Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1970s:
FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1970s
1. American Gangster (2007) – Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe starred in this biopic about former Harlem drug kingpin, Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts, the Newark police detective who finally caught him. Ridley Scott directed this energetic tale.
2. Munich (2005) – Steven Spielberg directed this tense drama about Israel’s retaliation against the men who committed the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Ciarán Hinds starred.
3. Rush (2013) – Ron Howard directed this account of the sports rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One auto racing season. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl starred.
4. Casino (1995) – Martin Scorsese directed this crime drama about rise and downfall of a gambler and enforcer sent West to run a Mob-owned Las Vegas casino. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone starred.
5. Super 8 (2011) – J.J. Abrams directed this science-fiction thriller about a group of young teens who stumble across a dangerous presence in their town, after witnessing a train accident, while shooting their own 8mm film. Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler starred.
6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) – Gary Oldman starred as George Smiley in this recent adaptation of John le Carré’s 1974 novel about the hunt for a Soviet mole in MI-6. Tomas Alfredson directed.
7. Apollo 13(1995) – Ron Howard directed this dramatic account about the failed Apollo 13 mission in April 1970. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon starred.
8. Nixon (1995) – Oliver Stone directed this biopic about President Richard M. Nixon. The movie starred Anthony Hopkins and Joan Allen.
9. Starsky and Hutch (2004) – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson starred in this comedic movie adaptation of the 70s television series about two street cops hunting down a drug kingpin. Directed by Todd Phillips, the movie also starred Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman and Snoop Dogg.
10. Frost/Nixon (2008) – Ron Howard directed this adaptation of the stage play about David Frost’s interviews with former President Richard Nixon in 1977. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen starred.
The year between 2011 and 2012 had been a busy period for the Brothers Grimm. During that period, there have been two television shows and two movies that featured their work. At least one television series and the two movies retold the literary pair’s story about Snow White, including the 2012 film, “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”.
Directed by Rupert Sanders; and written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” is a twist on the Snow White tale in which the Huntsman not only becomes the princess’ savior, but also her protector and mentor. In this tale, Snow White is a princess of Tabor and the daughter of King Magnus and Queen Eleanor. After the Queen’s death, King Magnus marries a beautiful woman named Ravenna after rescuing her from an invading force of glass soldiers. As it turns out, Ravenna is a powerful sorceress that controls the glass soldiers. She kills Magnus on their wedding night and seizes control of Tabor. Duke Hammond and his son William (Snow White’s childhood friend) manages to escape the castle. But Snow White is captured by Ravenna’s brother Finn and imprisoned in one of the castle’s towers.
As a decade passes, Ravenna drains the youth from the kingdom’s young women in order to maintain her youth and beauty. When Snow White comes of age, Ravenna learns from her Magic Mirror that the former is destined to destroy her, unless she consumes the young woman’s heart. When Finn is ordered to bring Snow White before Ravenna, the princess manages to escape into the Dark Forest. Eric the Huntsman is a widower who has survived the Dark Forest, and is brought before Ravenna. She orders him to lead Finn in pursuit of Snow White, in exchange for her promise to revive his dead wife. But when Eric learns from Finn that Ravenna will not be able to resurrect his wife, he helps Snow White escape through the Forest. Snow White later promises him gold if he would escort her to Duke Hammond’s Castle. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son William manages to infiltrate Finn’s band in order to find Snow White on his own.
What can I say about “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”? It is not perfect. Well . . . I had at least two minor and one major problems with the movie. The two minor problems centered around the performances of Chris Hemsworth (Eric the Huntsman) and Charlize Theron (Ravenna). Basically, both gave first-rate performances. I cannot deny that. But . . . there were moments during the movie’s first half hour in which I found it difficult to comprehend Hemsworth’s accent? Was he trying to use a working-class Scots or English accent? Or was he using his own Australian accent? I could not tell. As for Theron . . . she had a few moments of some truly hammy acting. But only a few moments. But the major problem centered around the character of Snow White.
The movie’s final showpiece featured a battle between Snow White and Ravenna’s forces at Tabor’s Castle. The battle also featured the princess fighting along with both Eric and William. When on earth did Snow White learn combat fighting? When? She spent most of the movie’s first thirty minutes either as a young girl or imprisoned in the Castle. I figured that Eric, William or both would teach her how to fight in combat before their forces marched back to Tabor. The movie featured a scene in which Eric taught Snow White on how to stab someone up close . . . but nothing else.
The only reasons I wanted to see “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” were the visual effects and the fact that I was a fan of ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME”. That is it. Otherwise, I would not have bothered to pay a ticket to see this film. But I am glad that I did. Because I enjoyed it very much, despite its flaws. Thanks to Daugherty, Hancock and Amini’s script, “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” is part epic, part road movie, part fantasy horror tale and part romance. For me, all of these aspects made this tale about Snow White fascinating to me. And Snow White has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. Director Rupert Sanders not only meshed these attributes into an exciting movie. More importantly, his direction gave the movie a steady pace. I find it amazing that “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” is Sanders’ first feature film.
The most interesting aspect about the film was its love triangle between Snow White, Eric and William. Although Eric was originally supposed to be nothing more than a savior and mentor for Snow White, someone made the decision to add a little spice to their relationship. I suspect that this had something to do with Hemsworth’s age and his chemistry with star Kristin Stewart. The movie did not end with Snow White romantically clenched with one man or the other. Although some people were either disturbed or annoyed at this deliberately vague ending, I was not. I suspect that if Snow White had chosen either Eric or William, she would not have found her choice an easy one – either politically or romantically.
There are other aspects of “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” that I found admirable. One, I was impressed by Dominic Watkins’ production designs, which ranged from horror to light fantasy. I was afraid that the movie would visually turn out to be another fantasy production with another second-rate “LORD OF THE RINGS” look about it. Watkins’ designs were ably enhanced by the special effects team led by Vince Abbott and Greig Fraser’s beautiful photography. And I loved Colleen Atwood’s costume designs. She did a great job for most of the cast. But her designs for Charlize Theron’s evil queen were outstanding. Take a look:
The performances featured in “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” struck me as pretty damn good. The revelations of the actors portraying the Seven Dwarfs took me by surprised. Toby Jones was the first to catch my eye. Then I realized that a who’s who of well known British character actors were portraying the dwarves – Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, and Eddie Marsan. They were all entertaining, especially Hoskins, McShane and Marsan. More importantly, I was very impressed by their roles in the movie’s final battle. Sam Spruell’s performance as Ravenna’s sleazy brother Finn sruck me as almost as frightening as Charlize Theron’s Queen Ravenna. But only almost. Despite her moments of hammy acting, Theron nearly scared the pants off me, making her Evil Queen just as frightening as the one featured in the 1937 Disney animated film or the ABC series, “ONCE UPON A TIME”.
I must admit that I was not that impressed by Sam Claflin’s performance as the missionary in 2011’s “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES”. But I suspect that was due to the role he was stuck with. “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” provided him with a much better role as the aristocratic William, who felt guilty over his and his father’s failure to prevent Snow White’s imprisonment following the King’s death. Not only was Claflin was able to strut his stuff in a more interesting role and prove that he could be a first-rate action hero; he also had surprisingly great chemistry with both Stewart and Hemsworth. As for the Australian actor, he was superb as the grieving huntsman, Eric. Okay, I had a few problems with his questionable accent during the movie’s first half hour. However, he overcame that flaw and gave a great and emotionally satisfying performance as a man whose destructive grieving was overcome by his relationship with Snow White. And he also proved that he was more than an action star in a scene in which he gave a beautiful soliloquy regarding Eric’s feelings for the princess. The belle of the ball – at least for me – was actress Kristen Stewart. I must be honest. I am not a fan of the “TWILIGHT” movies or Stewart’s role of Bella Swann. But I certainly enjoyed her performance as Snow White in this film. For the first time, Stewart seemed to be portraying a character that seemed animated, interesting and pro-active. She has great chemistry with both Hemsworth and Claflin. And she did surprisingly well in the action sequences . . . especially in Snow White’s confrontation with Ravenna. I hope to see Stewart in more roles like this.
I heard rumors that due to the movie’s surprising success, Universal Pictures had hopes to release a sequel to “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”. I do not think this was a good idea. Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed the movie very much, despite its flaws. The script proved to be an interesting mixture of fantasy, horror, comedy, romance and a road trip. And the cast, led by Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, was first-rate. But considering how the movie ended, I never saw the need for a sequel. Universal eventually made a prequel to this film about the Eric and Ravenna. And yes, I found it unsatisfying. Especially since I felt more than satisfied with this particular film.
After ten years and eighteen films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) finally released “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR”. The movie represented the first half of a culmination of the previous films that either focused or touched upon the super-villain Thanos’ attempt to attain possession of a collection of powerful gems known as the Infinity Stones.
Although 2008’s “IRON MAN” signaled the beginning of the MCU franchise and the introduction of the latter’s collection of comic book heroes/heroines, supporting players and villains; I believe that the true beginning of this story arc involving Thanos and the Infinity Stones began in 2011 with two movies – “THOR” and “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. The former introduced the Tesseract, a cube that contained the Infinity Stone known as the Space Stone, in its post-credit scene. However, the Space Stone was more fully explored in the second 20111 movie, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. After 2011, most of the Infinity Stones were either introduced, explored or both in the MCU movies that followed. Only one stone made its introduction in “INFINITY WAR” – the Soul Stone.
Before I find myself wallowing into an essay about the Infinity Stones, let me continue with this review. “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” began several minutes after 2017’s “THOR: RAGNAROK” left off. Thanos had caught up with the Asgardian refugee ship and with the help of his minions, inflict considerable damage upon the survivors and their new king, former Avenger Thor. Why? Apparently, before their flight from Asgard’s destruction, Thor’s adopted brother, Loki, had taken the Tesseract, which had been inside Asgard’s royal vault. After killing half of the Asgardian survivors (the other half had managed to escape), Asgard’s gatekeeper Heimdall, beating Thor and killing Loki; Thanos took the Space Stone and blew up the ship. It turned out that the Tesseract was the second Infinity Stone that Thanos managed to acquire. Before the events of this film, Thanos and his minions had attacked and destroyed half of Xandar homeworld before he managed to get his hands on the Power Stone, last seen in 2014’s “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY”. And before Heimdall was killed, he used Asgard’s Bifrost sword to transport a beaten Dr. Bruce Banner aka the Hulk to warn the Avengers and Earth about Thanos’ campaign to collect the Infinity Stones. Meanwhile, the Guardians of Galaxy come across Thor’s body floating in space and rescue him. Thanks to Heimdall’s actions, along with the Guardians’ rescue of Thor; the movie’s main protagonists become aware of Thanos’ current campaign to hunt down the remaining Infinity Stones and set about preventing him from raining more destruction upon the universe.
What can I say about “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR”? When I first heard about the movie’s premise, I immediately felt that the only way this would work was if the narrative was set up in the same style as war films like “THE LONGEST DAY” or “A BRIDGE TOO FAR”. You know . . . blockbuster combat films about a particular battle or campaign that featured an all-star cast. Despite being a comic book movie, “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” proved to be exactly just that. The movie’s narrative centered around most of the MCU’s protagonists trying to prevent Thanos from collecting all of the Infinity Stones and carrying out his plan to eradicate half of the universe’s population in order to prevent the decrease of essential resources. And more importantly, the screenplay written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely almost hit the right note when it tried to maintain a balancing act between the franchise’s numerous stars. And considering that this movie was all about Thanos’ efforts to utilize the stones in the first place, it seemed quite apparent that he proved to be the movie’s main character. And personally, I feel that was the right thing to do.
In fact, some of the film’s best scenes and story arc had a lot to do with Thanos . . . and especially his relationship with his adoptive daughters, Gamora and Nebula. Thanos’ relationship with the latter seemed just as straight-forward as she had described it in 2017’s “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2”. It seemed perfectly clear that Thanos did not give a rat’s ass about Nebula, especially since he seemed to display no remorse or hesitation to use her life as a bargaining chip for the location of the Soul Stone. Thanos’ relationship with Gamora, on the other hand, seemed to be a different and murkier kettle of fish. Some fans have debated on whether he truly loved Gamora. I believe he did, in his own warped way, as the following image depicted:
And the tears that Gamora had shed, when she thought she had killed him on Nowhere made it pretty obvious that she harbored feelings for him, as well. By the end of the movie, it seemed pretty obvious that Thanos loved his crusade to “save” the universe from overpopulation a lot more than Gamora . . . to the point that he was willing to sacrifice her life for possession of the Soul Stone. I have to give screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely credit for portraying Thanos as a very complex character. Do not get me wrong. I do not regard Thanos as the best MCU villain in the franchise so far. I simply found his different relationships with adoptive daughters Gamora and Nebula a lot more interesting than his goal with the Infinity Gauntlet.
The film featured other story arcs that I found interesting. I have mixed feelings about Thor’s story arc. On one hand, I managed to spot several plot holes in his narrative. On the other hand, it was a relief to see the new Asgardian king finally face the emotional consequences of the losses he had sustained in not only this film, but also “THOR: RAGNAROK”. Thanks to Gamora’s connection to Thanos, “INFINITY WAR” served the main protagonists very well. Audiences finally got to see Gamora and Peter Quill aka Star-Lord declare their love for one another. Rocket managed to form a new bond with Thor, of all people . . . and lose another close bond. “INFINITY WAR” also saw the development of the romance between Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch and Vision and how Thanos’ search for the Infinity Stones affected that relationship. The movie paid scant attention to the Sokovia Accords, which I did not find surprising. But two satisfying developments came from the brief mention of the agreement, when James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine expressed is deep regret for signing the Sokovia Accords, along with his refusal to obey Thaddeus Ross’ order for the arrests of Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson and Wanda Maximoff. For me, it was Don Cheadle’s finest moment in the MCU franchise.
“INFINITY WAR” also featured some pretty interesting action sequences. I can count at least XX of them as among my favorites. One of them included a conflict on the streets of Manhattan in which the two sorcerers Dr. Stephen Strange and Wong, Tony Stark aka Iron Man and Peter Parker aka Spider-man battled against one of Thanos’ adopted children, Ebony Maw. The battle ended with Strange being kidnapped, due to his possession of the Time Stone. I thought it was well-handled. However, I find it odd that both Strange and Wong had difficulty with a being who was basically a telekinetic. Another battle I found interesting was Strange, Iron Man and Spider-man’s first meeting with Star-Lord, Drax and Mantis on Thanos’ homeworld, Titan. Although I found it enjoyable, I also found it odd, considering that of all the Guardians, Star-Lord did most of the work against the travelers from Earth . . . and succeeded. I do not know what to say about the battle that unfurled in Wakanda. On a visual level, I found it spectacular. And there were some good moments like Scarlet Witch’s encounter with Thanos; the arrival of Thor, Rocket and Groot; and the brief interaction between Rocket and James “Bucky” Buchanan during the battle. But overall . . . I simply cannot decide whether I loved it or simply tolerated it. Perhaps I loved some parts of it.
As for the movie’s visual effects . . . they were okay. There were a few spectacular scenes. I was especially impressed by Ebony Maw’s arrival in Manhattan, as shown in the following image:
And I really enjoyed Thor’s initial arrival on Wakanda, in which he killed a good number of Thanos’ forces:
But overall, I was not particularly dazzled by the film’s visual effects.
No movie is perfect. And I can honestly say that about “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR”. When I first learned that so many of the franchise’s past characters – especially the costumed heroes – would be featured in this film, my first reaction was wariness. After seeing the movie twice, I believe my initial wariness was justified on a certain level. I will re-phrase my original assessment of the movie – I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it enough to see it at the movie theaters twice. But, “INFINITY WAR” had its problems. And one of those problems proved to be the numerous protagonists that filled the narrative. But wait? Did I not earlier praise the MCU and the screenwriters for creating a narrative that was similar to all-star movie epics like “THE LONGEST DAY” and “A BRIDGE TOO FAR”. Yes, I did. But this narrative style still threatened to spiral out of control. There was no real balance in how McFeely and Markus treated the film’s characters. Not really. A good number of the characters – including major ones – were more or less treated as guest stars in this film.
Most of the characters who had rebelled against the Sokovia Accords – Captain America, Falcon, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man and Hawkeye – were not utilized very often. A major character like Captain America had finally been reduced to a guest star. Falcon, Black Widow and Winter Soldier barely had any lines. And both Ant-Man and Hawkeye were missing in this film. Only the Scarlet Witch seemed to have a larger role and that was due to her being the romantic interest of Vision, who had one of the Infinity Stones embedded into his forehead. I was also amazed how even Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-man seemed to have disappeared and re-appear for a long stretches of time, following their departure from Earth aboard Ebony Maw’s ship. And why did the film’s screenplay not allow Wong to accompany them on the journey to Thanos’ homeworld, Titan. Hell, the inhabitants of Wakanda – Black Panther aka King T’Challa, Okoye, M’Baku and Princess Shuri – seemed to minor players in this film, considering that a major battle was fought within their country’s borders near the film’s finale. Both Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders managed to appear as former S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury and his assistant Maria Hill in the film’s only post-credit scene. In it, both had witnessed the impact of Thanos’ Infinity Stones snap in Manhattan, before disappearing themselves. And before they did, Fury managed to send a message to a new Avenger – Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers. That was it? Jackson and Smulders were used as a publicity scene for the upcoming Captain Marvel film? God, what a waste!
I wonder if the reason why the focus on the characters struck me as so unbalance was due to them being scattered . . . all over the universe, really. The reason why movies like “THE LONGEST DAY” and “A BRIDGE TOO FAR” worked so well is that these films kept the focused on one particular setting – whether it were the beaches of Normandy, Frances and the surrounding countryside, or the stretch of road that encompassed three Dutch small cities. “INFINITY WAR” featured more settings than a James Bond movie and all of the major characters were scattered throughout those different locations on Earth and in space. Even a relative of mine found this rather convoluted.
There were other aspects of the film’s narrative that left me scratching my head. I do not know where to begin. Oh yes . . . the film opened with Thanos and his minions in control of Thor’s ship (formerly owned by the Grandmaster), most of the inhabitants dead, Heimdall wounded and a bruised Thor a prisoner of Thanos. And all I could ask was . . . where was Valkyrie, along with former gladiators Korg and Miek? Where did they go? Were they dead? How did Thor, who was the new ruler of the remaining Asgardians and the new Allfather lose so easily against Thanos? As the new Allfather, he should have given Thanos and the “kids” a lot of trouble. I mean . . . not even Thanos’ use of the Power Stone failed to kill Thor. Really? Why did the Hulk wait for Loki to introduce him like some damn circus act? I mean . . . the Hulk is not more powerful than Thor. He never really was, despite the MCU’s effort to pretend otherwise. Why did Loki tried to kill Thanos with a dagger? A dagger? This is the being who managed to cast a mind spell on someone as powerful as Odin. Why did he not consider this, instead of attacking Thanos with a dagger?
The next major scene featured Doctor Strange, Wong, Tony Stark and Peter Parker. Why was it so difficult for Doctor Strange and Wong to defeat Ebony Maw? The latter is an alien with a telekinetic ability. That was his ability . . . telekinesis. A psychic ability and nothing else. Strange and Wong were sorcerers. Which meant they had abilities beyond psychic ones. What happened? Why did they not use . . . magic? He was able to use magic to prevent Ebony Maw from getting his claws on the stone. Why not use magic to defeat Maw? Now that I think about it, Strange was also in possession of the Time Stone. Why did he not use it? And this was way before his ludicrous claim that there was only one out of 14 million chances in which to defeat Thanos. I call bullshit on this, for it seems nothing more than contrived nonsense to justify what happened later in the film. And why did Tony suggest that they continue traveling to Titan? To keep the battle for the Time Stone away from Earth? Ah, does this mean both Tony and Stephen had forgotten about the Mind Stone . . . which was with Vison . . . on Earth?
This movie was filled with characters making dumb decisions – from Gamora deciding to accompany Peter Quill, Drax and Mantis to Knowhere, knowing that Thanos was there and she knew the location of the Soul Stone; to Peter Quill losing his shit and ruining the plan to trap Thanos on Titan after learning about Gamora’s fate; to Steve suggesting they take Vision to Wakanda in order to remove the Mind Stone from the latter’s head and keep him alive; to T’Challa giving them permission to land in Wakanda; to Thor losing his shit during the Wakanda battle and striking Thanos in an area that was bound to allow the Titan to live just a bit longer. Most fans have been dumping most of the blame on Star-Lord. Some of them, including the Russo Brothers, have dumped most of the blame for what happened in the end on Thor. I blame Thanos. As far as I am concerned, he made the dumbest decision to wipe away half of the universe’s living beings for . . . what? To preserve the remaining living beings so that there were enough resources for everyone? This is a stupid plan. He could not think of anything else? Like providing more resources for the universe? Why did he set this plan in motion in the first place? Because he could not save his homeworld? Or what?
And there were other matters. Why did the empathic Mantis, who had managed to control the emotions of someone as powerful as Ego, failed to do so with Thanos? What was the point of including Secretary of Defense Thaddeus Ross in this story? To prove how useless and irrelevant the Sokovia Accords story arc truly was? When I learned that both Clint Barton and Scott Lang were under “house arrest” for violating the Accords in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”, I merely rolled my eyes in disgust. By the way, who was financing Steve, Natasha, Sam and Wanda’s activities for the past two years? When did Wanda and Vision finally commenced upon their romance? You mean to say that after eighteen months or so (since the events of “SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING”), Tony and Pepper were still engaged? Where was Nakia? When did Gamora learn about the location of the Soul Stone? How did Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull survive 73 years after the Space Stone transported him to Vormir? Despite having the Dr. Erskine’s formula in his blood, he was never frozen in stasis like Steve and Bucky. Why on earth was it necessary for Thor to go to Nidavellir to create the Stormbreaker axe to be used on Thanos? Why? He should have been powerful enough to take on the Titan on his own in the first damn place. Had McFeely and Markus forgotten that Thor was the new Allfather?
The real problem I have with “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” – aside from the plot holes – is that it is not that original to me. Not really. First of all, the idea of a villain plotting to to commit genocide for environmental reasons had played a major role in two recent movies – 2015’s “KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” and the 2016 movie, “INFERNO”. In an Arrowverse crossover event from three years ago, super villain and immortal Vandal Savage managed to kill all of the costumed heroes who were featured in that story – with the exception of Barry Allen aka the Flash. Instead, he used time travel to go back and change the fates of his friends and colleagues. Hmmm . . . sound familiar? How about this? Nearly a decade ago, I had created a series of “Charmed” Alternate Universe stories in which the Charmed Ones befriended another family of witches. Needless to say, among my stories featured a powerful demon who managed to kill most of the main characters, including two of the Charmed Ones. It was very similar to what happened to many of the characters in the finale for “INFINITY WAR”. And guess what? The whole thing was resolved through the use of time travel – which I assume will be used in “AVENGERS 4”. So, how can I be impressed with how McFeely, Markus and the Russo brothers ended the story for “INFINITY WAR”, when both the Arrowverse producers and I did something similar? What I found even more annoying about the film’s ending is that most of Thanos’ victims proved to be those MCU heroes and protagonists first introduced after “THE AVENGERS”. Fury and Hill seemed to be the only pre-Phase II characters that were killed. And there were only a few post-Phase I characters like Rocket the Raccoon, Wong, Princess Shuri, Okoye and M’Baku, who survived. Personally, I found it ridiculous that Marvel could not take the chance to kill off one or two of the original Avengers members.
I wish I could comment on all of the film’s performances, but that would take forever. I will comment on those that caught my attention, both good and bad. I have already commented on Don Cheadle’s very satisfying performance. The movie featured solid performances from those who had – to be honest – provided more memorable ones in past movies, like Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benedict Wong, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Dave Bautista, Benedict Wong, Benicio del Toro, Jacob Batalon, William Hurt, Vin Diesel and Pom Klementieff. Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch gave solid performances as well, but there were times when both actors seemed bent upon proving whose character was more irritating. Personally, I believe Letitia Wright won this contest in her portrayal of Wakanda’s Princess Shuri. Wright’s character came off as a bit overbearing in her effort to prove her technological knowledge against the likes of Bruce Banner. Tom Holland gave a charming performance as Peter Parker aka Spider-man, but I must admit that I found his last scene, in which Peter was disappearing after Thanos’ “snap”, a bit over-the-top.
Both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany gave poignant performances as the pair of Avengers lovers Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Bradley Cooper gave a very funny voice performance as Rocket the Raccoon, especially in scenes in which the talking raccoon interacted with both Thor and Bucky Barnes. As for Sebastian Stan, I was more impressed by his last scene, as he conveyed Bucky’s fear and panic, while disintegrating, with one word – Steve’s name. Peter Dinklage gave a memorable performance as the gruff and sardonic Eitri, the giant dwarf (you have to see him to believe it) who created Thor’s Stormbreaker axe. Karen Gillian’s Nebula has come a long way since 2014’s “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” and I enjoyed how the actress managed to maintain the character’s gruff exterior and at the same time, convey Nebula’s deep affection for her sister Gamora. And then there was Chris Pratt, who did an exceptional job of portraying the emotional gauntlet that Peter Quill aka Star-Lord had experienced in this film. I was especially impressed by his performance in that tender scene in which Peter and Gamora conveyed their love for one another.
For me, the film’s most valuable players proved to be Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana and Josh Brolin. Like Pratt, Chris Hemsworth had the opportunity to convey Thor’s emotional turmoil that the latter had experienced in both this film and “RAGNAROK”. At the same time, Hemsworth was as charming as ever, while portraying Thor’s more familiar and enduring traits. Zoe Saldana gave one of her best performances as one of the Guardians, Gamora, who finds herself torn between her determination to foil Thanos’ plan to use the Infinity Stones and her lingering love and affection toward him. Frankly, I thought Saldana beautifully conveyed this emotional tightrope in one scene in which Gamora expressed her grief after believing she had killed her adoptive father. Although I found Thanos’ plans to cull the herd of the universe’s sentient beings rather stupid, I cannot say the same about Josh Brolin’s portrayal of the homicidal super villain. Brolin gave a superb performance as the Titan, who not only proved to be ruthless and canny, but also affectionate and loving . . . in a twisted way. Frankly, I think Brolin deserve a major acting award nomination or two for his performance. I found him more effectively scary and complex in this film than I did in “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY”.
It must seem pretty obvious that I do not have a high regard for “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR”. I do not believe that it is a terrible movie. In fact, it struck me as a pretty damn good movie. I thought the Russo Brothers, along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and a first rate cast led by Josh Brolin created a memorable and entertaining film. But the movie seemed to be marred by a good deal of plot holes and questionable narrative decisions that have led me to wonder if this film might be overrated by so many movie critics and fans of the MCU. You know what? I believe it is. And yet . . . I would still recommend the movie for viewing.
Until last fall, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has released three films each for only two of the franchise’s characters – Iron Man and (allegedly) Captain America. With the release of “THOR: RAGNAROK”, the God of Thunder became the third character to end up with three solo films.
Directed by Taika Waititi, “THOR: RAGNAROK” told the story of Asgardian prince Thor’s efforts to prevent the destruction of his world, Asgard, from his aggressive and more powerful sister, Hela. The movie is the franchise’s version of a similar story featured in one of the Marvel Comics titles for the Thor character. Screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost also used elements from the 2006 Marvel story, “Planet Hulk” to include the Dr. Bruce Banner aka the Hulk into the movie’s plot.
Set four years after the events of “THOR: THE DARK WORLD” and two-and-half years after the events of “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”, this film begins with Thor as a prisoner of the fire demon Surtur in Muspelheim. Thor had went there to search for the remaining Infinity Stones. Surtur reveals that Thor’s father Odin is no longer on Asgard, and that the Asgardian realm will soon be destroyed in the prophesied Ragnarök, once Surtur unites his crown with the Eternal Flame that burns in Odin’s vault. However, Thor frees himsel, defeats Surtur and claims the latter’s crown, believing he has prevented Ragnarök aka the Asgardian version of the Apocalypse. Upon his return to Asgard, Thor discovers that his adoptive brother Loki has been posing as Odin. He also finds that a warrior named Skurge has replaced the all-seeing Heimdall as the Bifröst Bridge’s sentry. Thor forces Loki to help him find Odin on Earth.
With assistance from the sorcerer Dr. Stephen Strange, the pair finds Odin Norway. The latter explains that he is dying and that his passing will free his ambitious firstborn child, Hela the Goddess of Death, out of a prison in which she had been sealed. When he finally dies, Hela appears on Earth, destroys Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and demands loyalty from him and Loki. Instead, the two brothers attempt to flee via the Bifröst Bridge. Unfortunately, Hela pursues them and forces them out into space to die. Hela ends up in Asgard and violently assume control of the throne. Thor crash lands on a garbage planet called Sakaar. There, he is captured by a bounty hunter, whom recognizes as a Valkryrie named Brünnhilde, and forced to participate as a gladiator for the planet’s “Contest of Champions”. He also discovers that Loki has become a companion of Sakaar’s leader, the Grandmaster. And that Bruce Banner aka the Hulk has been a champion gladiator on Sakaar ever since his disappearance, following the Sokovia battle over two years ago. Thor not only needs to survive a match against the Hulk, but also escape from Sakaar and prevent his sister’s complete control over Asgard and her plans for expanding the realm’s empire.
“THOR: RAGNAROK” had received a great deal of praise from film critics upon its release. In fact, the movie went on to become a box office hit. In a way, I could see why. The basic narrative for “THOR: RAGNAROK” struck me as a rare thing for a MCU solo film – an epic in the making. Thor facing a possible apocalypse for Asgard, a gladiator match against a fellow ex-Avenger, and more family drama from the Asgard Royal Family. “THOR: RAGNAROK” had the potential to be another “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”.
There was a good number of things I really enjoyed about “THOR: RAGNAROK”. One, I enjoyed director Taika Waititi’s use of the Led Zeppelin tune, “Immigrant Song” around the film’s beginning and near the end rather effective. I was also impressed by Joel Negron and Zene Baker’s editing for the film. Their work seemed especially impressive in the scenes that featured Thor’s chaotic arrival on Sakaar and his gladiator match with the Hulk. I also found Javier Aguirresarobe’s cinematography very colorful . . . almost outstanding. Hell, there was one scene featuring Hela’s past conflict with the Valkyries that reminded me of Larry Fong’s work with director Zack Snyder:
Much has been said about the humor that permeated “THOR: RAGNAROK”, thanks to the screenwriters and especially Taika Waititi’s direction. I cannot say that I had enjoyed all the humor featured in the film. But there were a few scenes that I found particularly funny. One included Loki’s play about Odin’s grief over his fake death. This scene featured Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth and Sam Neill portraying Loki, Thor and Odin respectively. Brünnhilde’s first appearance in the movie, in which she is drunk as a skunk, struck me as rather funny, thanks to Tessa Thompson’s performance. Another scene I found hilarious was Thor and the Hulk’s first meeting inside the Sakaar arena, along with Loki’s fearful reaction to seeing the latter again. But the funniest scene – at least for me – featured Thor forcing a reluctant Loki to play a “Get Help!” trick (something from their childhood) on one of the Grandmaster’s minions.
The movie featured some first-rate performances. Chris Hemsworth gave his usual first-rate performance as Asgard’s crown prince, Thor. Tom Hiddleston was equally impressive as the mischievous and self-absorbed Loki. Cate Blanchett chewed the scenery in grand style as Thor and Loki’s power hungry sister, Hela. Tessa Thompson gave a skillful performance as the ambiguous former Valkyrie, Brünnhilde, who used alcohol to runaway from painful memories. Mark Ruffalo was excellent as both the mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner and his alter ego, the Hulk; who seemed more happy as a worshiped gladiator on Sakaar than as a wanted fugitive/Avenger on Earth. Jeff Goldblum was his colorful self as the Grandmaster; the gregarious, yet tyrannical and self-absorbed leader of Sakaar. Idris Elba provided much needed gravitas as Asgard’s former gatekeeper, Heimdall, who found himself the leader of the realm’s refugees from Hela’s reign. Karl Urban was surprisingly entertaining as the boastful warrior Skurge, who would do anything to survive Hela’s reign. The movie featured two cameos. Benedict Cumberbatch made a solid cameo appearance as the arrogant sorcerer, Dr. Stephen Strange. However, Anthony Hopkins’ cameo as the dying Odin struck me as poignant and a lot more effective.
Despite all of the above, despite the critical acclaim, “THOR: RAGNAROK” proved to be rather disappointing for me in the end. What went wrong?
One problem I had with this film was its treatment of certain characters. Remember Lady Sif and the Warriors Three? Thor’s closest friends who had traveled all the way to Earth to find him in “THOR”? And who helped him defy Odin and leave Asgard with Loki and Dr. Jane Foster in order to remove one of the Infinity Stones – the Aether – from the realm and the Dark Elves? Well . . . Lady Sif never made an appearance in this film. One would assume that actress Jamie Alexander had scheduling conflicts with her TV series, “BLINDSPOT”. Then why not hire another actress to portray Lady Sif . . . as they had did with Fandral? But not only was Lady Sif missing, she was not even mentioned in this film. That was quite a head shaker for me. Another head shaker were the fates of the Warrior Three – Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun. Both Fandral and Volstagg were immediately killed by Hela upon her arrival on Asgard. I found that so disappointing and a waste of both Zachary Levi and Ray Stevenson’s time. At least Tadanobu Asano’s Hogun was able to speak more than one line and engage in a brief fight with Hela before she eventually dispatched him. But what made this so damn annoying was that Thor was never told about his friends’ deaths on screen. Audiences never got a chance to see him react to their deaths.
Believe it or not, I also had a problem with the Hulk. Well . . . I had a problem with his ability to form near complete sentences. How did that happened? Aside from uttering the phrase “Hulk smash!” in the 2008 movie, “THE INCREDIBLE HULK”, I do not recall him ever speaking any sentences – complete or not. Not when he was portrayed by Eric Bana, Edward Norton or Mark Ruffalo. What I found even more puzzling was Thor’s lack of surprise over the Hulk’s conversational skills. Odin’s death was handled in an equally questionable manner. First of all, from what did he died? What caused Odin’s death? Being away from Asgard for so long? If so, the movie’s screenplay was very vague in conveying this. And why did Odin’s death lead to Hela’s appearance on Earth? If she was in a prison, why did she not appear in Asgard upon her father’s death? That made no sense to me. Movie audiences learned that Thor and Dr. Jane Foster finally had their breakup, following his departure from Earth two years earlier. I am already annoyed at Kevin Feige for hinting that Jane was not worthy of being Thor’s love interest. Not worthy? Why? Because she was not a skilled fighter with or without super strength who wielded a sword or gun? Fuck Kevin Feige and his sexist bullshit. What made the news of the breakup even worse is that the news of Thor and Jane’s breakup was treated as comic relief. Thor’s breakup with a woman with whom he was in love for four years . . . was treated as a joke? Natalie Portman was right to dump this franchise.
If “THOR: RAGNAROK” was about the God of Thunder’s attempt to prevent Asgard from experiencing Ragnarok (or an apocalypse), why in the hell did it focus on Thor’s activities in Sakaar for so damn long? Why did the movie stay on that damn planet for so long? Once Thor and the Hulk’s gladiator’s match had ended, I figured it would not be long before Thor would have left Sakaar with the Hulk, Loki and Brünnhilde. Instead, it nearly took them FOREVER to get off that planet. It was sheer torture watching Thor trying to convince the Hulk and Brünnhilde to help him get off the planet. And I found Loki’s backstabbing shenanigans not only unoriginal, but lame. Come to think of it, I found Loki’s presence in this film rather lame . . . except in the movie’s last twenty minutes or so. He more or less became a punching bag for Thor and everyone else, than the dangerous and tricky villain he used to be. Once “the Revengers”, as Thor called himself and the others, arrived on Asgard, it was . . . eh. I just did not care at that point. Their final conflict with Hela and Thor’s decision to kick star Ragnarok (using Surtur’s crown and the Eternal Flame) just could not lift me from my apathy toward this film.
But what really sank “THOR: RAGNAROK” for me was the humor. I do not mind the occasional use of humor in an action film like this. I do not even mind when there is more humor than usual – especially in films like “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” and “ANT-MAN”. But what I could not deal with was a barrage of humor in a narrative that featured the possible apocalypse of Asgard, the deaths of familiar characters and the further drama of the Asgardian Royal Family. Nearly everything was transformed into a joke – from Thor’s discovery of Loki’s impersonation of Odin, Brünnhilde’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS) over the deaths of her fellow Valkyries, the reason behind the Hulk’s longing to remain on Sakaar, the revelation over Thor and Jane’s breakup, the Sakaarians’ decision to rebel against the Grandmaster, and Hela’s revelations to Skurge about hers and Odin’s murderous creation of the Asgardian Empire. These were all plot points that should have been treated with a good deal more gravitas. And I could not believe that Waititi forced moviegoers to watch Thor argue with the Hulk’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet over who was the most powerful Avenger. I mean . . . really? The Hulk actually went out of his way to program the jet’s computer to acknowledge him as the most powerful Avenger? That scene was so unfunny that in the end, it became sheer torture to watch.
Hela’s constant complaints about her father’s failure to appreciate her only reminded me of Loki’s petulant man pain in “THOR”. Only her carping was punctuated by jokes and witty comments. Worse, this barrage of humor prevented the screenplay from exploring Hela’s revelations about Asgard’s imperial past. The overuse of humor also transformed Thor’s character. Everyone made such a big deal about Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talents in recent years that I suspect that Marvel had decided to exploit it in this third Thor movie. Well, it turned out to be too much, as far as I was concerned. I have been aware of Hemsworth’s comedic talents since “THOR” back in 2011. But Marvel picked the wrong movie and the wrong director to exploit that talent to an excessive degree. Hemsworth came off as some semi-witty California surfer than the Asgardian God of Thunder. Between the characterizations, the dramatic moments robbed for the sake of humor and the barrage of jokes, it was just too much.
Unlike many film critics and MCU fans, I have always enjoyed the franchise’s Thor films. Well, I certainly did enjoy the first two featuring Chris Hemsworth. But I cannot say the same about this third film, “THOR: RAGNAROK”. It both annoyed and disappointed me on so many levels. Although I found the cast led by Hemsworth rather first-rate, I was disappointed by some of the film’s characterizations and the plot holes. But I was especially disappointed by the film’s use of humor. In the end, Kevin Feige, Marvel Films, the movie’s screenwriters and Taika Waititi took a potentially epic comic book movie and transformed it into a long, goddamn joke fest. By the time I left the movie theater, I felt disgusted.
I first wrote the following article during the early fall of 2016:
“COMIC BOOK MOVIES: CRITICAL HYPOCRISY”
It just occurred to me that none of Marvel’s Captain America films ended on a happy note. Yet, they have never been criticized for possessing too much angst or being depressing. On the other hand, D.C. Comics films like 2016’s “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” have been accused of being dominated by these traits. And I have never understood this contrasting attitude toward the two comic book movie franchises.
In “CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER”, Steve Rogers lost his close friend, James “Bucky” Barnes during a mission. He was forced to crash the HYDRA plane into the cold Atlantic Ocean, where he froze for the next 66 to 67 years. Because of the crash, his burgeoning relationship with S.S.R. Agent Peggy Carter abruptly ended, with her believing that he had died. The movie ended with Steve awakening in 2011 New York City as a fish out of water and the world completely changed.
Although I love it with every fiber in my body, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” proved to be a rather depressing film, if one is completely honest. The only positive thing that came out of it was Steve’s new friendship with Afghanistan War veteran, Sam Wilson. Otherwise, the movie featured the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D., the very agency that his old love Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Chester Philips had created, due to a major mistake they had committed. And that mistake turned out to be the recruitment of former HYDRA scientist, Armin Zola into the newly formed S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. Steve discovered that despite Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull’s death, HYDRA continued to exist and that it had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. Senate. He also discovered that his former best friend, Bucky Barnes, was not only alive, but also a brainwashed assassin for HYDRA. Everything eventually went to shit by the end of film, including Steve’s career with S.H.I.E.L.D.
“CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR” proved to be another depressing film. It introduced the Sokovia Accords, a United Nations sponsored document that forced enhanced beings like himself and other members of the Avengers to register with and be regulated by various governments. The main drive behind the Accords was Secretary of Defense and former U.S. Army General Thaddeus Ross, who had been the nemesis of Bruce Banner aka the Hulk. The Sokovia Accords finally gave Thaddeus Ross the opportunity to control a team of enhanced beings. The ninety-something Peggy Carter finally died. And the Avengers faced another threat – a Sokovian named Zemo, who wanted revenge for the destruction of his country – an event caused by Tony Stark’s creation of an artificial intelligence (A.I.) called Ultron. And Zemo also used the still brainwashed Bucky Barnes, whose past involved being coerced by HYDRA into murdering Howard and Maria Stark, to get his revenge. Between the Accords and Zemo, the Avengers suffered a permanent split by the end of the movie.
On the other hand, many film critics and moviegoers have criticized about “darker” aspects of the DCEU films. They have accused director Zack Snyder and the production teams behind the DCEU movie franchise of being too depressing or portraying its major protagonists as a bit too angsty. One, I see nothing wrong with morally and emotionally complex comic book hero movies. Also, at least two of the DCEU movies, “MAN OF STEEL” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” ended on a happier note.
“MAN OF STEEL” ended with Clark Kent aka Superman moving to Metropolis and joining the staff of The Daily Planet as a junior reporter and exchanging a knowing smile with his love, Lois Lane – the only person other than his mother who knew of his identity as Superman. “SUICIDE SQUAD” told the story of a group of super villains (two of them, meta-humans) who were forced to battle a powerful sorceress, bent upon world-domination by the director of A.R.G.U.S., Amanda Waller. Although Waller’s right-hand man, Colonel Rick Flagg, had allowed the villains to walk away after she had been kidnapped, the “Suicide Squad” assisted Flagg in taking down the Enchantress anyway. They were repaid with a reduced prison sentence and a few benefits. Also, “SUICIDE SQUAD” was filled with a great deal of humor – something that many critics and moviegoers have complained that the DCEU was lacking.
I find it ironic that “MAN OF STEEL” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” have been criticized for being “depressing and angst-riddled”, along with the DCEU’s boogeyman, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (which I also adore with every fiber of my being). Yet, the MCU’s Captain America films have managed to evade such criticisms, despite their ambiguous endings. Why have many critics and moviegoers have been so hard on the DCEU films about their ambiguity and given the Captain America films a pass? Hypocrisy much?
Post-Script: And the hypocrisy has continued. As late as the summer of 2018, many moviegoers and critics have either expressed hope that the DCEU would release more light-hearted and “hopeful” films. They have also expressed hope that Warner Brothers Studios’ upcoming releases – “AQUAMAN”, “SHAZAM” and “WONDER WOMAN 1984” – will feature more fun-oriented plots.
Yet, during the same year, Marvel Films/Disney Studios released three MCU films – “BLACK PANTHER”, “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” and “ANT-MAN & THE WASP”. The first film proved to be an angst-filled and political family drama. The second film ended on a catastrophic note in which the main villain achieved his goal and wiped out half of the universe’s population – including many familiar characters. And although the third film proved to be a lot more light-hearted, its post-credit scene ended on a devastating note – a residual of what happened in the second film. Hardly anyone complained about this and instead, complimented the MCU franchise for its willingness to be more serious.
I am another moviegoer who is getting sick and tired of the regarding Marvel/Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films and Warner Brothers/D.C. Comics’ D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) films. I have come across articles in which fans of both movie universes have accused the other of excessive bashing.
I never understood this rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. To be honest, I find it unnecessary. And I believe today’s audiences are getting too caught up in this so-called rivalry, thanks to the media, the studios and the two comic book conglomerates. I have seen both DC Comics and Marvel since “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” first came out in 1978. Why do certain films from one comic book company need to be better than those from another one? I have seen films from both that I found very impressive. And I have seen films from both that left me feeling disappointed. For me to decide whether the Marvel films or the DC films are better strikes me as ridiculous.
Some fans have claimed that since the MCU films perform better at the box office, they are without a doubt, the superior series of films. One major problem with this reasoning was the box office performance of the five major comic book movies released in 2016. Marvel’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CIVIL WAR” proved to be the second (or third) biggest box office success of that year. Yet, D.C. Comics’ “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” proved to be that year’s fifth biggest box office success. Although both the DCEU’s “SUICIDE SQUAD” and the MCU’s “DOCTOR STRANGE” never reached those heights in terms of box office, both were successful and ironically, the DCEU movie proved to be a bit more successful.
However, I believe that box office performance is not a true reflection of a movie’s worth. No one knows the true reason behind the critics’ current and more positive reaction to the Marvel films. Not really. True, some film critics might honestly believe they are better. Then again, it is possible that some film critics were bribed to praise the Marvel films to the sky and/or bash the D.C. Comics movies. Personally, I had stopped regarding their opinion as fact a long time ago. After all, their opinions are dictated by personal tastes, or . . . other means, just as the opinions of moviegoers are dictated by personal tastes. – Yes, there might be more people who believe that the current Marvel films are better. But I have encountered a great number of opinions that favor the current DC Comic movies. And I cannot help but wonder if the MCU fans are simply the loudest. Also, judging a film based upon box office success or the number of fans for a certain franchise strikes me as irrelevant. There are a lot of fans of the “TRANSFORMER” films. A lot. Which is why those movies generated a good deal of money. In the end, it is all subjective.
I am fans of both the MCU and the DCEU. I have been aware of some bashing of the MCU films by certain DCEU fans. However, their bashing seemed to be minor in compare to the consistent and excessive stream of criticism and bashing directed toward the DCEU films … and I believe this bashing is getting out of control.
Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of Marvel fans (or perhaps I should say the Marvel/Disney company is threatened by the three movies released by DC Comics between 2013 and 2016. These three movies signaled the end of the Marvel/Disney’s monopoly on a series of comic book movies based upon a collection of titles. The bashing for the DCEU has become utter ridiculous and excessive. I am also beginning to wonder if those who had accused Disney/Marvel of paying off the critics to bad mouth ALL THREE DCEU movies that have been released so far … had been right after all. Because this criticism has become over the top. It has now extended to both “WONDER WOMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” and they have yet to be released. Has bashing the DCEU movies become the “in” thing to do? Just as bashing the “STAR WARS” Prequel films is still a popular past time? I hope not. For I had almost bought it myself.
When “MAN OF STEEL”, “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” first hit the theaters, I was reluctant to see all three, because I had stupidly accepted the bad opinions about them. Yet, I overcame my reluctance and went to see them, anyway. And when I finally saw those three movies, I enjoyed them. All of them. Very much. In fact, I regard “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” as one of the best comic book hero movies I have ever seen. And that was when I finally realized that a film critic’s opinion was worth dog shit. No more. I am simply going to form my own opinion of any movie I am interested in seeing. And I refuse to be some mindless drone and accept the views of others simply because it is the in-thing to do.
The idea that we are supposed to be accept that the Marvel or MCU films are better than the DCEU films, because many film critics or movie fans say so is irrelevant. It is irrelevant, because their views are matters of opinion. Preference. I do not accept this view “numbers matter” regarding the artistic quality of a film, because I do not share it. I have watched a lot of comic book movies in my time. From my perspective, only my opinion of an individual movie count. I do not care whether any those movies are based upon the titles of Marvel, DC Comics or any other comic book company that exists. And considering that art and entertainment are subjective in the end, what is the point in declaring that MCU films are better or that DCEU movies are better? It seems like a waste of time to me. I think we all should focus on which individual movies that appeals to us and not bother on which company makes the better films.
Warner Bros./DCEU is scheduled to release two movies in 2017. Disney/MCU has scheduled three to be released. I plan to see all five movies this year. And I will be damned if I pay attention to any film critics or moviegoer . . . until after I have seen these movies. Regardless of who performs better at the box office, I am the one who will decide which films I want to see and which ones I want to buy, regardless of whether they came from DC Comics or Marvel.
Below is a list of my favorite moments featured in Marvel movies and television:
FAVORITE MOMENTS IN MARVEL MOVIES AND TELEVISION
1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) – After a brutal fight with Doc Ock on top of a Manhattan El Train and saving the train’s passengers, an exhausted Spider-Man aka Peter Parker is unmasked by the latter in what I regard as the most poignant moment in any Marvel production.
2. “The Avengers” (2012) – During its fight against invading Chitauri troops, director Joss Whedon gave audiences an iconic shot of the newly formed Avengers, before they continued the battle.
3. “Iron-Man 3” (2013) – Iron Man aka Tony Stark saves the surviving passengers and crew of Air Force One in this breathtaking sequence, using aerodynamics, one of his Iron Man bots and his brains.
4. “The Wolverine” (2013) – In this exciting sequence, the Wolverine aka Logan battles members of the Yakuza on top of a Tokyo bullet train, as he tries to prevent them from kidnapping the granddaughter of a recently deceased businessman that he had briefly met at the end of World War II.
5. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” (1.20) “Nothing Personal” – Agent Phil Coulson rescues his kidnapped subordinate Skye aka Daisy Johnson from HYDRA agents, who had hijacked the fallen agency’s C-17 plane, known as “the Bus”, with his sports car called “L.O.L.A.”.
6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – While staving off rogue HYDRA agents in Washington D.C., Captain America aka Steve Rogers has a brutal hand-to-hand fight with the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier”. Best fight scene in any Marvel production … at least for me.
7. “Iron Man 3” (2013) – In this hilarious scene, Tony Stark finally comes face-to-face with the “terrorist” known as “the Mandarin”, who proves not to be what many had assumed.
8. “The Hulk” (2003) – The opening credits of the 2003 movie featured the chilling efforts of Dr. David Banner to create super soldiers by introducing modified DNA sequences extracted from various animals to strengthen the human cellular response. This sequence gives me the chills whenever I watch the movie.
9. “X2: X-Men United” (2003) – The second movie in the “X-MEN” franchise featured an exciting attack by a brainwashed Nightcrawler aka Kurt Wagner on the White House, in an attempt to assassinate the U.S. President.
10. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury is attacked by HYDRA agents and the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier” on the streets of Washington D.C.
11. “Iron Man 2” (2010) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow fights off security guards at Justin Hammer’s factory in order to prevent Ivan Venko from using James Rhodes in the War Machine suit from killing Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
12. “Ant-Man” (2015) – Scott Laing aka Ant-Man attempts to infiltrate the new Avengers headquarters for a particular device, and has an unexpected encounter with Avenger Sam Wilson aka the Falcon.
13. “Iron Man 3” (2015) – An Extremis enhanced Pepper Potts saves Tony Stark from villain Aldrich Killian by killing the latter.
14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – The recently enhanced Steve Rogers is recruited by a U.S. senator for a war bonds tour in this colorful montage, after the former is rejected by Colonel Chester Phillips when the super soldier formula is lost.
15. “Thor” (2011) – Recently cast out from Asgaard by his father Odin, a now mortal Thor struggles to free himself from a hospital’s personnel before he is eventually drugged in this very funny scene.
16. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) – A group of extraterrestrial misfits uses one of the Infinity stones to defeat Kree supervillain Ronan the Accuser, who is bent upon destroying the Nova Empire’s capital city, Xandar.
17. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – In this emotionally sad scene, S.S.R. Agent Peggy Carter gives in to tears, when communication with Captain America aka Steve Rogers is cut short, after he forces a HYDRA plane with deadly weapons into the Atlantic Ocean.
18. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) – Another sad scene features Spider-Man aka Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson grieving over the dead body of their friend, Harry Osborn aka New Goblin, after the latter is skewered by villain Venom aka Eddie Brock.
19. “Agent Carter” (1.07) “Snafu” – S.S.R. Chief Roger Dooley jumps to his death in order to save the lives of his subordinates from the bomb device that had been strapped to his body.
20. “The Hulk” (2003) – Ang Lee directed this bizarre scene featuring the death of former military officer Glenn Talbot, after the Hulk aka Bruce Banner escapes from a military base.
Honorable Mention: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) – Director Marc Webb directed this heartbreaking sequence in which Gwen Stacy falls to her death, after Spider-Man aka Peter Parker fails to save her from Harry Osborn aka the Green Goblin.
Many fans of the STAR TREK franchise seemed to be in agreement that its last television series – “ENTERPRISE” (2001-2005) – had more or less killed the franchise. That opinion proved to be false with the release of the 2009 film – “STAR TREK”, directed by J.J. Abrams.
This latest installment in the franchise is about the early years of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 from “THE ORIGINAL SERIES”(1966-1969). In other words, the movie is about how James T. Kirk became captain of the Enterprise and Spock, its first officer. What made this particular story unique is that the film’s opening sequence – an attack upon the Federation starship, U.S.S. Kelvin in 2233 led to an alternate timeline for the rest of the film.
When a supernova threatened the galaxy in 2387 (nine years after the U.S.S. Voyager’s return to Earth), Ambassador Spock piloted a ship carrying “red matter” that can create a gravitational singularity, drawing the supernova into a black hole. Before Spock completed his mission, the supernova destroyed the planet Romulus. Captain Nero of the Romulan mining ship Narada blamed Spock and the Federation for his planet’s destruction and its inhabitants, which included his wife and unborn child; and attempted to exact revenge on Spock. But both ships are caught in the black hole’s event horizon and travel to different points in the past. The Narada arrived first in 2233 and attacked the Kelvin. The attack resulted in the death of the Kelvin’s commander, Richard Robau and first officer Lieutenant George Kirk; and James T. Kirk’s birth aboard a shuttle fleeing from the damaged starship. The rest of the movie featured both Kirk and Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) early years, their subsequent first meeting at Starfleet Academy and their clashes aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, commanded by Captain Christopher Pike. Meanwhile, Nero has survived and 25 years following Kirk’s birth, is still seeking to exact revenge upon Spock.
Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman penned an adventure filled with time travel, plenty of action and characterization. Which is not surprising, considering that the story strongly reminded me of the Season Four episode from “STAR TREK: VOYAGER” (1995-2001), (4.08-4.09) “Year of Hell”. But there were differences. Whereas ”Year of Hell” dealt with the moral ramifications of time travel, “STAR TREK” merely revealed what happened after the timeline was changed. After all, it is more action oriented than the majority of TREK episodes. I had no problems with that. Somewhat. But this slight difference deprived the movie of the depth found in “Year of Hell”. And I did have problems with other aspects of Orci and Kurtzman’s script.
First of all, I want to point out one thing. This alternate reality or timeline created by Orci and Kurtzman has its origins in the arrival of the Narada – and Nero, to the year 2233, 154 years before his time. His arrival marked the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin, along with Robaud and George Kirk. But it is Kirk’s birth aboard the shuttle where the movie hit its first snag. Many TREK fans had pointed out that James Kirk had been born in Iowa, not aboard a Starfleet vessel or one of its shuttles. Robert Orci replied that Kirk would have been born in Iowa if Nero had not arrived from the late 24th century and attacked the Kelvin. I say . . . bullshit to that. Why? One, Winona Kirk was never a Starfleet officer in the original timeline. This has been supported in “THE ORIGINAL SERIES”. And Nero’s arrival would have NOT changed that. She had no business being aboard the Kelvin . . . even before Nero’s arrival. Two, crewman families were not allowed aboard Starfleet ships until the 24th century. Orci and Kurtzman also failed to hint that Kirk had an older brother named Sam. Another problem I had with the film was the manner in which Kirk joined Starfleet Academy. At a bar near Kirk’s home in Iowa, Captain Pike urged him to apply for the Academy, claiming that Kirk would attain an officer’s commission within four years and command of a starship within eight. So, what does Kirk do? He shows up at a Starbase the following morning on his motorbike . . . without even encountering one sign of security. Then he boards a shuttle for San Francisco . . . just like that. He never even submitted an application. Nor was he wearing the uniform of an Academy cadet. Come to think of it, neither did Leonard McCoy. Was this Starfleet’s idea of military discipline in the mid-23rd century? What the hell was this, anyway?
Within three years, Kirk was close to completing his Academy training. Yet, he ended up getting into trouble, when he passed the Kobayashi Maru test by cheating. When Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan regarding a lightning storm in space, the cadets are mobilized to help the Starfleet ships in orbit. Kirk is unable to join this expedition due to being suspended from the Academy. I have two problems with this scene. One, why on earth was it necessary for Starfleet to mobilize so many cadets for a distress signal over a lightning storm in Vulcan space? Two, no one inside the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Sick Bay bothered to questioned Kirk’s presence on board and McCoy ended up ordering others around, despite the fact that he was a mere cadet and not the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. In fact, where was the CMO before his death? And why was it so important for Uhura to join the Enterprise’s crew? She was a cadet. She was not supposed to be there on a permanent basis, in the first place. And could someone please tell me why the cadets assigned aboard the Enterprise were wearing the same uniforms as the regular crew . . . instead of cadet uniforms? They had not graduated from the Academy.
Upon reaching Vulcan space, the Enterprise finds the fleet destroyed and the Narada drilling into Vulcan’s core. Pike promotes Kirk to First Officer. Then he orders Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu and Chief Engineer Olson to an orbital skydive onto the Romulan drilling platform and destroy it before it can drill a hole into Vulcan’s core. Meanwhile, he would meet with Nero aboard the Narad. Unfortunately, Olson is killed during their dive. Kirk and Sulu are forced to fight Romulan miners aboard the drill platform before stopping the drill, using phasers. However, Nero manages to successfully drill the hole, drop the red matter into the planet’s core and destroy Vulcan. Spock transports to Vulcan to save his parents and the planet’s High Council. However, his mother, Amanda Grayson, is killed before she could be transported safely from the planet. Not only did I find this sequence, heavily contrived, I found it so unnecessary. Why was it necessary to promote Kirk to First Officer? Aside from identifying the lightning storm for what it was, he did nothing to earn that promotion. What was Amanda doing with the Vulcan High Council? And if Starfleet-issued phasers could stop the drill, then why not the Enterprise’s phasers? If Captain Pike had simply ordered his Weapons Officer to fire at the drill, then perhaps it would have been destroyed before it reached Vulcan’s core. Alas . . . we are given this exciting, but contrived nonsense with a fight on the drill platform, the Chief Engineer and Amanda Grayson dead, Vulcan destroyed and Captain Pike a prisoner of Nero’s.
Chekov manages to transport Kirk and Sulu back to the Enterprise. Pike is tortured by Nero for information on Earth’s defenses. Meanwhile, Kirk (who is now First Officer) and Spock (the Acting Captain) have a quarrel on the Bridge about Spock’s decision to return to Starfleet. Kirk wants to go after Nero. During the quarrel, Spock has Kirk marooned on Delta Vega. There, Kirk has an encounter with snow monster straight out of ”STAR WARS” and meets the elder Ambassador Spock. Old Spock informs Kirk about what led Nero and himself to the 23rd century. He then leads Kirk to a Starbase, where they encounter engineer Montgomery Scott. I really disliked this sequence. Nero needed information on Earth’s defenses, but did not need the same for Vulcan’s defenses? And both planets were the premiere members of the Federation? And why maroon Kirk on some snow planet? Spock could have easily hauled the Human’s ass into the brig for insubordination. As for Kirk . . . what is this guy’s problem? Confronting the Captain on the Bridge? Kirk would have never tolerated any officer or crewman doing the same to him. Kirk’s monster encounter was a joke. And after meeting Old Spock, the latter reveals his knowledge of a nearby Starbase. Now, I really have a problem with this. Why did Spock fail to warn Starfleet about Nero? He was pulled into the 23rd century, captured and marooned on Delta Vega by Nero at least two days before Vulcan’s destruction. This was not merely a joke. This was criminal. And why was it imperative to transport Scotty to the Enterprise, along with Kirk? Without Starfleet knowing?
Before Spock transported Kirk and Scotty to the Enterprise, he informs Kirk that the latter needs to assume command of the Enterprise. Once aboard, Kirk deliberately enrages Spock to force him to acknowledge that he is emotionally compromised, thereby forfeiting command which then passes to Kirk. Here was another scene with which I had a problem. Kirk . . . should NOT have assumed command of the Enterprise when Spock removed himself as captain. You see, Kirk had been relieved of duty by Spock before the latter marooned the former on Delta Vega. And Kirk was never reinstated back to duty upon his return to the Enterprise. Nor do I recall Spock deliberately handing over command to Kirk. Whoever was acting as Spock’s first officer during Kirk’s adventures on Delta Vega, should have assumed command. Not Kirk.
Spock, Scott, and Chekov devise a plan to ambush the Narada by dropping out of warp behind Saturn’s moon, Titan. Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada. While Kirk rescues Pike, Spock retakes the elder Spock’s ship, destroys the drill and lures the Narada away from Earth before piloting a collision course. The Enterprise arrives and beams Kirk, Pike, and Spock away before the collision, which ignites the remaining red matter and creates a black hole within the Narada’s superstructure. Kirk offers to help rescue Nero and his crew, but the Romulan refuses and the Narada is destroyed. The Enterprise escapes the same fate by ejecting and igniting the ship’s warp drive reactor cores, the resulting explosion pushing them clear. Why were Chekov and Scotty needed to devise a plan to ambush the Narada in the first place? What was Scotty doing on the Bridge? What was he doing aboard the Enterprise? He was not an official member of the crew. And could someone please explain how Spock managed to fly a starship that was 154 years ahead of his time? Who was in command of the Enterprise, while Kirk and Spock were aboard the Narada?
The movie ends with Kirk receiving adulation by Starfleet for his actions against Nero and command of the Enterprise. Spock decides to remain in Starfleet and become the Enterprise’s First Officer. God, I hate this. What exactly did Kirk do in this movie, besides act like a complete asshole? Well, he did rescue Captain Pike. But the latter also assisted in the rescue. It was Spock who came up with the plan to ambush the Narada. It was the person in command of the Enterprise who prevented Spock from being blown to bits by Romulan missiles, while he was inside Old Spock’s ship. It was Spock who destroyed the Narada. Sulu’s flying and Scotty’s engineering skills prevented the Enterprise from being destroyed by the black hole that destroyed the Narada. Why in the hell would Starfleet give most of the credit to Kirk? How in the hell did a cadet, who had yet to graduate, end up with command of Starfleet’s flagship? What kind of military organization is this?
I had one last problem with the movie . . . namely one Pavel Chekov. In the original timeline, Chekov was born in 2245, which would have made him thirteen years old in this movie. According to one of the screenwriters, Roberto Orci, Nero’s appearance in the past caused a ripple effect, allowing Chekov to be born four years earlier in 2241. God, how lame! I suppose one could accept this explanation. But how does one explain Chekov’s transformation from an intelligent and competent Starfleet junior officer to a child prodigy? I really cannot see how a time ripple effect could change a character’s personality traits. Not to that degree.
The movie’s only strengths proved to be the characters originally created by Gene Roddenberry, and the cast of actors hired to portray them in this film. Both Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto did excellent jobs in creating the genesis of the Kirk/Spock friendship. They also managed to re-capture the essence of both characters without parodying William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s past performance. Zoe Saldaña’s Nyota Uhura seemed a little more fiery than Nichelle Nichols’ interpretation, but I thought she was great as the Communications officer. Her only misstep was that she had been forced to attempt some kind of romantic chemistry with Quinto. And as I had stated earlier, both were doomed to fail, due to the characters they were portraying. And so was Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy. Granted there were moments when he seemed to be aping DeForrest Kelly, but I had enjoyed his performances so much that I tolerated those moments. John Cho was deliciously cool and slightly sardonic as Sulu. And I thought it was a great touch that the screenwriters remembered Sulu’s penchant for fencing . . . and used it in a great fight scene. Anton Yelchin made a charming and energetic Chekov with probably a more authentic Russian accent than Walter Koenig. However, I found his role as a 17 year-old commissioned Starfleet officer rather questionable, considering that Chekov has never been portrayed as some kind of “boy genius” like Wesley Crusher. I hate to say this, but I found Simon Pegg’s interpretation of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott disappointing and rather annoying. Pegg tried to infuse the character with a lot of broad humor. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too broad. His Scotty was so over-the-top that I found myself longing for another character to shoot him with a phaser.
I had seen “THE ORIGINAL SERIES” pilot episode, (1.01) “The Cage” only once in my life. Which means I have vague memories of the late Jeffrey Hunter’s portrayal of Christopher Pike, Kirk’s predecessor aboard the Enterprise. However, I thought that Bruce Greenwood’s portrayal of Pike in the movie to be definitely memorable. Clifton Collins Jr. gave admirable support as Nero’s henchman, Ayel. Both Winona Ryder and especially Ben Cross were believable as Spock’s parents – Amanda Grayson and Ambassador Sarek. I would not exactly call Nero one of the best villains in the TREK franchise. But I must admit that Eric Bana had given it his all with a performance that infused the character with a great deal of passion, malice and complexity without going over-the-top. Last, but not least, there was Leonard Nimoy portraying the late 24th century Spock. There were times when Nimoy seemed to be struggling with the role due to his age (he was at least 77 years old when the movie was filmed). Fortunately, these moments were very few and his Spock was a warm and more matured character who finally seemed to be a peace with his mixed heritage.
Look . . . I will admit that “STAR TREK” had a lot of exciting action sequences. And some of the performances seemed top-notch. But upon second viewing, I discovered that I disliked Daniel Mindel’s photography. I especially disliked the fact that most of the scenes seemed to have been shot with close-ups. I disliked the new transporter style that featured swirling circles. But what I realized that I disliked the most was the script penned by Orci and Katzman. Not only did I disliked the fact that they used an alternate timeline plot device to stray away from the franchise’s original continuity; I disliked that they used badly written plot holes to achieve this goal. “STAR TREK” might have been considered one of the best movie of the 2009 summer season. But in my opinion, it proved to be one of the lesser movies I had seen during that year.
Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) scored its first big box office hit of 2016 with the release of “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”. Six months later, the organization and producer Kevin Fiege scored another hit with its first adaptation of the Marvel Comics character, Doctor Strange.
Directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the starring role, “DOCTOR STRANGE” told unveiled the origin story of a successful New York City neurosurgeon named Dr. Stephen Strange, whose career ends when he loses the use of both hands in a traumatic car accident. Despite emotional support from his former lover and colleague Dr. Christine Palmer, Stephen vainly pursues one experimental surgery after another in the hopes of mending his hands, so that he can regain his medical career. When all else fails, he learns about a paraplegic who was mysteriously able to walk again named Jonathan Pangborn. The latter directs Stephen to a community in Tibet called Kamar-Taj.
Upon reaching the Tibetan city, Stephen meets a sorcerer named Karl Mordo. The latter recommends Strange as a potential student to his former mentor, a sorceress named The Ancient One. The latter displays her abilities with the mystic arts to Stephen, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. An amazed Strange begs her to teach him her abilities. The Ancient One reluctantly agrees, despite her wariness over his arrogance, which reminds her of a former student named Kaecilius. The latter and his new group of zealots had recently broke into Kamar-Taj secret compound, beheaded the librarian and stolen a secret ritual from a book that belonged to the Ancient One. With this stolen ritual, Kaecilius hopes to learn the means to acquire the power of eternal life. And it is up to The Ancient One, Mordo, the new librarian Wong and Stephen to stop him.
Superficially, “DOCTOR STRANGE” proved to be a different kettle of fish for Marvel. One, due to the abilities of the main protagonist and other supporting characters, this movie marked the MCU’s first foray into magic. Well … not really. The two previous “THOR” more or less stated that at least two of its characters practiced magic. But the subject of magic was never fully explored until “DOCTOR STRANGE”. Also, the movie marked the first time in which the main character practiced magic. Second, the method in which Stephen defeated the main antagonist’s goals did not rely upon violence of any kind. Our magical hero basically resorted to magic and cunning to win the day. To be honest, I cannot recall any other Marvel hero or heroine who did not resort to brute force to defeat any of the main villains in the past thirteen films. And although the MCU movie had its share of unusual visual effects – especially 2015’s “ANT-MAN”, those for “DOCTOR STRANGE” has to be the most visually stunning effects I have ever seen in any Marvel film so far.
As for the narrative itself … well, it is not bad. Aside from the unorthodox manner in which Stephen defeated the villain(s), “DOCTOR STRANGE” seemed to be your typical, paint-by-the-numbers superhero origin story. And I noticed that the film borrowed a good deal from other movies. Considering Stephen’s arrogant and witty personality, the movie bears a strong resemblance to the 2008 film, “IRON MAN”. In fact, like Tony Stark, Stephen’s arrogance remains intact by the last reel. Also, some of the visual effects reminded me of those found in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 movie, “INCEPTION”. And one of the villains that Stephen has to defeat in the end, Dormammu, reminded me of the villain called Parallax from the 2011 D.C. Comics film, “THE GREEN LANTERN”. Perhaps the originality found in “DOCTOR STRANGE” is limited to the MCU movies.
Although the topic of magic allowed the special effects team to provide moviegoers with some astounding visuals, I must admit that I found the movie’s portryal of magic to be a little … well, limited. Most of the magic presented in “DOCTOR STRANGE” seemed to consist of jumping through portals – either from one spot on the Earth to the next or to another dimension. If the movie’s magic practitioners were not jumping through portals, they were utilzing magical objects like the red Mystical Cloak of Levitation from the New York City sanctum that attached itself to Stephen; and the Eye of Agamotto, a relic containing an Infinity Stone that can manipulate time – which Stephen had used against Dormammu in the final action scene. Only one spell had appeared in the movie – the one that Kaecilius used to summon Dormammu.
The movie’s narrative suffered from one major aspect – characterization. One, the story lacked a strong leading lady. I personally have nothing against Rachel McAdams as an actress. But it seemed obvious that director/screenwriter Scott Derrickson and his fellow writers, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill did not know what to do with the Christine Palmer character. She was there to simply there to comfort Stephen following his accident and tend to his wounds, later in the film. At least McAdams had more lines than fellow cast member, Michael Stuhlbarg. The latter portrayed fellow surgeon, Nicodemus West, who seemed to exist to receive caustic criticism and needling from Stephen. Otherwise … what on earth was he there for? I realize that Marvel has a history of wasting some of its supporting character, but … good grief! And then we have poor Mads Mikkelsen, who had the bad luck to be cast as one of the most badly written villains in the MCU franchise. The Danish actor portrayed The Ancient One’s former student, Kaecilius, who resented the Ancient One’s method for maintaining a long life and long to do the same … even if it meant threatening the world by summoning Dormammu, the inter-dimensional being responsible for his former mentor’s long life. That is basically Kaecilius’ goal – to extend his life. That is what his attacks on the Ancient One’s sanctums in different parts of the world were about. Quite frankly, I was not impressed and believe that Mikkelsen was wasted in the role. Two actors and an actress wasted in one film. I find this disturbing.
And then … we have Tilda Swinton in the role of “The Ancient One”. In the Marvel comics, the Ancient One was a Tibetan man. In the name of “diversity”, Marvel decided to re-write the character as a Celtic woman … and still have her located in Tibet. Hmmmmm. Mind you, Swinton gave a first-rate performance as the mysterious and somewhat ambiguous spiritual and magical leader. But … “whitewashing!”. Marvel committed a major act of whitewashing. It is not the first time. But this was the most obvious example, considering the arguments that Derrickson and his two co-writers Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill used to excuse their changes. They had claimed that they wanted to avoid the stereotypical portrayal of Asians – namely the “Dr. Fu Manchu”, “Dragon Lady” or the “young Asian woman sex fetish” types – by re-writing the Ancient One role as a non-Asian. So, they cast Swinton in the role. Frankly, I did not buy the arguments. The filmmakers did NOT have to re-write the role as a Westerner in order to avoid the Asian stereotypes. Any good actor or actress of Asian descent worth his or her salt could have done wonders with the role without resorting to stereotypes. A good example would be James Hong and Victor Wong’s outstanding performances in the 1986 movie, “BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA”. But if Marvel was that determined for Ms. Swinton to portray “The Ancient One”, they could have re-located the character’s main sanctum somewhere in Scotland, Ireland or Wales.
However, “DOCTOR STRANGE” did feature some interesting performances that I had enjoyed. Benedict Wong, who could have easily been cast in the role of “The Ancient One”, managed to give a subtle and wry performance as the Kamar-Taj Sanctum’s librarian, Wong, despite his minimal screen appearances. Benjamin Bratt gave a brief, but very memorable performance as Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who learned how to heal himself under the tutelege of “The Ancient One”. The movie’s mid-credit sequence also featured an amusing appearance by Chris Hemsworth as Thor. I can only assume that this was Marvel’s way of introducing the next film featuring the “God of Thunder” and the fact that Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange will be appearing in that film.
When “DOCTOR STRANGE” first hit the movie screens, many filmgoers had complained about his American accent. To be honest, Cumberbatch’s accent seemed to lack any traces of his British ancestry. But I thought his accent had a trans-Atlantic vibe that I found rather bland. I could not regard his performance as the imaginative, yet arrogant Dr. Stephen Strange as bland. Like Robert Downey Jr. before him, Cumberbatch managed to create a character that was both infuriating and likable. But I thought that Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Karl Mordo, another sorcerer who was trained by the Ancient One, proved to be the most interesting one in the film. Ironically, there was no outcry over the Karl Mordo character being changed from an Eastern European to a person of African descent. Considering the difficulties that many non-white actors and actresses still face in acquiring work in the movie and television industries, I am not surprised. But the best thing about Ejiofor is how he transformed Karl from an amiable sorcerer with a deep faith in the practices taught to him by the Ancient One to a potentially dangerous fanatic who became embittered by the Ancient One and Stephen’s willingness to use magic to defy nature. It is a pity that his performance has not garner much notice, except by the Evening Standard British Film Awards.
Overall, “DOCTOR STRANGE” is a solid entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that featured decent direction by Scott Derrickson and solid performances from a cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch. But aside from the movie’s visual effects, I would not consider to be particularly mind-blowing. I also believe that the movie was hampered by some poor characterizations and a misguided casting choice for one particular character. Oh well, Marvel cannot always hit it out of the ballpark.