ALMOST DONE!

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

Doctor_strange-9

DID I FALL ASLEEP? No.

DID I LIKE THE MUSIC? Didn’t do much for me. EDIT: As many have pointed out, this was also by the great Michael Giacchino, but it did not capture my attention as I was multi tasking.

- Advertisement-

WHAT ELSE DID I NOTICE: I saw this twice in theaters, the second time by accident. (Long story.) For this rewatch for the first time I cheated a bit because I was running out of time and put it on while I was doing housework. To say I find this movie underwhelming is totally accurate.

For the first time we’re back to the straight up origin, from Doctor Strange the asshole neurosurgeon to Doctor Strange the asshole cosmic guardian. The Hero’s Journey here is mostly external and Stephen Strange remains a jerk all the way through. People said Benedict Cumberbatch was miscast as Starnge because he didn’t make you like him. News flash: you weren’t suppsoed to like him. Doctor_strange-4.jpg

This is kind of a much better done version of the early Marvel films like Daredevil and Ghost Rider. There’s the big name actress as the long suffering love interest – Rachel McAdams as a colleague that Strange treats like crap until she has to sew him up or do some other helpful task. And oh there’s Michael Stuhlbarg – have you ever seen A Serious Man? One of the Coen Brothers’ best and most underrated films. I found the DVD while I was rummaging for my Marvel ones. Time for a rewatch of that I think.

Where was I? This is probably the most predictable and rote of all the movies I rewatched. There are definitely well done moments – Strange’s occult training hits all the spots you expect it to – but overall I just found it dull. And the yellow face casting of Tilda Swinton still bugs me. I mean Swinton was born to play an ageless cosmic guru, but why waste Michele Yeoh in a 10 second cameo in Guardians 2 when she would be so awesome in this?

Doctor_strange-1

I guess this is the place to talk about Marvel’s diversity or lack thereof, a topic that also affects Spider-Man Homecoming, so see below. I could write a whole long post about how rote all the girlfriends and secondary women in labs are in all these movies. Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman did their best, but their characters are dismissed in a line in Ultron, and Black Widow is all over the place, as we’ve mentioned many times. One of the many things I love about Winter Soldier is that it’s a rainbow coalition of Nick Fury, the Falcon, Black Widow and Maria Hill who are left to mop things up, but White Chris is still the center of attention.

All of these movies dutifully add people of color when necessary – Idris Elba! – and everyone has a friendly black sidekick, but it’s totally stereotypical. Sam Wilson and Rhodey are never the stars of the show. Black Panther got the royal treatment, but that became a huge statement just by existing.

How much of this is just standard Hollywood bullshit, how much is fear of Chinese backlash, how much is Marvel Studios’ own practices, I don’t know. Thor Ragnarok, Homecoming and Black Panther are leaps and bounds ahead of anything else in the MCU for portraying non-white characters as interesting in their own right, characters with agency and charm. So things are getting better. But after 18 movies, they’d better be. I have my own suspicions about why this is, but I will have to investigate more before I present my findings.

Doctor_strange-8.jpg

Anyway, I did enjoy the trippy art direction of Inception, I mean Doctor Strange, but it has a classic “They made Mads Mikkelson Ugly!” villain – in this case he got a little too busy testing glitter and gel eyeliner at the local Ulta and got a nasty eye infection. Kaecilius is just another lame villain in a long line of lame villains.

Doctor_strange-3.jpg

Wong was pretty cool though.

Overall, Doctor Strange was in one eye and out the other. He was way more interesting in Ragnarok, and I guess we’ll get to see him spread his wings more in Infinity War.

WOULD I REWATCH: Well, I will always have a need for hosuehold chores.

SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING (2017)

 

DID I FALL ASLEEP? NO!

DID I LIKE THE MUSIC? It’s Michael Giacchino, baby. He’s quality. Finally Marvel is spending money on their scores!

WHAT ELSE DID I NOTICE: This movie is delightful. From start to finish. It even has the most note-perfect, theme-in-one-image poster of all.

sm_homecoming-8.jpg

I pretty much love everything in this movie. Maybe it’s a tad long, but okay, you had that extra bite of cake. Some have said that Michael Keaton sleepwalked through the movie, but his sleepwalking is better than most actor’s scenery chewing. One of the very best villains in all these movies – although why a disgruntled contractor likes to fly around in razor wings is a little weird. Still, like everything else in Homecoming, The Vulture is updated for 2017 in a just right way – even his fur trimmed jacket recalling the OG Vulture’s feather trim. And sure the journey from Batman to Birdman to the Vulture was a little arch, but the hero’s journey takes unexpected turns ehre and there.

sm_homecoming-1.jpg

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is likewise a miraculous reboot. He’s just great. The opening home video version of the airport fight from Civil War is the perfect set-up for bringing us back to the groundlevel after years and years of cosmic threats and battles. Granted, it’s not to hard to make New York come alive on screen, but this is a particularly lively and real-feeling Queens, from arguing about who makes the best sandwiches to the multi-racial make up of Peter’s high school. That’s realism.

sm_homecoming-7.jpg

It also leads to the most unexpected moment in ALL THE MCU MOVIES. I originally saw this at a screening, and when Michael Keaton opened the door and we learned he was the dad of Peter Parker’s prom date, the whole theater – full of hardened journos – GASPED ALOUD. It’s a sharp comment on how we view race and family, but also a plot twist that NO ONE SAW COMING, for once, because of our own racial blinders.

The other best thing about this movie is that is allows all the characters room to breath. Director Jon Watts does something that almost none of the other movies I watched did – big close-ups of the actors just reacting to things. It’s part of what gives the film its grounded feeling and makes everyone much more relatable. Plus such excellent actors in all the supporting roles, from Tony Revolori to Donald Glover to Jacob Battalon. And Tyne Daly! A great little cameo. And Marisa Tomei’s hot Aunt May is another soupçon of delight. (Aside: are these the only middle aged women in the MCU? I think so!)

sm_homecoming-5.jpg

Of course, the Peter/Tony Stark/Happy relationship is at the heart of the film, and hilarious, but we finally see the Avengers as celebrities beyond the ken of the normal human. We’ve been locked in Star Tower for so long that that seemed like real life, but it’s glitzy and glamourous. Tony and Happy are remote father figures, critical and unavailable. While Peter doesn’t spend too much time pining for Uncle Ben, he doesn’t need to. His loss is evident in his search for a male authority figure, and we never get pounded over the head with it.

sm_homecoming-2.jpg

Things that weren’t perfect: It still annoys me when Liz calls Peter “The smartest person I know.” For most of the movie he’s a total dork. Sue we see him fiddling with alien technology, but they didn’t want to make him too smart, I guess. Also, Happy sending off that plane full of priceless technology without a pilot seems a bit irresponsible!

From an outside perspective, the making of this movie was a huge coup for Marvel Studios, as Sony admitted that Kevin Feige could do a better job than they could alone. Bringing in Tony Stark is a brilliant move that sets up the inexorable march to Infinity War even as we enjoy a lighthearted teen action movie.

We’re 16 movies in and Marvel has now proved that they really can do just about anything.

sm_homecoming-3.jpg

WOULD I REWATCH: Heck yeah!

Next time: My favorite MCU movie of all! What will it be????? CAN U GUESS?????

17 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with both of these. I just watched Spidey for the second time the other night. I liked it in the theater, but I loved it this time. It’s up there with Winter Soldier and GOTG in the MCU. And unlike the Mandarin twist, the one here still carries weight because it’s tied to the emotional story of Peter. (Mandarin was a gimmick that was fun once, and falls flat thereafter.) And that third act is perfect. The world isn’t at stake, and it shouldn’t be. Spidey’s not a world saver. He’s street level material and works best there. This film located him, gave him a character-relevant challenge and surrounded him with interesting people. Keaton was marvelous, right down to his refusal to name Peter to Gargan at the end of the movie.

    Oh, and my wife got the twist. Or she tells me she did! I was oblivious and gasped, too. Thanks for a fun ride in preparation for the mild disappointment I expect tomorrow night. (Going early anyway to avoid spoilers.)

  2. “SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING […] DID I LIKE THE MUSIC? It’s Michael Giacchino, baby. He’s quality.”

    And he’s also the composer for DOCTOR STRANGE. (Egads!)

    I’ve enjoyed your opinions of the MCU movie music, Heidi — if for no other reason that it crystallized my own thoughts on the subject. On the whole, I find the Marvel Movie scores to be a lot more varied (and a good bit better in quality) than you do.

    Yeah, I love Giacchino’s work, too; like others, I tend to put him in the Jerry Goldsmith/John Williams pantheon. However, no composer hits the ball out the ballpark every time. I, too, loved his score for SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING; and while I loved the baroque / zitar music in DOCTOR STRANGE, the rest of the score was underwhelming.

    And conversely, I love some of the scores from less well-regarded (or hyped) composers. Alan Silvestri’s scores for THE AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER are two of my favorite (particularly THE AVENGERS — I can listen to that thing, start to finish, on a weekly basis.) Also, I’m fond of Bryan Tyler’s IRON MAN 3 and THOR: THE DARK WORLD score. But Henry Jackman’s scores for the last 2 Cap films leaves me fairly cold, and the same can be said about the scores (if not the soundtrack) to the GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY movies.

    In fact, I think the only other Marvel film that I like to listen to is Christophe Beck’s ANT-MAN music; it’s a treat.

  3. Both of these films bored me. I actually fast-forwarded through the last half hour of “Doctor Strange” (aka: Batman Begins meets Inception meets Iron Man). Snooze-fest. Strange’s costume design was actually pretty great, though. Nice cinematic reinvention.

    “Homecoming” was…fine. I just remember watching it on my laptop and thinking it was almost over and then realizing that I hadn’t even reached the midway point yet! I liked the casting, I liked the costumes. I usually really love Michael Giacchino’s work but I honestly have no recollection of this score. But the rest of the execution (direction, script, production design) just felt very flat to me. RDJ’s shtick is definitely wearing thin for me. For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a huge Spider-Man fan, although I love “Spider-Man 2” and (mostly) like the two Andrew Garfield films (I like darker approaches to this material).

  4. In summation your honor, Age of Ultron was the one I personally resolved I wouldn’t pay theatre prices and I’d wait out Marvel movies till they came to me.

    Until Ragnarok.

  5. Doctor Strange was not a perfect movie, but it held my interest. Maybe because it was about adults. Homecoming bored me. Maybe I’ve outgrown teen angst in movies, but I nodded off more than once.

    The scores of all the MCU movies are generic “heroic” music (except for Doctor Strange, which tried for some bizarre touches). You’d have to go back to Danny Elfman’s scores for the Raimi Spider-Man movies to find memorable music in a Marvel-based movie. Nothing in the MCU movies matches Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme.

    “Aside: are these the only middle aged women in the MCU? I think so”

    Gwenyth Paltrow is 45, so Pepper Potts has entered the middle-aged club.

  6. “News flash: you weren’t suppsoed [sic] to like him.”

    Ohhhh, I see, so the script was suppsoed [sic] to be bland and unengaging.

  7. ““Homecoming” was…fine.”

    It’s the best Spider-man movie by virtue of being the least offensive one. There was nothing memorable about this movie, which is sadly a step up from the schlock of the past two decades.

  8. My reaction to the reveal in Homecoming was my jaw dropping, followed by laughter and a not as quiet as it should have been “That’s fucking brilliant.” I mean, they got us. And it’s a perfect story beat. As for Happy using a plane without a pilot, that’s a pure Stark move. I’m sure Happy probably rambled on about if that was a good idea and Stark blew him off.

    I liked Dr. Strange at the time, but I admit it’s sinking quickly into the “not aging well” category. It wouldn’t be the worse idea in the world if they changed up directors for the second movie…assuming there is one. I know Waititi has been suggested for everything after Thor: Ragnarok, but I think he would make a delightfully bizarre Dr. Strange movie.

  9. Wow. It’s so funny how I am completely on a different wavelength with these reviews. I thought “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is fantastic, one of my top five Marvel movies. While “Spider-Man Homecoming” is at the absolute bottom of the barrel for me. It’s the only Marvel Studios movie that bored me and made me want to check my phone to see how much longer it had (I didn’t, because I don’t do that in the theater).

    I thought maybe it was just my mood, so I watched it on home video again and didn’t get half and hour in before I started fiddling with my phone, and spent the last half of the movie doing laundry and dishes and barely paying attention. It just doesn’t engage me in any way. A shame, because I love Spidey and really wanted to enjoy it. Plus, it just gets so much wrong about Spider-Man that it baffles me how so many people call it the most accurate presentation of the character ever.

  10. “The world isn’t at stake, and it shouldn’t be.”

    Sure, but there’s no middle ground between saving the world and stopping the Avengers’ knickknacks from being stolen? The movie’s big ending had all the stakes of a Hostess Fruit Pie advertisement.

  11. Might as well keep commenting or forever hold my peace (I’ve seen Infinity War, thinks its really good and is the best it could have been with all the elements I really like from the Marvel movies).

    Dr Strange I like more with rewatching. Other than the IM and Avengers movies, Winter Soldier and Civil War, up to this point I was not watching Marvel movies until DVD release. So I had expectations of this movie garnered from the internet, that it was an IM clone and that it was conventional origin Marvel had to get away from. When you watch a film with low expectations and it’s not wholly the worst thing ever created, that makes a difference. But, yep, it was alright, and I actually can rewatch this movie; it has gotten a little better for me with rewatching.

    I mainly wanted to comment because I don’t get this whole yellow face thing with the Ancient One. I think that the Ancient One from the comics is such a massive cliche and generic stereotype in itself that to cast an asian actor in the role is mildly racist itself (also, boring). Complain if you like, I just don’t care that much. They cast Baron Mordo as black in this movie. And if we’re talking about Tilda Swinton, she is the original androgynene (Orlando). The reversal in sex for this character is not bad, but feel free to differ.

    I wonder if Rachel McAdams is going to go the way of Gwyneth or Natalie in terms of trajectory in future films. Also would like to see an interpretation of Clea, even not as a love interest. Across the board good visuals, Wong, humour, Mads, Swinton, Cumberbatch, a story – I can rewatch this on occasion.

    Spider-Man HC I alternate on really liking and only moderately. Definitely rewatch, and young casting and other choices (in casting too) make it interesting that I want to rewatch it. As I said, my liking varies from utterly brilliant to, yeah, it’s alright. Generally positive, then.

  12. Doctor Strange: Yes, definitely a samey generic kind of superhero origin story, but I’m a sap for origin stories. It’s the part of any superhero story I think we can actually identify with (I can’t identify with the celebrity of a fully functioning hero). And I love a movie that can take me somewhere new or show me something different. Doctor Strange had both. To my knowledge, it was also a fairly faithful interpretation of the character. Overall a B+ to A- for me.

    Homecoming: Generally loveable characters. I couldn’t forgive the Aunt May selection though (she’s too much of a hot momma, when she’s always been the kind old aunt). Great plot twists. Fun Spider-Man action. WAY too much Tony Stark. Like seriously get Iron Man out of Spider-Man’s origin. They stole moments that should have been Uncle Ben’s and gave them to Tony. And I can’t stand the decision to make Peter’s suit into an Iron Man type suit with an AI and all the tech. That is so out of character and was only done to give Peter some connection to the MCU through its most popular character. They used obvious classic and Ultimate Spider-Man characters, but in a bizarre move gave them other names (to avoid royalties or studio contacts perhaps???). Overall great Spider-Man type of story, but I can’t forgive the Iron Man storyline and elements. I give it a C+ to B- for deviating a bit too much from Spider-Man’s story. I don’t buy the fact that Peter is any sort of self-made hero after Homecoming. He’s played like a groupie to Iron Man and the Avengers.

  13. I grew up with the tag-end of Silver Age Marvel (last two year of Kirby on FF and THOR, Adams, Steranko, Thomas …), so I look at all of these movies as if I’m The Watcher, peeking in on an alternate universe at the start of a WHAT IF –? issue. But a friend of mine who is more invested had a line about SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING that stayed with me: “It bothered me when Peter talked to his suit, but when his suit talked back to him, I knew this was definitely NOT my Spider-Man.”

  14. I regard all Marvel comics published since the mid-1990s (when I stopped reading them) as “What If” stories. That’s why it doesn’t bother me when Marvel decides to have a female Thor, a black Iron Man, or an Asian Hulk. They’re not “my” characters anyway, and haven’t been for a long time.

    The movies’ strategy is to mix elements from all eras of the heroes’ “lives.” It obviously works, financially, because the movies have drawn fans from 3 generations (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials) who grew up with different variations on the characters.

  15. I have to say, and perhaps it’s because I live in West L.A. and I’m in a bi-racial marriage myself, but I did suspect the Michael Keaton reveal fairly well in advance during the film, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to me as it apparently has been to many people — and I say that as someone who rarely sees those twists coming!

Comments are closed.