The Critics’ Choice Awards were held this past Sunday and comic films represented not just with nominations, but also quite a few wins.
Margot Robbie won for Suicide Squad in the “Best Actress in an Action Movie” category. She was up against Gal Gadot for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Scarlett Johansson for Captain America: Civil War, and Tilda Swinton for Doctor Strange.
Deadpool did well winning “Best Comedy” up against Central Intelligence, Don’t Think Twice, The Edge of Seventeen, Hail, Caesar!, and The Nice Guys. Ryan Reynolds won for “Best Actor in a Comedy” for the title role in the film. Reynolds beat Ryan Gosling for The Nice Guys, Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins, Dwayne Johnson for Central Intelligence, and Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic.
Ryan Reynolds was also honored as the “Entertainer of the Year.”
When it comes to television Jeffrey Dean Morgan won for “Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series” for his portrayal of Negan on The Walking Dead.
It wasn’t all wins though.
Doctor Strange lost in “Best Hair & Makeup,” “Best Visual Effects,” and “Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie.” Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, and Doctor Strange all lost in “Best Action Movie.” Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange, Chris Evans for Captain America: Civil War, and Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool all lost “Best Actor in an Action Movie.”
Like a good magician Doctor Strange focuses on the spectacle rather than the substance giving us a visual feast that lacks much depth. follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Based on the classic Marvel character, Doctor Strange was created by Steve Ditko in 1963 first appearing in Strange Tales #110. Known for its trippy visuals, the movie is a basic adaptation of the character focused on special FX as opposed to the story itself.
After having watched the film, it struck me that the movie and character is very much a mystical Iron Man sharing a lot with that character’s first movie and its main character Tony Stark. Both characters are narcissistic womanizers who live fast and play hard, each with their own god complex and only accepting perfection. Each character is injured and seek help to heal themselves eventually getting a suit of armor to help them survive and fight their battles. In Iron Man’s case it’s a literal suit of armor and with Strange it’s an armor of spells… and a cloak. So, Iron Man, but with Christopher Nolan’s aesthetic from Inception.
Directed by Scott Derrickson the film bends reality literally as buildings shift and characters jump around space as if it’s a game of Portal on acid. All of that is impressive and the strongest part of the movie. It distracts you from a main character that doesn’t grow a whole lot and generally unlikeable as a person and a supporting cast that doesn’t have a ton to do.
The content of the film remains pretty faithful for the character hitting the right moments and keeping the basics. Magic is given a bit more of a scientific explanation, and characters and locations are changed a bit as well (which is a whole other issue).
Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job in the lead role. Lets face it a lot of the film is him being a dick and the rest is his waving his hands and arms in the air casting spells. But, we see a little growth for the character, but there’s still issues that make him generally unlikeable. An example is his inability to take responsibility for the results of his actions. He’s right and do what he wants, then maybe apologize later. It’s a similar role Tony Stark plays, but Stark has a deeper back story and has absolutely grown through his films (and that is a difference, one film from a half dozen).
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, and a wasted Benjamin Bratt are all in supporting roles and generally their talent isn’t used enough. Ejofor is used the best and his Baron Mordo will be a character that should be very entertaining in films to come. Swinton’s role is the mystical guru and her line readings are like a child telling you there is no spoon. McAdams plays flustered or confused for most of the film while Benedict Wong stands out among the bunch. Mikkelsen’s villain is rather boring and he’s a step up and change from the usual evil businessmen that populate previous Marvel Cinematic films. There’s line readings, but the acting isn’t there. I rarely felt realy emotion.
The story itself we could debate if there’s a bigger meaning involing religious extermists, but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.
The movie is amazing visually as the world shifts and turns and 3D is a must. This is the first film I think I’ve seen where the 3D is an absolute and you should skip the 2D. And it’s the visuals you’re going for. They are the draw of a film that feels like it suffers from Marvel’s usual first movie blues. It’s entertaining, but we’ve seen so much better.
While many were discussing the “white wash” casting of Tilda Swinton as the Doctor Strange character the Ancient One, the first thought I went to as a politico was the use of Tibet in the film and how that’d play in China. The use of the land in any film you’d want to play in China brings with it political bombs that are best left alone.
Marvel has been making moves into China when it comes to their films and comics, changing Iron Man 3 in hopes of the film playing better and sending permanent staff to the country too. They are clearly making plays in the country, and as such wouldn’t want to do anything to risk angering what is a major market.
And it looks like my hunch was correct.
Doctor Strange scriptwriter C Robert Cargill appeared on YouTube podcast Double Toasted where he described the no win situation of the casting. Screen Rant transcribed it as:
The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, “Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.” If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet – if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the f-ck you’re talking about.
It’s an interesting interview, though you’ll have to not hurt yourself from eye rolling every time “SJW” is said.
If true, this is also a good lesson that there is more than American politics and audiences at play when it comes to films and casting.
When actress Tilda Swinton was asked directly about the casting, she said:
The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it. It all will be revealed when you see the film, I think. There are very great reasons for us to feel very settled and confident with the decisions that were made.
One of the best reviewed films of the year, Snowpiercer, will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 21st. The film, which is directed by Bong Joon Ho, stars Chris Evans, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Kang-ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Ah-sung Ko, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino and more. It opened in limited release and did open in wider release, but it didn’t manage to get an even wider audience. Now thanks to all the great reviews and word of mouth, it’ll definitely get more watches now that it’s coming out on Blu-Ray and DVD. Did you guys see the film? What did you think of it? It’s one of the best roles Chris Evans has taken on, he was wonderful in this. The whole cast did a great job and it’s directed brilliantly.
Here’s a synopsis of the film:
A failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet. The final survivors board the SNOWPIERCER, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. When cryptic messages incite the passengers to revolt, the train thrusts full-throttle towards disaster.
You can currently pre-order it on Blu-Ray and DVD on Amazon. Both versions have a 2nd disc filled with special features.
Based on the graphic novels of the same name Snowpiercer is the story of the surviving members of humanity struggle to survive amidst a world covered in ice on a supertrain where the poor and the rich are constantly at odds in the English-language debut of filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurtand, and Tilda Swinton star.
After much delay, the film should be making its United States debut in limited release June 2014.