Like being stuck in a loop.

With a heap of amazing visuals and an even more interesting cast, Dr Strange (2016) falls down because it just isn’t, not in the slightest.  When we enter the Mirror Dimension all we find is the same ‘brilliant man undergoes a superficial change and remains brilliant’ story staring back at us and anything that is interesting merely reflects other, better movies.  ‘Like that corridor fight but more’ is the creative vision, enlightenment tourism in Asia the weary trope.

…but I’m being too harsh because there is fun to be had here   If you hadn’t seen a Marvel movie before I might suggest this one (although I probably wouldn’t as the Captain America stuff is by far the best).  The Stan Lee cameo made me laugh, it’s got Tilda Swinton and Madds Mikkelsen in and you liked Inception (2010) and that bit in Ant-Man (2015) right?

Oh for another Hellboy movie.  They were magic.

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M.C.P.T.S.D.U a.k.a. Jessica Jones

I’m not the biggest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (M.C.U.),  a couple of the movies are really good but it’s essentially a (admittedly well made) culturally imperialist content generator: racking up minutes and occupying multiplex screens.  But when you combine the films with the Netfix Originals offerings, Marvel have, maybe inadvertently, created a rather significant and interesting gap between the two with the small screen offerings playing out as the damaged echo chamber of the film’s classic bants tinged mass destruction.

The films have obviously already started to react to the previously unmentioned mass destruction in very direct ways, the plots of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice directly concern the aftermath of these cataclysm and the latter even seems driven to insanity, but they are still top down views.  Films about billionaires, gods and Government operatives.  Jessica Jones (2015 – ) is the view from the cheap seats.  It’s a series that directly references the MCU, infuses everything it does with the shackles and scars of the past, and successfully grounds it by having real and unimaginable trauma as it’s main focus.  It’s also infused with mistrust of motive and power and the superhero ‘powers’ are almost invisible until they are used in blink and you’d miss it moments or damaging frantic fights.

Jessica Jones is the best that Marvel currently has to offer.  On it’s own it would just be a very strong and interesting series, with smart writing and great performances.  With the weight of the MCU’s glib body count it’s turned into a diamond.  I’ve still got two episodes to go before completing the first season, I might just cry if she starts wearing a costume.

 

Fantastic Four (2015)

I don’t get the hate.  I don’t understand how people can sit through the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe content deliver system and this is where they find fault.  I’m not saying the MCU doesn’t contain some great stuff but there are many many miles and minutes of utter tedium to wade through.  Even the better efforts like Ant Man (2015), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and the Captain America films (2011 / 2014), all great fun, feel burdened by conformity and the weight of the franchise.

Fantastic Four isn’t a great film, it might not even be a good one, but it’s enjoyable and contains some really interesting ideas.  The best thing here is that someone has finally admitted how horrible superpowers would be.  From the moment that the accident happens the film steps up a gear and becomes a freak show.  The limbs of Reed Richards recall the body horror of Cronenberg whilst the Human Torch writhes and The Thing becomes a Golem.  Sue Storm (who’s ironic lack of presence here is a genuine disappointment) pops in an out of existence and Doom gets fused with his spacesuit and stranded in another dimension.  There’s pain here that isn’t going away and a real sense that mastering your ‘powers’ isn’t the same as a cure.  ‘I’m used to it’ is the best you can hope for.

In it’s 100 minute form the film does feel disjointed, as if they had edited down a three part mini-series, and that is a problem but it’s a good movie, yeah I’m going with ‘good’, and much more fun than expected with it’s hit and miss melding of kid’s logic and genuinely horrific images.

I much prefer a bit of a mess to a corporate filing system of characters.

Recommended.

Film: Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen @ www.cinemascream.co.uk

Joe at work asked me if I like Watchmen.  Of course the only possible answer is ‘of course’.  Joe then said that he thought he was the only one but I know that we’re not alone on this.

Watchmen is, I think, the pinnacle of the recent superhero boom and, with it’s pop-culture sensibility, the perfect match for director Zack Snyder’s ‘more is more’ approach to film.  It’s a film that gets better with repeat viewing and although one frequent (and fair) criticism is that it’s too faithful to the source material, the decision to dial things up, to go right to the edge ludicrousness, allows the dense material to transition easily from comic to screen and even improves it.

Highly recommended.

Notes.

1.  For my money the other recent high points of the superhero craze have been the Captain America movies (2011 / 2014), the rather more punkish Kick-Ass (2010) and Chronicle (2012), the wonderful Hellboy films (2004/2008) and, stretching back past the first run of X-Men movies, Blade (1998).

2.  Joe just started his own blog over at Chin-Up – It’ll be alright .    He’s one post in and it’s very different to these shenanigans but it’s already a great read.

Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Jogging around the Washington Monument at dawn, the spectre of Nazi science, Robert Redford and a nice dose of conspiracy give Captain America: The Winter Soldier an interesting 70’s flavour that easily makes up for the loss of the WWII on steroids vibe of the first movie but what keeps Steve Rogers on the top of the Marvel pile is the moral clarity.  Rogers does good things because that’s what you should do and he does them without the snark of Stark or the diva self-seriousness of Bruce Wayne.

Outside of the character concept the film is a cracking piece of entertainment with a very decent story that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and that alone beats the other, really quite bobbins, Marvel movies by a long stretch.

Recommended.