Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

© Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams

Director: Sam Raimi

Synopsis:  After an encounter with a girl who has the ability to travel in between different multiverses, Doctor Strange begins to fully grapple with the concept of the multiverse and the horrors it could unleash….

This review will be 100% spoiler-free…

 

Review:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become such a gargantuan cinematic juggernaut of an impressively inter-woven universe that has successfully tackled a plethora of different genres across 28 different films. However, despite all of its incredible accomplishments, there is one particular genre that (for understandable reasons) the MCU has avoided tackling, and that is horror. Multiple projects of Phase Four have established the multiverse as a central aspect to their stories, and an endless number of doors have simultaneously been opened for Marvel in Phase Four and beyond. Now, with the Multiverse in full swing, it has allowed Marvel to fully embrace this concept, and what better director to bring this to life, than Sam Raimi.

Following on from the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Dr Stephen Strange is beginning to grapple with the multiverse and all of its infinite possibilities. Whilst at the wedding of his former co-worker and one-time love interest Christine (McAdams) he encounters a girl named America Chavez (Gomez) who has the power to travel in-between multiverses. Strange quickly realises that with the scope of her powers, it is extremely likely that some dangerous individuals will soon be making their play, wanting her power for their own ends. Fearing the consequences if that came to pass, he seeks the help of someone else who has knowledge of the multiverse, Wanda Maximoff (Olsen), to help protect America and prevent her power from falling into the wrong hands.

In what is his sixth time playing the ex-Sorceror Supreme, Benedict Cumberbatch once again excels in the role. It is clear when we meet him that this is a man with a lot on his mind, especially since he played such an integral role along with Spider-Man (remember him?) in establishing the multiverse and all of its perils as a very real danger to the world that he is sworn to protect. Furthermore, even though his actions helped restore the universe to undo the consequences of the Blip, there are some decisions that Strange is grappling with. Most notably, concerning his one-time flame Christine. However, with the arrival of America Chavez, Strange knows that he cannot afford to dwell on the past, because dangers both old and new, are threatening to reap unimaginable destruction on not just our world, but every world out there. Given how central her character is to the film, Xochitl Gomez brings likeability, fearlessness and determination to the role of America Chavez, and she stands toe to toe with the experienced MCU regulars.

While Cumberbatch excels, the even bigger star of the show here is Olsen’s latest portrayal of Wanda Maximoff. The events of WandaVision gave Olsen a chance to dive deep and fully explore the tragedy of this character. Having seen what her life could have been through those alternate realities, this is a woman who is on a deeply personal mission. Now fully embracing her Scarlet Witch mantra and fuelled by a frightening combination of rage, grief and heartache for her long lost family, it enables Olsen to demonstrate a side to Wanda that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, an extremely powerful being who’s more than capable of giving any character in this universe a run for their money, and more than likely, a good arse-kicking.

With his experience with both the realm of Marvel with the original Spider-Man trilogy, along with the Evil Dead trilogy that launched his career as a director, it is fantastic to see Sam Raimi back in the director’s chair after a nearly decade long hiatus since his last project in 2013. The visual effects wizards once again bring the magic when it comes to the actions scenes, but it is no coincidence that with Raimi at the helm, the film really pushes the boundaries of the 12A/PG 13 rating, in a way that the MCU has never done up to this point. Some scenes definitely have a more noticeably horror movie element to them, and are much more violent. It could have been a match made in multiversal heaven. However, it’s really disappointing that Michael Waldron’s (who wrote the Disney+ TV show Loki) screenplay quickly becomes very convoluted and is filled with a frustrating amount of exposition that really drags the film down, with certain scenes serving as little more than fan service that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

With a title like In the Multiverse of Madness, audiences would surely have expected a thrilling ride that delves deep into the madness of the concept of a multiverse, especially given what the MCU has already explored with the concept thus far. Yet, the reality is that what’s presented here only really scratches the surface of what it could have explored in the 126 minute run time. Multiversal shenanigans are enjoying an unprecedented spell of popularity at this moment in time, and the potential was there for another great entry into this particular sub-genre. Yet, even with the recruitment of Raimi, not even his wizardry can conjure away the feeling that this is a massive missed opportunity.

It’s a joy to see Sam Raimi return to the realm of superhero filmmaking. Though, even with him working his magic, this multiversal adventure never fully lives up to the potential teased by its bonkers title.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Doctor Strange (2016)

Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios
Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios

Doctor Strange Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong

Director: Scott Derrickson

Synopsis: After a car accident ruins his hands and his career, brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon Dr Stephen Strange, travels across the world in search of a cure and discovers mystic powers beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

Review: You have to hand it to Marvel Studios, and in particular its president Kevin Feige. Under his stewardship the MCU has blossomed into a very powerful cinematic machine, and certainly they have maintained audience interest by crucially throwing some variety in there. The studio is clearly choosing to take risks, rather than just pump out Iron Man 4 or 5. These risks that might not have paid off, but paid off they most definitely have. The likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man are perfect examples, and while there is usually some big superhero team up film or a film with heroes turning on each other. Nevertheless, the studio delivers, and they have managed to do so yet again with their fourteenth entry into the MCU, this time, they decided to go a bit mystical and dabble in the world of magic.

We meet Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon and a rather good one at that, until a car accident leaves his career and life seemingly in ruins. Driven by desperation, he travels across the world in the hope of finding a cure but instead finds a temple of sorts, governed by the Ancient One, and she teaches Strange all about the mystic arts and dabbling in a world that has not graced the MCU stage up to this point, and it is rather thrilling to watch the MCU go in new directions and make a solid success out of it.

Marvel were desperately keen to recruit Cumberbatch for the titular role, going so far as to alter their schedule to accomodate him after he was committed to a theatre run as Hamlet, and it is easy to see why, as Cumberbatch really does shine in the role. After playing the role of the brilliant and cocky but ultimately tragic Alan Turing in the Imitation Game, he shows that cockiness again to great effect. Initially, Strange is about as arrogant as they come, but with good reason. Post-accident however is where Cumberbatch really shines, having truly realised how little he really knows.

Tilda Swinton might have seemed a strange (pun most definitely intended) choice to play The Ancient One, but she also delivers a capable performance. Yet besides these two characters, not one else really gets their chance to shine. Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor do not get the screen time and development actors of their immense talent deserve. Also the Achilles Heel for Marvel lets them down again, this being their villain. Mads Mikkelsen is without question a fine actor, but his performance as the villainous Kaecilius whilst menacing, does leave a lot to be desired.

Director Scott Derrickson, of horror movie fame, also on screenplay duties along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill deliver a solid script is but certain things could have been better developed. Marvel have made their name delivering some great humour in many of their films, and this is no exception. There are more than a few great moments that will make you laugh out loud. Yet despite the great humour, the script does lack in a number of places as some scenes do feel a bit rushed. Yet the action sequences are directed exquisitely well and the special effects are mind-bendingly brilliant. It’s almost as if the film makers rolled Inception, The Matrix and Harry Potter into one and the end result is some REALLY trippy shit, but an absolute blast to watch, aided by great cinematography and a superb score by Michael Giacchino.

Marvel have shown they are not afraid to take risks, and while that does deserve praise, it does mean that there could be some trips further down the line. For some, Strange could have been this film that doesn’t deliver the goods, but thankfully that just isn’t the case. It’s another unique and incredibly interesting dimension that has been added into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you certainly get the feeling that we will be going back into this world somewhere down the Phase 3 (or maybe even Phase 4) line. Yet so far it’s 14 and not out for Marvel Studios.

Anchored by an excellent performance from Cumberbatch with some astounding visuals, Marvel took their biggest risk to date, but the end result is one mind-bending and thrilling ride. 

Rating: A-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spotlight (2015)

Image rights belong to Anonymous Content, First Look Media, Participant Media, Rocklin/Faust and Open Road Films

Spotlight – Film Review

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Brian D’Arcy James

Director: Tom McCarthy

Synopsis:  Telling the true story of a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe newspaper who uncover the horrific details of child molestation at the hands of Catholic priests and the subsequent attempts to hush everything up.

Review: Every so often in the world of news and current affairs, along comes a story that is so shocking and galling for a number of reasons, it would cause you to read your newspaper, watch your television, or listen to the radio with just disbelief and horror that such an event came to pass. Many stories revealing such wickedness often slip under the radar, and do not see the light of day, and that may have been the case for the subject of this powerful drama of the scandal that rocked not only the Catholic Church, but the entire world to its core. It may well have not reached the public’s attention, if it wasn’t for the grit and graft of some brave journalists.

The screenplay, penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer, which was on the 2013 Black List of unproduced screenplays pulls no punches whatsoever. The story is gripping, and disturbing at the same time. When nudged by an incoming new editor in the direction of the scandal, the team of journalists quickly begin to find something deeply disturbing, and as the film goes on, interview after interview, the full extent of the scandal emerges on the team and the full realisation of the crimes that have been committed come into view.  The dialogue scene to scene keeps the attention of the viewer transfixed on the screen. With each conversation, whether with a lawyer, some victims, some people within the church, or whoever it may be, the team show great tenacity to dig deeper and deeper scratching every surface they can until there’s a story for them to run. It’s a dialogue driven film, but when it’s written this well, it’s riveting to watch.

The ensemble cast each deliver truly excellent performances, but it’s the performances of the Spotlight team in particular that shine the brightest. After his Oscar nominated turn as a washed up superhero in Birdman, Michael Keaton delivers another excellent performance as the editor of the team that comprises of Rachel McAdams’s Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes and Brian D’Arcy James’s Matt Carroll with John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. and Liev Schreiber’s newly appointed editor Marty Baron keeping a watchful eye over things. All excel but the standout performances are that of Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, who have both gained well earned Oscar nominations for the Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively. Ruffalo in particular has an almost Hulk-esque moment at one point when the full depravity of the scandal comes becomes very crystal clear.

With such a delicate and controversial subject matter, approaching this film cannot have been easy for McCarthy and Singer, yet it is handled tremendously well. The direction is subtle but it emphasises is firmly on the need for justice for the victims. The reporters are not patting themselves on the back and having a drink celebrating at such a big scoop, instead they’re just aghast at what they have observed during their investigation. It is uncompromisingly brutal when the penny drops and there is a need and a desire to print their story and bring the perpetrators to full justice. In this day and age when the internet is taking over the journalism and publishing industry, it just goes to show that through real grit, determination and hard work, shocking truths such as these, can be brought to the attention of the public, and full credit to the brave journalists who did so.

Uncompromisingly brutal when it comes to the subject matter, with terrific performances and excellent well written dialogue, Spotlight will shake you to your core.

a