Archive for Chiwetel Ejiofor

Review: Doctor Strange

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

doctor-strange

The second of the Marvel films for 2016 is the first new character’s origin story since Guardians of the Galaxy, the difference with Doctor Strange is that it goes back to introducing a single character.

Doctor Strange’s story reflects the, by now, familiar origin arc: Arrogant, wealthy surgeon, Stephen Strange gets into a car accident that damages his hands, effectively ending his career. On his quest to regain his former life he spends his vast wealth on all sorts of consultations, none of which work until he learns about a place in Nepal that helped a crippled man to walk again. He spends the last of his money to get there and is eventually taken in by what look like Buddhist monks where he is trained in magic.

It’s a very familiar arc to Tony Stark in Iron Man, except the Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is quite an unlikable character, shunning the help and support of a, frankly, marginalised Rachael McAdams as the long-suffering, on-again-off-again love interest. He is also dismissive of everyone, much like Stark is, except Stark still manages to keep you on side because he oozes charm. Strange is just a bit of a dick.

There are some amazing visuals in this film, which are based on the city bending visuals introduced in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. The technology has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, however, at the world-bending that happens in Doctor Strange is almost too much to focus on. But it’s really impressive.

Tilda Swinton is always a class act and largely silences critics of whitewashing with a brilliant performance as The Ancient One. Bennedict Wong’s character, … Wong, is Strange’s man-servant in the comics, thankfully he’s given a more rounded role here as the librarian and keeper of spells, although he is proven to be a little incompetent in this area. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen round off the main cast and lend real heft to both Strange’s mentor, Mordo and the villain of the piece, Kaecilius respectively.

As visually amazing and full of top-class actors as Doctor Strange is, it is let down by the formulaic origin story, too many quips from characters that don’t feel like they should be quipping and the treatment of its female characters, something Marvel really need to sort out after nearly a decade. Rachael McAdams is largely sidelined and Tilda Swinton’s character is killed off. The only strong female character Marvel has is Black Widow, it amazes me that they keep writing out virtually all their female characters. But that’s another blog altogether.

One of the things that does make Doctor Strange stand out from the rest of the superhero genre is that the final battle, for all it’s CG-ness isn’t a big laser battle where two big machines/monsters level a city, it’s more a battle of minds. Yet it certainly isn’t a thinking person’s film!

The inclusion of multi-dimensional travel will make the future films very interesting indeed and could be the way Marvel reboots after the contracts of the original actors expire. Though I’d still rather see Deadpool kill the Marvel Universe!

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Review: The Martian

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

the martian

It’s been weeks since I saw Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi offering, but work has been busy. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The last big sci-fi extravaganza Scott had directed was Prometheus, which got some pretty luke-warm reviews. In fact, Scott is known as a director who is great with visuals, but story-telling and characterisation aren’t his forte. The script for The Martian by Drew Goddard, based on Andy Weir’s book, is so blunt and funny that it seems impossible for Scott to have made boring. Regardless of the fact that it’s very science-heavy.

You could only have someone incredibly charismatic in the role of Mark Watney, the astronaut left behind by his crew after a freak storm forces them to presume him dead after being hit by some debris. Firstly, he’s the main character and the titular Martian but secondly, he’s on-screen for around three-quarters of the film on his own. Luckily for Scott, Matt Damon is just the guy for the job. At one point you’re laughing along to a flippant thing he says then, within seconds, you are distraught as the alien planet tries to kill him again, and again.

Mars itself is a big character in the movie both beautiful and expansive and threatening and claustrophobia inducing. Scott’s visual style where landscapes are concerned really adds to the feel of Mars being a protagonist in the film, constantly challenging and threatening Watney throughout the film.

This central performance between Damon and a planet leaves the rest of the cast with not a lot to do, but virtually all of them turn in performances that are good enough that they really pop. Jeff Daniels’ director of NASA is a pencil pusher who doesn’t want to take any risks and when he does it comes across as reckless, Jessica Chastain’s mission captain takes responsibility for leaving Whatney behind and will do anything to get him back to Earth and Donald Glover puts in a memorable performance as the scientist who comes up with the maths to get Watney back.

Even Kirsten Wiig, who is playing a relatively straight role does a great job as the NASA PR woman. Surprisingly, the only actor who seems to be phoning it in is Sean Bean. But, I’ve not read the book, so I’m not sure if the character of the mission leader is supposed to be a bit detached and down-trodden.

The Martian is a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows and – unlike Prometheus, which was a bit naval-gazing and Interstellar, which was too clever for its own good – it’s refreshing to see another blockbuster that is heavy on science, without being alienating. It’s also refreshing to see a group of characters who are level-headed and work together using what their wits to overcome each new challenge that presents itself. It’s good to see scientists, not action heroes.

If you’ve not seen it yet, you missed out as it probably isn’t in cinemas any more. But make sure to catch it on DVD/Blu-ray when it gets released, it’s well worth a watch.