Friday, 4 November 2016

Dr Strange; don't text and drive

Or, you know, DO text and drive, and then get in a horrible accident and lose the use of your hands so that you go to Kathmandu and study the mystical arts and become the Sorcerer Supreme. Marvel’s just worried enough that people might take that message from Dr Strange that the very last credit is a warning to drive responsibly. I’m struggling to visualise the exact demographic which would be tipped into responsibility by just that one line. People who go to Marvel movies and stay all the way to the end of the credits to see whether there’s an end credit gag and are also terrible drivers impressionable enough that the ecstasy of seeing Baron Mordo cripple a guy for giggles will prime them to change their whole driving style as soon as the credits tell them to.

On the other hand, I drove for four hours the next day and didn’t text once. Just like every other time I’ve driven a car, but who knows? Maybe that was going to be the day I finally turned into a typical driver and Marvel saved me from my worst impulses. I guess we’ll never know.

As always, Marvel has hired in a bunch of good actors and then given them a load of guff to react to. I’d been hoping that the ‘Batch would save it, but his preparation for the role seems to have consisted of getting Robert Downey Jr to impersonate House MD while they were both having too much to drink. The one actor who seems to be both having a good time and actually taking the material seriously is Tilda Swinton, probably the only actor in the world who needs to dial her weirdness down in order to fit into a Marvel movie. Her Ancient One is just good fun; when she says something clever, it sounds like she just thought of it, rather than it being a line someone wrote to be funny. (perfect example from the trailer, when Mordo gives Strange a mysterious word on a piece of parchment and tells him it’s the WiFi password, because “we’re not savages”.)

As always with these things, there’s an origin story, and it’s a clueless apprentice who despite being completely terrible in every way at everything which ought to matter is somehow the most important person in the world, and before the movie is over he has to save the whole world from dark forces. Cue CGI explosions and all the usual guff. And there’s a whole load of CGI of buildings warping and transforming because that’s the way they’ve decided that dimensional movement ought to look. It’s as if someone saw Inception and said “What if we could just do that and nothing else for the whole movie?”, a question which ought to have got the answer “It would just remind people that Inception was a much better film.” before anyone wrote a cheque for 168 million dollars. The CGI is not terrible - it’s not even as terrible as the trailer made it look. But it’s not doing anything in service of the plot. It’s exactly like a kaleidoscope; for a few minutes the constantly changing images are interesting, and then you realise that they’re just images that change without ever going anywhere or meaning anything. Too much of the time modern movies seem to be a demo reel of things which CGI houses can do, rather than a story in which the CGI serves the plot.

Anyhow, whether you liked it or not, there’s no escaping it; there are setups for Strange to be in the next Thor movie (Chris Hemsworth continues to be far more amazing as Thor than he has any right to be) and then a whole sequel of his very own. And presumably beached in the middle of all that guff there will be the occasional transcendent moment like Mad Mikkelson shrugging at Strange’s pettish insistence that people get his name right and saying “Perhaps. Who am I to judge?” almost as though he’s weighing up his own decision to take Marvel’s paycheque.

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