Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Director: Sam Raimi  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 2hr 6 min  Studio:  Marvel Studios

Screenwriter: Michael Waldron Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a dark, trippy departure from the previous Marvel film template. It’s not quite as psychedelic as the first film but leans into a darker/horror-ish vibe attuned to director Sam Raimi’s style. 

While Raimi’s style is fully displayed in so many aspects of the film, a subtler undertone is trying to understand how Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) got to where she is as a character in this movie. So before viewing this film, you must watch the Marvel TV show WandaVision; first, it will answer things the movie won’t address. Once you’re all caught up, it’s a decent story and plot if you can overlook that Sam Raimi didn’t even watch all of WandaVision, just bits of certain episodes. It solidifies how Marvel Studios values its female characters, willing to sacrifice them for their prized goal of story continuity between projects. It’s a practice that truly needs to stop! The film starts with a leap right into the action and the introduction of a new character, America Chavez (Gomez), and a version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange.  

While the audience doesn’t learn much about America as a character in this film, it’s clear her character is a bridge into the next phase of the MCU and shows new blood (and abilities) to work with as the original Avengers are all but gone. This was inevitable after Endgame, and while I thought Multiverse of Madness would play off of the events in Spider-Man: No Way Home, it takes the multiverse reality introduced in Spiderman and mashes it together with WandaVision. This opens up or gives room for a different Wanda/Scarlet Witch down the road (or any of the Avengers) because initially, Wanda/Scarlet Witch originated as a mutant in the comics. This fact is paramount because Marvel can finally introduce (let alone utter the word) mutants in the MCU. 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in Marvel Studios ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Image: Marvel Studios via Slashflims.com

While Wanda has gone down the dark magic rabbit hole, thus pitting her against Dr. Strange, Olsen and Cumberbatch give excellent performances. They’ve both embodied their respective characters for a while now, and they are clearly comfortable with the mannerisms and energy that make them shine. But it’s not just the performances and the directing that work for this story; it’s the choreography, sound editing, CGI, costumes, and various set designs! In a multiverse, everything is the same, but somehow just a bit different. How many ways can you dress up a New York street? Revise the Sanctom? In these areas, I say, well played and well done. 

The area I’m hung up on is Wanda’s journey to her point in Multiverse of Madness. I think writers really did Wanda dirty. She starts off as this traumatized child who is studied and used and lost loved ones. She finds a new type of family in the Avengers, certainly with Vision, but after the events of Endgame, they’re all gone or abandoned her. She’s essentially a traumatized adult with no support or resources. She goes from hero to baddie in a deep breath (the blip) and is shunted aside for the sake of franchise development. It sends a terrible message about loss and mental health, a stark contrast to the support group Steve Rogers led in Endgame. That’s all without factoring in Wanda’s power upgrade she (clearly) doesn’t have a handle on. Power corrupts absolutely, indeed!

Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch in Marvel Studios ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Credit: CinemaBlend.com

So while I’m not a fan of where the writers have taken Wanda’s character, Elizabeth Olsen certainly does a fantastic job of depicting a formidable badass. I look forward to seeing her character again and where Dr. Strange goes into the next phase of the MCU and America Chavez’s role within it. It’s not my favorite MCU film, but it’s not the worst and if you have time, make a place on your watchlist for it. 

  • A Pen Lady
Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man (2008)

Directed by: Jon Favreau   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs 6 mins

Studio: Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment  

Screenwriters: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway

Created by: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau

Iron Man isn’t the first superhero film out there. Not by a long shot. It will, however, be remembered as the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The one that launched Marvel into its golden age of cinema. 

For those keeping track, this film is third chronologically. 

Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment’s Official Trailer for ‘Iron Man’ via YouTube, We Got This Covered

Tony Stark is Iron Man, and they are played by Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ). RDJ’s depiction of the decades-old character is spot-on in multiple ways. It’s as if Tony Stark was a real person at some point in time, then reincarnated into RDJ, who would go on to play… himself. It’s rare to find an actor/actress who performs so well in character you forget it’s not real. But that’s how well RDJ cultivated this character. 

The original material and RDJ’s natural charm and charisma were only two of the three ingredients that brought Iron Man to the masses. The third is director Jon Favreau. A genius for casting and creating in his own right. RDJ’s casting approval from Marvel came from Favreau not taking no for an answer to RDJ’s inclusion in the film.  

If Iron Manis your favorite Marvel character, now or ever, because of the films, thank RDJ (duh!) and especially thank Jon Favreau. 

Tony Stark/Iron Man’s story originally began in Vietnam. Shifting it to Afghanistan constructs a template for modern-day events and cultural relevance. 

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Iron Man’ Image: Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment

Both settings represent tension, greed, and war efforts, a sign of the respective times in each place. And yet, cinematic Iron Man follows his comic book material in de-escalating his companies role in war. A bold move considering the ongoing war in 2008. Still, the writers and Favreau re-crafted Tony Stark’s origin story to grow from that and not suffer the fate of his book material’s namesake. This Iron Man was destined for bigger things. 

A rich weapons manufacture turned humanitarian, turned hero works as a plot. Audiences get to see the process, how it’s made, how it works, how much it can do, how far it can go. It’s a nerd and engineer’s dream. 

The supporting cast members are terrific! Pepper Potts (Paltrow) is exactly right, as was Terrence Howard as Col. Rhodes. Their personalities and demeanors are an excellent counter-balance to Tony’s self-indulgent, eccentric, hyper-focused qualities. Obadiah Stain (Bridges) is the representation of how many view those that run gigantic companies. Hopefully without the literal cutthroat mentality. Bridges never has to work for presence in his scenes; he exudes it naturally. 

Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Iron Man’ Image Credit: Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment

The pace is something this story has from start to finish. Between the dialogue or action sequences, it flies along, shifting from scene to scene with ease. 

Iron Man is more than explosions and destruction and amazing CGI. It’s rooted in the human condition and a compelling story with fantastic acting. The costume, a prop designed mainly through CGI, helps establishes this illusion of realism. A tool to keep Tony Stark alive, to right wrongs, and boggle the minds of engineers everywhere. 

While Iron Man isn’t this writer’s favorite Marvel character or a top-five MCU film pick, it’s worth a spot on your watchlist. Alone, or indeed, if you’ve decided to follow the MCU road. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Pt. 2

Jumping right back into part two of this review!

PART 4

Another scene has Steppenwolf and parademons fighting against the hero’s in Gotham, fine. The audience should remember this film was shot after Wonder Woman yet pre-dates Wonder Woman 84 technically. So where did Diana/Wonder Woman get a sword again? Of all the things better explained in this version, this never comes up. Yet, in this entire movie, she has a sword that can stand up to the paces of a demigod’s use and battling against parademons and Steppenwolf. She’s never been back to the Themyscria. Am I the only one who’s curious about this? Is my nerd showing too much? Moving on, the transition could have been smoother from this sequence to the next scene, but Snyder seemed to have little options. So, like a hangnail, you do what you need to do and move on. 

The mother boxes are supposed to be these super-powerful objects that are science but appear like magic that communicate with one another somehow. That’s easy enough to believe, and I am grateful Steppenwolf no longer talks to them, calling them “mother” like a disturbingly devoted child. However, it’s difficult to accept the boxes can “decide” to tell/show Steppenwolf something. Or how they just know what a user wants out of them, period. How that is possible is never established and seems like it’s there just so Snyder can throw in more material. Snyder vaguely sets up the second plot within the storyline at just over the film’s halfway point. The plot within a plot he attempts to foreshadow is aggravating and bloats the film. 

Still of ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ via polygon.com Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures/HBO Max

Snyder takes too long to develop the characters and establish the point of the movie. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman have already been established in previous films by this point, so why does it take so long to flesh out the other three? It shouldn’t. This obsessive need to put in every detail makes the movie’s pace, overall, slow and dull. 

Eventually, the name Darkseid is uttered. Unfortunately, the writers of this film can’t come up with a better introduction to the whole point of plot 2 without Steppenwolf mansplaining to DeSaad about Darkseid. Yes, the audience gets told by default, which is the point, but it’s so far-reaching. The buildup to what happens with the boxes is established early in the film, and the audience is invested. To throw in everything after this is a lame attempt to cobble together what should be two films. Like the outcome of plot 1 could fuel plot 2 in another film. The pace would be better, at least. 

Listening to what Steppenwolf says to DeSaad about Darkseid made me write it down. Why? The whole explanation is confusing, and I needed to break it down because I thought I heard it wrong. I didn’t. It is a bunch of illogical rubbish! Snyder does a shite job of setting up or explaining or alluding to any of what is said beforehand. If Snyder had bothered doing that, weaving these details or backstory into the film from the beginning, his plot within a plot wouldn’t seem like an afterthought. But, that takes talent, and that’s something I’ve felt the writers of the “Snyderverse” have always lacked. 

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO Max ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ via Screenrant.com

After the movie’s soggy midsection is Cyborg, again. His transformation from Victor to Cyborg is further explained and reveals how the mother boxes work. This is important because this makes the team seem less spur of the moment and crazy for wanting to use it in the crashed Kryptonian ship than they appeared in the 2017 version. 

There is this touching representation of humanity between Martha and Lois when they share their mutual grief with one another about Clark/Kal-El. Or that’s what I thought, but then Snyder goes in and dangles another add-on. Just randomly throws in something else that doesn’t even come up again until the absolute end of the movie. I’m sure he did it to make this fanbase happy, but I say it’s a giant waste of potential! Ultimately it’s a letdown that he should have just left out of the movie. 

PART 5 

While the pet cemetery joke is gone in this version, Barry finds himself, with the others, digging up Clark’s body. What, you thought it magically got to the Kryptonian ship? 

Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO via Entertainment Weekly

I still don’t agree with Arthur wearing Atlantian armor because he hates Atlantis. It makes zero sense. However, I’ve established what I think about Zack Snyder’s lack of professionalism towards the other directors involved with this ensemble. 

The Kryptonian ship doesn’t like the mother box, big surprise. I do like the explanation for why the team can use it and how Victor’s father could use it on him without waking it. The devil is in the details, and this is an area where they were logically fleshed out. 

In the 2017 Justice League, Lois is used as bait for a resurrected, powered alien with a temporary blank slate of a mind. How her character is utilized in this version is preferred. She takes these daily walks to the memorial near the ship (okay, this is a baby-sized spoiler), and it gives her a natural, believable reason to be there and “run into Clark.” It really highlights Clark and Lois’s bond and relationship as something real and substantial. Something the other version didn’t care about. 

Amy Adams as Lois Lane in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via comicbookdebate.com

So, it’s in the trailers; Superman lives again! Yeah! In the process of making that happen, Victor is ‘shown/sees’ a possible future or alternate reality; by either the ship or mother box, which is unclear. It’s logical for Victor to see what Bruce has seen. However, accepting Batman’s “premonition” or “Knightmare” from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a stretch. It’s one of Snyder’s attempts at alluding to what’s to come, which only makes logical sense from Victor’s position, never Bruce’s. Yet, it’s from Bruces’ POV that is the springboard for more Snyder-bloatware. 

Superman/Kal-El/Clark is not enjoying his resurrection party that makes its way outside the ship. Points I’d like to point out as dumb. 1. You’re a cop or soldier, and you see a flying man with Superman’s face; why shoot at him? Can’t you tell it’s him without the suit on? 2. Batman and Lois saying “Clark” within earshot of said cops and soldiers…just stupid. 

PART 6 

Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via radiotimes.com

Bruce tells Diana about his dream/premonition, not because it’s of any relevance to this movie or logical again in any way. If there was a snowball’s chance in hell of Snyder getting to do another film, this would be relevant, but it’s not gonna happen. He knew that and left it in any way. The film could be so much shorter without him trying to get the audience to believe Bruce has premonitions. Much of this movie could have been done without or in smaller doses, and the runtime would be tolerable. 

At this point, there is an hour left in the film. 

Evident from the trailers, Superman dons a black suit. Many people didn’t like this, and it’s hard to blame them. Nowhere in the film is a reason for the choice, though it would have taken ten seconds or less for Superman to respond to any of the team or Lois asking about it. Not that Henry Cavill looks worse in all black, it’s Henry Cavill. Still, the precedence for it is based on the comics. Only the most devout comic nerds would know that. 

So near the end of the film, the team works together to deal with Steppenwolf and the mother boxes. Darkseid lurks nearby while all the action is happening, like some bigger foe the team didn’t see coming and must deal with. Snyder’s second plot. If you’re a fan of the comics and think that Snyder will give you an epic showdown with him, nope. 

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Both of the trailers for this film are misleading cockteases. The tone of the film is not the same as the trailers, nor is the pace. Alluding that Darkseid has a substantial role in this film is false. His character is in the movie, but I feel it’s fair to warn you Alfred (Irons) gets better screen time. 

There’s so much more I could talk about in this part of the movie, but it’s difficult to do without giving stuff away. So I won’t. Just understand that the film could have ended here, and it would be a runtime of 3 hours 34 minutes. At this length, all of the Lord of the Ring and Hobbit films had better storytelling, tone, pace, and character development than “the Snyder cut.” 

EPILOGUE 

With twenty-eight minutes left, ten of those are spent on short bits that the audience will appreciate. Tying up loose ends is an excellent way to describe it. While the movie could have ended already, it definitely needed to end here. It didn’t. 

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

All I could think of was what the fook, just end the movie already! So there are ten more minutes of Zack Snyder’s inability to let go and move on. What is shown has nothing to do with the actual movie. It’s like a movie trailer tacked on at the end. The super-secret clip shown only to the attendees at Comic-Con or something. It’s literally a scene he made to go into another movie. Catnip dangled out for all his fans to salivate, obsess over, and probably bully the studio for years to make. It’s pathetic. 

Don’t worry. The last eight minutes are the credits and just the credits. 

VERDICT 

Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio should never have been given the reins of this franchise. 

Yes, I’m a fan of Marvel comics and the MCU, but here is a fact, a person can be a fan of both Marvel and DC! Millions of people are. The two take incredibly different approaches to their storytelling. Understood. What Snyder did was make films based on an obscure and darker take on Superman and Batman. Those who are not devout comic book fans have a hard time accepting that take on these iconic characters’ first cinematic outing together. That’s fair; I even agree with it. 

I could have been on board with the death of Superman storyline with a twist to it. If they merged that with another storyline where the characters come together. Cyborg and Aquaman wouldn’t be in that, but Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter would be. A better writer and director could have made something truly epic and wonderful. Something to build upon. A franchise with continuity that supports the standalone films as well as the larger ensemble ones. Those are just attributes of good storytelling when you have so much material to work with as one does with comics and superheroes. 

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ promo image via cbr.com Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures ?

Zack Snyder was given another chance to tell a story. A story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. He failed at that. He chose to create a four-hour-long 4.3 aspect ratio example of why more isn’t always better. 

If you never saw the 2017 Justice League spare your butt the nap it will get watching this. Unless you’re bedridden and bored out of your mind, it’s not worth the time. If you did see the other version of this film, there is little satisfaction to be found. Sure, there are many changes, but unless Cyborg is your favorite character, he’s the one with the most significant differences. Don’t bother.  

I love the Justice League and the actors that portray the characters; they all did a fantastic job with the given material. No-fault can be found there. Still, this movie isn’t worth putting on your watchlist; no film that feels this long should be. The Justice League may one day be shown justice on the big screen, but not today. 

—a penlady