Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for Doctor Strange and Hacksaw Ridge, two movies that I anticipated about as much as a fork in the eye. (Any 80s metal fans guess what I'm listening to as I write?) Fortunately, one of them had the decency to be better than expected.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on the agenda: Marvel's latest cinema smash, Doctor Strange. Following a car accident that cost him his career, an arrogant doctor is awakened to a whole new world. Ladies and gents, if I had to describe Doctor Strange in one word, that word would be "trippy."
Of course I'm gonna use a lot more words than that, but...yeah...trippy. I saw it in 2D, but I'll go on record as recommending the 3D unreservedly; I'm entirely convinced it's worth-the-upcharge spectacular. Inception-Meets-Pink-Floyd-Laser-Show special effects are Doctor Strange's primary virtue, but Marvel has hit it out of the park on casting again, as well.
Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerising as Strange, and make no mistake, he HAS to be.
Strange is the Dr. House of comic books; he's abrasive and needs the right portrayal for fans to warm to him. In Cumberbatch, he's got it. Chiwetel Ejifor and Mads Mikkelsen lead a supporting cast that is almost uniformly terrific.
The movie could have done with more Rachel McAdams and less Tilda Swinton, but Benedict Wong nearly walks off with the whole thing anyway. Michael Giacchino's epic score provides perfect accompaniment to the huge set pieces and fantastic action.
The movie features the requisite Stan Lee cameo and a couple quick reminders that you're supposed to love it because it's from the people who gave you the Avengers. Guys...THE AVENGERS!!
Don't forget now! Marvel's trademark humor occasionally seems shoehorned into situations where it feels awkward, ill-fitting, and inappropriate, but it mostly hits the mark. Story-wise, Doctor Strange is a generic origins tale that dwells too long on certain bits, making it seem bloated even though it's not really that long. It's a movie with some great elements, but hardly a great movie. Doctor Strange clocks in at 115 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence." Doctor Strange never fails to entertain, but, ultimately, it's nothing special.
And if that's not Marvel's corporate slogan...well...it should be.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Doctor Strange gets seven.
Fangirl points: Benjamin Bratt! Michael Stuhlbarg!
Next up: Hacksaw Ridge. A young man whose faith keeps him from carrying a weapon hopes to serve as a combat medic in World War II. (A.K.A. "War is Hell. Literally.")
Hacksaw Ridge is an inspiring tale that, in someone else's hands, might have made a great movie. In director Mel Gibson's hands, it's two hours of being clubbed over the head with an agenda. Andrew Garfield heads a magnificent cast with zero weak links.
I'd hoped this might be Garfield's step up to a long-deserved Oscar nod, and I'm not sure it's that, but he is brilliant nonetheless. Hugo Weaving is heartbreaking in a scene-stealing turn that'll have you digging for the Kleenex, and Luke Bracey, Sam Worthington, and Vince Vaughn (you heard me) flesh out a memorable supporting cast with excellent chemistry. Sound mixing and editing are spectacular as well. That's the good news.
The bad news is, Hacksaw Ridge has little else going for it. An excessive runtime exacerbates the feeling that it never gets anywhere. The terrible physical toll of war is detailed in such up-close, prolonged excess that it strays into Tropic Thunder territory. War = Bad. We've got it. No need to spend half the film focused on men you can't tell from lunchmeat.
The faith angle gets full marks for its earnestness, but, again, is so unsubtle as to be comical. If I'd rolled my eyes any harder, I'd be writing this out the back of my head. Ultimately, you can't help feeling such an extraordinary story deserved better. Hacksaw Ridge runs 131 minutes and is rated R for "intense, prolonged, realistically-graphic sequences of war violence, including grisly, bloody images."
Hacksaw Ridge is an inexcusably pedestrian telling of an amazing tale.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hacksaw Ridge gets four.
Until next time...