage editing.

Wheatley and Jump used a lot of intercuts of extreme close-ups in their montages and also paired up the visuals with the classical music. They also used ABBA’s S.O.S.’s in an interesting way at least twice. They also used the trick of the montage inside the montage with that kaleidoscopic sequence.  All of the film’s montages  were puzzling and even confusing but that was kinda their point (I think). Wheatley and Jump were trying to make the viewers think: ‘what the hell am I watching?’. And if we all question the things that we see, maybe we won’t end up like those people in the building.

A few last things on the visuals of the film: since the film was set in the 70s, the costumes, and the setting were at least partially of that period. The lift scenes with the mirrors and multiple copies of the actors were cool too. Also, the movie had a lot of sexual scenes and some disturbing imagery involving a human head right at the beginning of the film. Actually, there was plenty of disturbing scenes throughout the film as well.

These unsettling visuals and the critique of our society reminded me a bit of a different avant-garde film that I watched in the film class – Jean-Luc Godard’s Week-end from 1963. However, Godard used a lot of long takes in that film, while High-Rise was basically a feature-length music video (meaning that it was assembled from short clips into a coherent motion picture in the editing room). I also don’t think that Wheatley could ever be equal to Godard in not only his films’ quality but in how much he did for cinema in general.

Acting

The film had a huge cast of accomplished actors, who all played very unlikeable and even despicable characters – all of the inhabitant of the building were rotten people to some extent. I actually think that all sane people should feel disgusted by the characters of this film and, if they do, maybe it’s a positive sign. It shows that we still have hope as a society.

The film’s cast consisted of Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith, Sienna Guillory, Dan Renton Skinner, Augustus Prew and Stacy Martin. All of them did a magnificent job and acted over-the-top just enough to still seem like somewhat believable/real characters/people.

I am probably the most familiar with the previous work of Hiddleston, Evans and Irons. Hiddleston was, of course, the main reason that I was interested in the film in the first place. If you would like to watch Hiddleston in a different small scale, more artsy film (basically, the complete opposite of the Avengers), I highly suggest you check out Only Lovers Left Alive or if you want something more classic – Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is a great choice. Crimson Peak is also not bad visually (stunning, actually), even if the story is kinda mediocre. I’m really interested to see what will Hiddleston bring to Kong: Skull Island opposite Brie Larson, coming out next year.

I will talk about Jeremy Irons more in my next review of Batman v. Superman – he is playing Alfred in that film. Evans popped up on my radar with The Hobbit films and later on with Dracula Untold. He was also in the last few Fast and Furious films and will also be in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast.

All in all, High-Rise was full of confusing and disturbing images mixed with thought-provoking and question-raising ideas. It is not an easy film to watch, but worth the time and the money.

Rate: ?/5 (I am not sure how to rate this kind of film, so I will leave it for you to decide on your own)

Trailer: High-Rise trailer

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