It would be remiss of me not to say I’m kind of burnt out on these comic book movies. How many have there been now? Yet the quality is (mostly) always so high they’re an easy option when there’s not much else to watch. This sequel has Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finding his dreams invaded by a young girl called America Charvez, who it transpires can jump between other universes. When demons come chasing her though to claim her power, Strange has to step in to prevent a multiverse catastrophe.
Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead) this is energetic and chock full of imagination and at times jaw-dropping CGI. However, with its reliance on having a good knowledge of previous movies in the MCU, including TV show WandaVision, with its references and plot elements – this is not a movie for newcomers. Also America, a likeable new character felt under-developed. That being said the various set-pieces impress, mostly down to Raimi’s flamboyant style that he’s always been known for. He brings not only super-hero spectacle, but also his outlandish brand of horror, and it works. A stand-out Elizabeth Olsen also brings us a malevolent Wanda / Scarlett Witch more ferocious than we’ve ever seen before. Lastly, Cumberbatch is again great in his role and remains one of the most nuanced Marvel characters we’ve had.
Fans of MCU and Dr Strange will eat this up. It’s a great deal of fun. The plot is a bit simplistic and it’s too reliant on what came before. I also thought they could have gone much further with the multiverse concept than they do … but overall it was hard not to enjoy this.
Where do I begin talking about one of the biggest movies of last year? This third entry in the rebooted franchise starring Tom Holland follows directly on from the last movie that ended with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio revealing Spider-Man’s true identity to the world. Faced with being recognised and harassed everywhere he goes, Peter Parker / Spider-Man turns to Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to alter time and cause people to forget who Spider-Man is … however things don’t go according to plan.
This is up there with one of the boldest concepts for a superhero movie. Hyped leading up to its release due to the fact the movie brings back a number of classic villains from all the previous Spidy movies – including Alfred Molina’s Dr Octopus … I was nervous the wealth of ideas and characters wouldn’t come together in a coherent, easy to follow way. Thankfully, the writers did a commendable job here and deliver a fun, constantly surprising and highly entertaining ‘spectacle’. There’s room in its 2 and a half hour run time for action, comedy and some powerful character moments that definitely had my heart-strings tugged.
Effects wise, even for a Marvel movie this reaches new levels – a fight between Spider-Man and Dr Strange is simply jaw dropping. A special mention should also go to the de-ageing effects for certain returning characters which is probably the most convincing I’ve yet seen. At times there are some plot conveniences that stand out and a bit involving a ‘cure’ remedy feels a stretch – I’m also still pondering that gut-punch of an ending. Yet considering what’s going on and the fact it mostly all works – this was still a triumph. Not the masterpiece it’s been heralded as, but still a great time from start to finish.
A group of immortal super beings who have lived amongst us for centuries, travel the planet seeking out and killing a race of creatures knows as deviants. Their mission is to aid mankind’s development through the ages. In the present day, an estranged Eternals have to regroup when a new threat endangers the planet.
This latest Marvel Studios effort introduces a new group of heroes, and after countless Avengers, Spider-Man and Captain America movies it was refreshing to see these newer characters (outside of the comics). Casting is decent, with names like Angelina Jolie and Salam Hayek being joined by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden and Train to Busan’s Don Lee. What this generally is, is an epic saga following the lives of these characters over the ages, feeling at times like a pilot to a TV series. However under the direction of Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) a lot is crammed into an energetic 2hrs 38 minutes. The cinematography is often gorgeous, aided by not only a globe-trotting storyline but also the wealth of IMAX shots (yes I watched that version) and it certainly delivers a visual treat. Action is also plentiful and the various abilities of the characters make for some exciting and imaginative encounters.
The story is a bit ‘out there’ and doesn’t entirely add up, and an appearance by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington comes off as an after-thought. Yet with some good character melodrama amongst the action and spectacle, I must admit I enjoyed this. The CGI is decent and the various twists and turns definitely caught me off guard. Better than it’s lukewarm reputation may have you believe and I for one look forward to what we get next.
So I’ve had a break for a couple of weeks. To be honest I haven’t been that in the mood to watch movies and have mostly been focusing of playing games and watch TV shows. Over Christmas I purchased Resident Evil Village which I’m loving and is proving a worthy, atmospheric follow up to RE7. I also put in quite a bit of play on Halo Infinite both single player and multiplayer and consider it a return to form for a franchise which had seemed to lose its footing since developer 343 Industries took over from Bungie. I also finally finished A Plague Tale Innocence – a challenging game with a great premise and a genuinely powerful story. Oh, and I got the platinum on Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart but getting all 47 trophies! A first for me I might add.
As for TV, I have mostly been watching Netflix and Disney+. I am nearly at the end of Hawkeye which is great, and I’m a bit addicted to The Big Bang Theory, which passed me by during its initial run. Desperate Housewives is also a guilty pleasure I’d say, and away from these services I’ve also been trying to finish the final season of Wentworth.
That’s not to say I’ve not watched any movies. Over Christmas I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, an undisputed classic which was part of a 4K Blu-ray box set I got as a present. Image quality was very good with lots of detail and overall it was fun to revisit the movie. Maybe I’ll check out the other movies in the set at some stage. For my birthday in November I received a Blu-ray box set of the Dirty Harry movies and am slowing watching all but for the first (which I’m overly familiar with) with my Dad who’s quite a fan of Clint Eastwood. So far Magnum Force was quite good, whilst The Enforcer was a bit rubbish.
I have a number of movies I want to check out and will be posting reviews as usual. So normal service should resume soon!
The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe release follows the story of a Chinese warlord who comes into possession of ten magical rings (basically bangles) that once worn, grant him incredible powers. After conquering many kingdoms however, he falls for a woman and has two children. Years later in modern-day San Francisco, Shang-Chi is working as a valet parking attendant having turned his back on his father’s criminal empire – but when a threat to his life and that of his estranged sister arises, Shang-Chi chooses to use his martial arts skills to survive.
A convoluted plot sets up this fantastical tale, steeped in Chinese mythology, and delivers a fun if lightweight Marvel blockbuster. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Tony Leung provides the villain and is certainly a presence, stealing most scenes he’s in. We also get an appearance from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh. What let this down though is the exhaustive over-reliance on CGI and green screen, creating a look and feel to everything that is very fake and a bit video-gamey. A set-piece on a bus, which should be exhilarating just looked ‘off’, with a particularly dodgy looking CGI bus. The way everyone jumps around, with frequent sped up movements (rather than genuine martial arts) also made many involved look a bit rag doll-like.
Newcomer Simu Liu proved a charismatic lead however and Awkwafina (memorable also in Jumanji 2) was a fun side-kick. The nods to other entries in the MCU were also appreciated. So yes, I was entertained, and the story was functional enough, even if ‘the big bad’ at the end was a bit ‘meh’. Not essential then, but worthwhile for MCU die-hards and anyone stuck for something to watch.
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