9/ DOCTOR STRANGE. DIR: SCOTT DERRICKSON.
Another strange – pun not intended – choice of director is that of Sinister. I’ve been a fan of Scott Derrickson for some years now, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he’d been given the reigns to Doctor Strange. Strange being a good title for this one. Some of the ideas and imagery in this film are out right mind-blowing. Inception is quickly put to shame here in terms of scale. I still find myself feeling giddy and going “wow” as buildings are folded in two and an action scene plays out backwards. It’s almost fitting that a horror film director made this, as some of the imagery is something I’d expect to find in a tame Stewart Gordon or Brian Yuzna film.
I love the concept of magic in this film. It’s visually nice to look at and is creative and fun to hear about. I like seeing Strange’s lessons and how he slowly learns to control his powers. While I’m not fond of the villain, I did feel that they were on to something with his motivation. The action was fun. I like the actors too. Benedict Cumberbatch should have just played the character out as British – his accent is as bad as Alan Rickman’s in that scene in Die Hard – but otherwise does his usual good job.
The problem is the story. This is very much style over substance. The story is a copy and paste of those we’ve seen before. Namely that of Iron Man. It’s not unique and it gets a little boring at times. But it is the performances and visuals that work, and that’s ultimately what this film is about. Some good humour also helps. I prefer this over the Harry Potter films. I can see this being a pretty divisive film in the community, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
8/ IRON MAN 3. DIR: SHANE BLACK.
Easily the most divisive entry of the MCU. A constant comment I hear is that Iron Man 3 is a good Shane Black film but a bad Marvel film. I can see what they mean by that. The film pretty much abandons all cannon of the series in order to do its own thing. Black got a good deal of creative freedom here and provides one of his typically, darkly-comical scripts. Because of this it feel less like an Iron Man sequel and more like an Iron Man parody.
For the most part it’s a tightly written story with a lot of fun action and one liners. The film leans more towards comedy than most other Marvel films, which to some can be a bit off putting – particularly those who expected the action epic that the trailers promised. It is a little obvious where things were changed in rewrites though – I get the feeling that Happy was meant to die and Rebecca Hall certainly had a larger role at some point. The story itself, about combustible super-soldiers is a little odd but does provide some fun action thrills. It’s also nice to see everyone commit to a film that takes more risks than people give it credit for.
The best part of the film is not the action or even has anything to do with the Iron Man suit. It’s when Stark is stuck in a small town with a kid who is just a younger version of himself. And of course, there is the twist involving the Mandarin. I laughed at this, I laughed a lot. That it was Ben Kingsley only made it funnier to me. I thought that this twist was a stroke of genius. But even at the time I knew that this would anger more people than it entertained. Boy did it! I think that the issue is that the villain we get instead just feels like a henchman in the end. Still, I admire it for taking this chance, and all the others that it takes. Maybe it’s not the Iron Man film we should have gotten, but I really enjoyed it regardless.
7/ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. DIR: ANTHONY AND JOE RUSSO.
The film that this all lead to – and it turns out to be part one of two. I take issue with Infinity War. I feel like this will be a great chapter skipping film when the DVD comes out. I’ll watch and enjoy scenes featuring Thanos, Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Then I’ll probably skip all others. This is the film to demonstrate who you love and who you don’t. But, in its defence it not a mess. This does mostly come from breaking the teams into smaller teams. Tonally it’s a little messy, but the tones stick to the characters, so it never feels jarring.
In a film with over forty characters everyone gets a moment to shine – even if some get a lot more than others. Thanos was worth the wait. He’s certainly one of the best villains of the whole series, with a very human belief and the motivation and reasoning of a psychopath. Yet he does manage to bring you to see his side. That’s how charming he is beneath the intimidation. The Russo’s give their best action to the film and do manage to make what could easily have been awful into something that’s not great, but still an enjoyably watch.
It has a lot of gall. It’s fairly well known now that the body count is substantial. While we know that most will be coming back, there are those who might not be. It’s nice to see a superhero film where the bad guy wins. No debate about it, like in The Dark Knight, he wins plain and simple. But, again, it’s part one of two, so it’s far from gospel. It did do what I thought could never be done though. It’s got me interested in the next Avengers film. My expectations were subverted in interesting ways. For that alone, I can ignore the films largest issues.