Doctor Strange – Formality at its Finest

God damn has it been a long time since I’ve written anything on here. I’ve been very busy with my new job at HiRez and classes and papers and whatnot. Fortunately, the semester is winding down, and I went out and saw this trippy-ass movie and figured “what the hell, I’ll write about it.”

So, Doctor Strange.

No, not that one.

There we go, the one that I’ve been putting in the production studio to scare the fuck out of Toliy.

I want to start out by saying that Doctor Strange is a lot of fun. Crazy effects, good production design, this film is an overall good popcorn flick, whitewashing notwithstanding. It’s a good movie to take a group of random friends to, especially if you guys are on drugs.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. The film neglects every possible formal element for the sake of having fun, and does it in a way that makes you OK with it. That’s because telling this story is not the point of this film. The only point of this film is to set up the titular doctor for the next Avengers movie, and that’s annoying to me. For my comic books class we watched Captain America 1, and even that movie went out of its way to make sure Cap got his character development time. Doctor Strange runs through all the important narrative information to get to the fun stuff as soon as it can, because that’s all it’s got, because its one goal is to set up the next Avengers. And Civil War proved that you don’t even need to give characters their own movie to do that, so why fucking bother?

Except, that important narrative information is how we get invested in the character.

In fact, this entire film is self-defeating on that front because WE KNOW he’s going to win because WE KNOW there’s a million other Marvel films in the pipeline. I remember sitting in the theater when the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 came on and everyone freaked out when they saw baby Groot and I was like “YOU KNEW HE WAS COMING BACK IN THE PREVIOUS MOVIE!!

I really don’t want to recommend Doctor Strange to you. I guess I can, but there’s no real reason for you to see it. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and financially supporting this movie does nothing to benefit film as a whole. Save your money for Black Panther instead, so you can support nonwhite casting.


P.S.: I promise I have been working on other things. There’s been a lot to worry about. I’m starting to think about publishing comics via KickStarter instead of publishing them on the web, that way I can put a bigger proof-of-concept up there and you don’t have to be sitting on the edges of your seats waiting for updates from me.


Avengers 2 and The Tarantino Conundrum

A while back I posted about Marvel movies and how they’re declining, and now I’ve seen Avengers 2. Let’s take a look at the movie and see how it ties to that old post.

First off, I want to say that Avengers 2 is damn good. The one thing that stood out the most for me was the characters, which I thought were brilliant. Not only did all of the characters act like human beings with real concerns and problems, but the film managed to give time to all of them, something that its predecessor did a less than stellar job of. I do have a nitpick, which you’ve probably heard already, but I’ll save it for now.

In particular, I thought the further progression of Tony Stark’s character was brilliantly done. We can clearly see some sort of movement from the asshole in Iron Man 1 and 2 to the more grounded and mature man we have in this film. The interplay between him and Cap is great, and the way all of the characters interact make this a movie that excels for this reason. Comic books have always had this problem with introducing characters for their form, rather than their function, and plopping down a bunch of new people just because they seem cool. Avengers 1 definitely felt at least a little like bringing a bunch of heroes together just for shits and giggles, and I’m impressed at how Avengers 2 manages to stop that cold.

I also thought it was kind of funny how Hawkeye’s internal conflict is basically what everyone was thinking when he was in the previous movie.

But nobody likes me when I’m talking about how things are good, so let’s do some dissection.

I did think the movie was funny. It excels in witty banter, which reminds me very much of Spider Man and then I cry a little bit. At the same time, I think a lot of that banter is out of place. Here we have a movie that deliberately shows us a lot of shots of civilians panicking and running away, and generally makes an effort to say “shit’s getting serious now.” The impact of that kind of falls flat when we have heroes spouting witticisms like it was bargain basement day at the Snark Shop.

You’ve heard how bullshit the Banner/Romanov shipping thing was, so I’ll just go ahead put it out there. I don’t like how it makes Romanov a satellite character to Banner as someone else for him to alienate with his grim lugubrious angst, I don’t like how it’s backtracking on how Banner is supposed to have control over the Hulk, established in the previous movie, just so that he can still have some character drama, and I don’t like how Romanov’s half of this deal is completely bullshitted into this movie so that it can work out between the two of them. It’s forcing the character to fit how you want to write the story, rather than allowing the story to unfold around the character, and if you do that your writing license should be revoked right here, right now.

And now it’s time for the big one. I bet you’re wondering why I called this post “The Tarantino Conundrum.” Much like Tarantino is all the time, I think that this film is too satisfied with itself. It reached a point beyond all other superhero films (except The Dark Knight, of course) and then… It gave up. Stopped. Curled up on the ground and went to sleep. Like Tarantino, it said “I’m great as I am” and didn’t bother fixing all the little problems I cited above. Guys, you’ve reached a plateau, and like Bruce Lee said, you can’t just stop, you have to keep going. Avengers as a franchise is in a great position right now. Instead of saving the best for Infinity War, you should be going as far as you absolutely can and then EXCEEDING THAT EVEN MORE with the next movie.

That being said, Age of Ultron is still worth your time. At the end of the day, all this stuff I’m saying is still minor in comparison to what the film does well. Go see it if you get the chance. Outside of the film itself, however, I do feel like Avengers 2 is still exacerbating the problems I highlighted in the previous Marvel-related post. We’ve reached a point at which anything that doesn’t contribute to the greater “all the Avengers” related narrative is boring and annoying because it doesn’t have anything to do with what we really want to see. In fact, I sat through the end credits and there wasn’t even anything special for me. Just a bit with Thanos after the splash credits, and we’ve seen Thanos like a couple times at this point. Fuck Thanos. Tease me somehow! Except you CAN’T because I’ve SEEN EVERYTHING ALREADY.

Side note, I did hear that they’re filming Infinity War entirely with IMAX cameras. The only reason I can think of for this is that someone found out they were getting fired after Infinity War and they want to drive the studio bankrupt as revenge.

In Other News:
Looking for a job in Wooster. All I can say on this topic is “bleh.”

I’ve been a bit lazy with writing. Once I have a job and my schedule is more set, I think I’m going to start laying out my day more with dedicated writing time for All The Clever Titles, Two Princes, and the Just Dungeons campaign for the boys in Atlanta next year.

Team Tidepool is deliberating on entering the Alienware Awesome Cup, I think. Been practicing my hammer-poke-game. Maybe I shouldn’t be revealing my strats on this blog.

Will work for work in Wooster,

What Happened to Marvel Movies?

I’m just going to go ahead and say something that will get my blog blacklisted by legions of Marvel fans: I’m sick of Marvel movies. It’s not that I think they’ve gotten bad. The excitement’s died down, that’s all. I also think that Marvel movies have lost their way.

First of all, I want it to be known that I think Marvel’s superhero movies are doing a lot of things right. They’re taking things in new directions. Most pre-Marvel superhero movies do an origin story, and then… They’re stuck. I’m going to use Sam Raimi’s Spider Man movies for this example. Yes, even the third one, because it TEACHES AN IMPORTANT LESSON.

See, the reason we see so many superhero origin stories is that they’re the only part of a superhero story that’s really set in stone. Superman came from Krypton. Batman has dead parents. Spiderman hit puberty. But because of the nature of comic book continuity, everything after that is eternal status quo, which is a problem when it comes to film, because you need some sort of arc.

Every origin story has a small, self-contained arc, which is why they usually encompass one movie per. Peter Parker learns that with great power comes great responsibility. Then, after the first movie, you need to present some new form of character development for the sequel… And then we run into problems, because the source material has nothing of the sort for you to go off of, at least, nothing that hasn’t been temporally reset in some sort of reboot or another. Sam Raimi was forced to slapdash together what he could, and that’s how we got this abomination.

This is something that Marvel is averting brilliantly, or at least trying to. Except for Iron Man 2, all of Tony Stark’s character development carries over pretty well to the next movie. I found his PTSD after the wormhole in Avengers to be a particularly excellent touch. Marvel is doing things like bringing in Winter Soldier and making an attempt to adapt the Civil War arc.

So, what’s wrong with Marvel movies? Why am I so sick of them?

Do you remember this little gem?

After watching that I sat in the theater with my jaw hanging until the usher forcibly removed me. I spent the next month shitting my pants over it with all my geeky friends at school and pondering the significance of it.

Now take a look at this:

Bleh. Boring. We know exactly what’s coming, so there’s no more fun to be had in wondering what those crazy geniuses at Marvel are going to do next. I’m not excited about Marvel movies anymore, instead, I’m wondering why the fuck Ant Man gets his own movie. They’ve put their whole hand down on the table. To put this in a narrative context, there’s no suspense. It’s like if there was a text screen at the beginning of Captain America 2 that said “Nick Fury gets shot in this movie, but don’t worry, he’s still alive at the end.” Which transitions nicely into my next point…

Quick, make a list of all the characters you’ve seen die in superhero movies. Now, cross off all the people who came back in some form or another. Who’s left? Uncle Ben, Ivan Vanko, and the other Uncle Ben from the rebooted Spider Man movies?

This Cracked video explains the death-in-Marvel-movies phenomenon better than I ever could, partially because I stole this argument from them. Thanks, Daniel. But, for those of you who can’t watch the video, basically, every time you kill a character and then bring them back, every bit of emotional weight that that death carries is lost. Here’s an example unmentioned in the video: Big Hero 6. Does Baemax sacrifice himself to save Hiro? No, not really, because there was no sacrifice. Nothing was lost. They just rebuilt him and kept on hero-ing. I would argue that Dan up there’s a bit behind, in fact. There’s not just no emotional impact because we figure those characters are still alive, but there’s not even any sense of danger anymore. None of the conflicts feel like “this is serious” fights, because all the characters will probably make it out alive anyway. It’s like reading One Piece.

What happened to you, Marvel? When Disney first bought you, you had their financial backing and continued to be fucking fantastic. Fantastic 4, as it were. But then Disney’s suits come in and start demanding more control, insisting on an eternal status quo in which they can continue to sell toys and t-shirts. I now direct a question towards Disney. Your founder once said “I don’t make movies to make money, I make money to make movies.” What happened to that?

In Other News:
They released the first Assassin’s Creed Chronicles yesterday.

Guys, this is exactly what I was talking about in the last post. The designers finally realized that a game needs to be fun. They made it like Mark of the Ninja, which the AAA meatheads are complaining about, but Mark of the Ninja was good. They toned down the sandbox and went for more structure. Instead of spending millions on a graphics engine to make sweat look a tad more sweaty, they went for graphics that look good. This is the first Assassin’s Creed game that I’ve been excited to play, ever. It’s also reasonably priced at $10 USD.

Started powering through Half-Life. We never finished it after the Hans n’ Albert video.

I also started writing a stand-up set. It’s about relationships and being a poor university student, so far. I don’t know when I’ll be able to perform it.

Finals are rapidly approaching. Best of luck on yours.