Stuff What I Have Seen

by wjw on July 6, 2017

In the past weeks I’ve caught up with superhero stuff that you all no doubt saw ages ago.  I’d like to be more timely with reviews, but frankly my life is very, very busy right now, so I catch movies when I can.

Dr. Strange.  I missed this during the burly-hurly of last year, which also means I missed it in 3D, for which the effects were clearly intended.  Not that they were much less impressive on the flat screen, but that “flattening,” ladies and gents, is a metaphor— once you’ve seen as many special effects as I have, they grow pretty flat.  I have to look around or behind them in order to see actual cinema.

Dr. Strange is a FX-amped artifact, which would be okay if the FX-to-plot ratio weren’t so unbalanced.  Of its 115 minutes, maybe 25 is devoted to story, and the rest to blasting our retinas with staggering imagery.  Color me staggered!

The story doesn’t make any sense, but then it’s a superhero film, and it doesn’t have to.  Still, it wasn’t the most brilliant decision to lumber one of our better film actresses with pseudo-profundities like, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all,” and “That ritual will bring you only sorrow,” or “Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered. Your time is short.”

I also wondered why Stephen Strange spent so much of his time fleeing through twisting, deconstructing surreal landscapes when he had a perfectly good levitation cloak, and could have sailed on without all that effort.

When Dr. Strange and Kaecilius fought, who won?  The special effects.

Wonder Woman.  The bad stuff first.  Too long.  Too many special effects.  Too stretched-out a finale.  Not enough Etta Candy.  And the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but then it’s a superhero film, so what do you want?  Logic?

Plus, I figured out the Big Reveal maybe ten minutes into the running time.  But then, I suppose, I could stop worrying about it.

But imagine my relief, after seeing Batman vs. Superman recently, to see a DC film that wasn’t so utterly devoted to the grimdark, and that found cause for optimism even in the Western Front of the Great War.

And it has to be said that Gal Gadot makes the movie.  I can’t think of any other actresses that could have so embodied her character arc, which is how Princess Diana became Diana Prince.  There was a sweetness in her performance that was both totally right and totally unexpected, and she played the naive self-confidence of the Amazon warrior with surprising conviction.  “Kill Ares, end suffering, end of story, not a problem at all.”  Wow.

I have to wonder how much David Thewlis paid the producers for the scene-stealing role of the villain.  With this, and with his villainous character in the latest season of “Fargo,” he is now set for membership the Legion of British Villains.   Since Christopher Lee, John Hurt, and Alan Rickman have passed away, and with Ian McKellan getting long in the tooth, it’s time we had a new sinister figure with a posh accent troubling the sleep of our all-American heroes, and Thewlis looks ready to step into the part.

Both Wonder Woman and Dr. Strange were origin stories, which are problematical in superhero films, because readers already know the backstory.  So we have to see Krypton blow up again, and Dr. and Mrs. Wayne get gunned down, and we have to see them over and over again.  The next Dr. Strange movie might be more interesting now that we’ve got his character established, especially if the producers realize that the sorcery should support the story, not carry it.

And as for Justice League, it’ll be interesting to see how Diana Prince contrasts with the established Gloomy Twosome— plus Aquaman, who seems to be the comic relief.  (I’d have thought that would be Snapper Carr.)

Later in the year, we get to see Thor fight the Hulk.  I’m not a big fan of these sorts of high-concept contrived match-ups, so I’m hoping the writers can find a story to go with the concept.


Ralf T. Dog July 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm

If I remember, Nine Princes in Amber was a book where the special effects overwhelmed the plot from time to time. I would rank it in my all time top favorite books. (I have always wondered how Rodger got his producer to spring for the effects budget. The CGI must have cost a fortune.)

Privateiron July 8, 2017 at 9:44 am

The twist was given away by the fact that it was Thewlis. Even though I had read the books, I still half expected Lupin to somehow be a pervert in the film because Thewlis.

My hope actually was that Thewlis was Zeus who had somehow survived and become cynical over the millennia over humanity’s horrors. No such luck.

But sill a pretty good movie. And Robin Wright seem to be setting herself up as her own archetype actor for her golden years.

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