DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS movie review

Plot sacrificed for visual FX. While Raimi’s horror adjacent direction gives Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a unique aesthetic when compared to the typical superhero movie (with the exception of Batman Returns, which has long sense been praised for its otherworldly horror-adjacency), it isn’t enough to carry the story. Better brush up on End Game and Wanda Vision because you may be slightly lost the whole time. So full disclosure, I’ve only seen End Game once and do not subscribe to Disney+. Unfortunately, this movie does not sufficiently provide exposition for those of us that do not eat, sleep, breathe the MCU because Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s motivation for her antihero behavior cannot be fully realized and understood without the events of Wanda Vision (from what I’ve been told about the show). That’s the problem with the ever-expanding MCU–but–it’s also a brilliant marketing and merchandising move. Simply because, if you want to be able to understand the motivations of the characters in the movies, you have to watch the TV shows and every single movie (main line and side line). Specific to this movie itself, there is clearly a thoughtful story, but it’s ultimately held back by the wandering plot. Ironically, you may be asking yourself a variation of the cliche question actor’s ask directors: what’s my motivation? Instead, you’ll find yourself asking: what’s Wanda’s motivation???

Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.

Story and plot are NOT the same thing. Without getting into a lot of what I teach in film studies and screenwriting, story is the overarching narrative whereas the plot is the map (how you get) from beginning to end. Raimi’s playing up on the whole witchy aspect to this movie, was great for someone like me that loves horror, but it seems that the horror-adjacency of the movie merely compensated for the slapdash plotting. While many that watch this movie have undoubtedly seen End Game multiple times, subscribe to Disney+ to watch all the shows, and have read the comics, many have NOT. Granted, a subgenre movie such as this should not play to the lowest common denominator because then the fanboys and girls in the audience will feel slighted or unappreciated, At the same time, the writers and director should have considered integrating sufficient exposition for those that do not watch all the ancillary material. Wouldn’t have taken much to provide enough exposition so that rewatching End Game or subscribing to Disney+ for Wanda Vision, What If?, and Loki wouldn’t be a prerequisite for this movie.

For those that love visual effects, you will likely be impressed, if not blown away by the mesmerizing landscape of digital imagery; however, there are many times in the movies that the characters do not feel that they are existing within the same world in which the dazzling display of graphics exist. You cannot replace the way real light bounces off real objects into the camera lens. Not opinion–fact. Perhaps one day, we will get an MCU (and this applies to the “whatever it’s called these days” DCEU) movie that spends as much time crafting tangible sets as it does investing into digital imagery. In no multiverse will characters look to truly be within a world that primarily exists in the expression of 0s and 1s on a computer. The only saving grace for the aesthetic of this movie, and the moments we see the cinema stylo (hand of the artist), is when Raimi leans into the horror-adjacency of this MCU entry. Whenever the movie took a turn towards horror, I enjoyed it the most, and felt it was trying to be different–not your typical superhero movie.

It’s really no spoiler that Captain Picard is back as Professor Charles Xavier! Okay, so I know he is really Sir Patrick Stewart, but he will always be the definitive Starfleet captain to me. X-Men fans, like me (see, I do like superhero movies that aren’t Batman Returns), we’ve been waiting for that moment in which we witness the integration of the X-Men into the MCU. And I’ll give the writers and Raimi this: how Professor X was integrated into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was both meaningful and strategic. It wasn’t too much, didn’t feel forced, and the applause this cameo garnered from the audience (including myself) was outstanding! At my screening, the moment Sir Patrick Stewart reprised his role as the definitive (live-action) Professor X elicited more applause and cheers than any other moment in the movie. I am eager to witness how the X-Men are woven into the fabric of the MCU.

If you can watch this movie in a premium format like Dolby Cinema, IMAX, or Cinemark’s X-treme, then that is the best way to experience it. It is a BIG SCREEN movie for sure! While I am often highly negatively critical of superhero movies, I am thankful that they are getting people back to the cinema in masses.

Ryan teaches Film Studies, Screenwriting, and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

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“Logan” movie review

loganUncanny! 20th Century Fox, Marvel, and TSG Entertainment’s Logan is a compelling, grizzly, organic superhero movie that is the last to feature Hugh Jackman as Logan (Wolverine) and Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier. Prepare to have your mind blown as the action unfolds in such a way that your heart will be pounding, racing, and pumping adrenaline through your body and then tug at your heartstrings as emotions run high. Logan is quite possibly the most comprehensive and diegetically dynamic superhero movie ever, and perhaps best X-Men film in the long, successful franchise. With a penchant for thrilling, action, and even horror films, director James Mangold pulls out all the stops in the last chapter in the story of The Wolverine. While there have been several films about Logan/Wolvervine outside of the main X-Men films, this cinematic adventure will have you on the edge of your seat with anxiety and holding back tears simultaneously. Some of the responsibilities of the final chapter of a character or an actor portraying a long-standing character are striking a delicate balance between nostalgia, closure, but still providing audiences with a new story; overwhelmingly, this film delivers the absolute best as we bid farewell to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart from the X-Men universe and exceeds any and all expectations.

In the not too distant future, an aging Logan (Jackman) is caring for an increasingly ailing Professor X (Stewart) near the US/Mexican border. With the professor’s cognitive health in a downward spiral, Logan illegally acquires medications that ease the Professor’s seizures…seizures that are telekinetically powerful enough to leave devastation in their wake–and have. Logan is challenged to hide the Professor from the world in an effort to shield him from those who seek to kill him. While operating as a limo driver, Logan encounters a bizarre woman at a funeral who begs for his help. As Logan has always been the solitary type who mostly cares for himself, he ignores her cry for aid. In a bizarre turn of events, he finds himself caretaker of her daughter when she is found dead in her hotel room. After she follows Logan to the hideout, Professor X pleads with Logan to take her to a place called Eden. This soon becomes a bloody road trip as the three of them hide from and attempt to outrun those who want to kill Logan, the Professor and take the girl back to Mexico.

What do James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and Logan have in common? They are both grisly western films. Evidence of this is not only seen in the character development, pacing, and overall tone of the film, but can also be seen within the film itself as Professor X and Laura (Dafne Keen), the young girl traveling with Logan and Xavier, watch a western film on TV–a film that Xavier references several times as he reminisces about films from his childhood. While many think that the American Western film died out with Hollywood Golden age, it has certainly not retreated from cinemas. In fact, many of Quinten Tarrantino’s films are westerns, the original Star Wars: A New Hope was a post-modern western, and Mangold’s Logan is yet another example of a reimagination of the American Western film. Reading the film as a western enhances the visceral experience of the film. Although directors seldom pit cowboys against indians anymore, there are subtle references to that relational dynamic from early western movies within this film. Much like the Lone Ranger and many of John Wayne’s characters, Logan is also a solemn solitary character being pulled into a world built upon the idea of relationships but his baggage makes it incredibly difficult. Emotions run high in Logan; and it’s these emotions that provide audiences with a comprehensive experience that fulfills the desire for gritty action plus moments that may stir you to tears.

Although we are just coming out of this year’s award season, it’s entirely possible that Logan may be the first superhero motion picture to be nominated and even win Best Picture at next year’s Oscars. All the elements that make up a Best Picture nominee can be found in Logan. It has drama, romance, a little humor, feels organic, deals with prejudice (by extension), and is based on a book–a comic book that is. The R rating is also important because it (1) serves as further evidence in the direction Fox is going to proceed with films like Deadpool and X-Force–gearing toward an adult audience (2) it allowed for audiences to see the Wolverine at full bloody force, which has been a desire for quite sometime and (3) the degree to which the film can deal with real adult problems physiologically and emotionally. The financial success of Logan will depend on adult audiences speaking the word about the outstanding nature of the film and even bringing more mature younger superhero fans to see the movie. Since most of the film contains disturbing imagery in regards to both the bloody violence and with Professor X’s debilitating cognitive disorder (most likely a severe form of dementia), I would not recommend bringing those under 13 to the film until you have screened it for yourself. It’s an incredible, film; but, there is content that may not sit well with those that are quite young.

Before Logan begins, fans of Deadpool will be excited to know that there is a short film (glorified promo, really) for Deadpool that does a successful job at promoting the highly anticipated sequel to last year’s blockbuster. Its placement is also important to Logan in that it provides some levity before the rather somber tone of the feature film that follows Ryan Reynolds’ offensively endearing witty charm as Deadpool. Logan is proof that superhero films can take the more serious route without sacrificing the art of the story. Both Jackman’s and Stewart’s acting is on point, and probably some of the best of their respective careers. Stewart, more specifically, delivers a command performance as Professor X and demonstrates that an accomplished actor who was primarily first known as Captain Picard can excel in both the horror (Green Room) and superhero genre films, all the while continually adding the touch of class that comes with his formal Shakespearean training as a performing artist.

This is NOT repeat NOT a kids superhero movie. Unless you have screen the film first, I would not recommend bringing anyone under the age of 13 with you to the cinema for Logan. There may not be “adult” content in the conventional sense; but, there are themes, subtext, and some violent content that may not be suitable for a younger audience who typically flock to superhero genre movies. Over all, Logan is an outstanding film, not just of the superhero variety, but also in general. From the writing to the directing and technical elements, this movie is a fantastic example of a superhero film that attempts to be and successes at breaking the mold and cementing itself as serious cinema.