Movie Review

Doctor Strange Review + Road To The MCU

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I’m genuinely amazed by the success of the films from Marvel Studios. Every movie they have made has had mostly positive reviews at the least and they make a ton of money at the box office. I haven’t seen a franchise be this consistent since the Harry Potter series. And it does help that these films are so good, even their “worst” films are at least competently put-together. They’re making other studios look like a bunch of chumps, especially their rival DC, who are so far behind that it’s pretty sad. Today, we’re going to look at all of the movies from Phases 1 and 2 AND at the end, we’re going to review their latest film, Doctor Strange. Let’s get started.

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Iron Man

Release Date: May 2, 2008

Director: Jon Favreau

PLOT: Billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark gets caught up in a terrorist attack and is captured with shrapnel in his chest. Severely injured and forced to build weapons, Tony builds a suit of armor instead, escapes, and hunt down terrorists who are using his company’s technology as Iron Man.

The little film that started it all. Iron Man was a big gamble for Marvel Studios because the character was completely unknown outside of hardcore Marvel fans and if it failed, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But, amazingly enough, the film was a a hit and it was great. First off, casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was one of the best casting choices ever. He perfectly captures the arrogant jackassery of this character and injected his own sense of humor and likability to the role. Tony’s journey from a spoiled jackass to a superhero was handled excellently. Oh, and the finalized Iron Man suit looks amazing. The filmmakers did a great job at mixing practical effects with CGI to recreate the suit and make it comic-book accurate. Other great casting choices were Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts and Jeff Bridges as the main villain Obadiah Stane. Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes was meh. Nothing against Terrence Howard, but Rhodey is supposed to be Tony’s best friend and I didn’t get that feeling of them being best friends here. The action is great, the two big highlights are the escape scene when Tony tries out the Mark I suit and plows through the terrorists like nothing and then there’s the scene where he uses the Mark III suit to destroy the weapons his company created, plus, that scene is followed by a chase scene with fighter jets. The final battle between Tony and Obadiah was a bit lackluster since Obadiah is wearing a much bigger version of the Mark I Iron Man suit. It could’ve been so much better. There’s also the post-credit scene that sparked a trend amongst the Marvel movies that alludes to future films. It’s where Tony is confronted by SHIELD director Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson), who came to talk to him about the Avengers Initiative. For comic book fans, this was a great scene because it meant that an Avengers movie will eventually happen. Overall, Iron Man was a great superhero film that was the beginning of something new and exciting and it stands well on its own. I give it a 9/10.

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The Incredible Hulk

Release Date: June 13, 2008

Director: Louis Leterrier

PLOT: Bruce Banner is on the run from government while trying to find a way to cure himself of the Hulk. Suddenly, a soldier named Emil Blonsky, becomes subject to an experiment to match the Hulk’s power and he transforms into The Abomination.

When it comes to the MCU, this seems to be the film that nearly everyone ignores, maybe because it has no effect on the overall universe and while it’s not great, it does have some good parts in it. It’s a lot better than that Ang Lee snoozer from 2003. For one, the action and special effects are great, especially when Banner becomes the Hulk and goes on a rampage. The CGI for the Hulk still holds up well today. The acting was okay. The best actor in the film was Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. He was really good at capturing the character’s desperating of getting rid of the Hulk and fear of severly hurting someone. All of the other characters,  Betty Ross, Thunderbolt Ross, Emil Blonsky, etc., ranged from okay to bland. There’s also a character named Samuel Sterns who has a scene that’s hinting at a sequel where he becomes long-time Hulk villain, The Leader, but since there won’t be any sequel any time soon, it’s completely pointless. A lot of scenes where Banner turns into the Hulk are awesome, it’s all of the carnage and destruction Hulk fans have been desperate to see, plus there’s the final battle in Harlem between Hulk and Blonsky, who has turned into the Abomination. For most moviegoers, this film would be just okay, but if you’re a Hulk fan, you would enjoy this. I give this film a solid 6/10.

Tony Stark is pictured center wearing a smart suit, against a black background, behind him are is the Iron Man red and gold armor, and the Iron Man silver armor. His friends, Rhodes, Pepper, are beside him and below against a fireball appears Ivan Vanko armed with his energy whip weapons.

Iron Man 2

Release Date: May 7, 2010

Director: Jon Favreau

PLOT: With everyone knowing that he’s Iron Man, Tony Stark has to balance a bigger celebrity spotlight with the U.S. government wanting to get their hands on his armor, a new foe in Ivan Vanko a.k.a. Whiplash, plus, his own declining health due to the arc reactor in his chest.

Considering how successful the first Iron Man movie was, it made sense that a sequel was greenlit and what we got is what many consider to be the worst film in the MCU so far. Me personally? It’s second-worst. The biggest problem with Iron Man 2 is the same problem that Amazing Spider-Man 2 would eventually have: too much universe-building. The filmmakers were so focused on building up to future films that they forgot to write a cohesive plot. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is great as always. He alone is a good reason to even consider watching this movie. Instead of Terrence Howard, Rhodey is now played by Don Cheadle and it’s for the better. Don is just a better actor and he perfectly captures the character more. I actually believe in his friendship with Tony. Plus, he gets to suit up as War Machine, which was awesome. Mickey Rourke as Vanko was perfectly fine until the third act, which we’ll get to in a sec. We also have Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, and Phil Coulson. This film also features the debut appearance of Scarlett Johnannson as Black Widow. Man, they dropped the ball with this character. She was just a plot device and had no purpose for being here besides universe building. Thank God for Joss Whedon. The action is still a lot of fun, especially when Vanko first confronts Tony at a grand prix. The third act has Iron Man and War Machine fighting Vanko’s armored drones and for a moment, it was glorious. That is until Vanko comes along in his own suit of armor, then things got lame. Seems to be a perfect metaphor for the entire movie. I give it a light 6/10.

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Thor

Release Date: May 6, 2011

Director: Kenneth Branagh

PLOT: Thor, the God of Thunder, has been stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his father Odin because he initiated a war with the Frost Giants. Meanwhile, his brother Loki plans to take the throne of Asgard right at the exact moment Odin goes into Odinsleep. Now, Thor must prove himself worthy to wield Mjolnir and stop Loki.

Confession: I’m not a fan of the Thor movies. Not saying that they’re bad, but they don’t have much rewatch value for me like the other MCU films. To give credit where it’s due, these films are competently made and have some amazing production designs and costumes that perfectly captures the world of Asgard and the Nine Realms. Chris Hemsworth IS Thor. He makes the character his own and I could never see him as anything else other than Thor. Anthony Hopkins is excellent as Odin. I really liked Lady Sif and The Warriors Three. Any scene with them is a delight. What can I say about Tom Hiddleston’s Loki that hasn’t already been said? He’s pretty much the best villain in the MCU so far and he has yet to be topped. So why don’t I love this movie? Well, for one, I didn’t care about any of the characters of Earth (or Midgard) and yes, that includes Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who was bland overall. We also spend too much time on Earth and don’t get to fully take in the rest of the Nine Realms. The majority of this film is Thor on Earth with no powers, hanging with Lame Foster and unfunny Kat Dennings in a fish out of water tale. The only good action in this movie was in the first act, everything else was pretty standard, even when Loki sent the Destroyer armor out to deal with Thor, I wasn’t too impressed. Overall, Thor is still a decent movie, but it’s not in my Top 10 favorites in terms of superhero movies. I give it a light 7/10.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Release Date: July 22, 2011

Director: Joe Johnston

PLOT: During World War II, scrawny Steve Rogers becomes the subject of the experimental Super Soldier Serum and becomes the ultimate super soldier for the Unites States military. When an agent of the terrorist group Hydra kills the scientist behind the Serum, Steve decides to take the fight over to the nefarious Red Skull and Hydra as Captain America.

Before the release of this film, there was some concern because of Captain America being played by Chris Evans, mainly because not a lot of people thought it would work and at the time, the last superhero film he’s appeared in turned Galactus into a fucking cloud. Yet not only is this film really good, but I can’t see anyone else playing Captain America besides Chris. This is a great timepiece and origin story for Cap, where he goes from a shrimp who couldn’t be in the military to kicking Hydra ass with no problems. Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, who’s both beautiful and a badass at the same time. Tommy Lee Jones has some of the best lines in the entire movie and is a delight. Hugo Weaving plays Red Skull, the leader of Hydra, and I think he’s an underrated villain in terms of MCU villains. Red Skull is despicably evil with no care for human life. He plans to use an artifact called the Tesseract to take over the world. There’s a lot of great action pieces where Captain America kicks ten tons of ass, rescuing missing soldiers and wiping out Hydra bases. The ending is really heartbreaking as Cap has prevented Red Skull from bombing the United States East Coast with a plane. Unable to land the plane without detonating the weapoons, Cap says his final goodbye to Peggy via radio as he crashes the plane into the Artic, saving millions of lives and remaining frozen for over 70 years. This film was a welcome change from the previous MCU films, which were serviceable at best. Great acting, great characters, great action, great all around. I give it an 8/10.

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The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012

Director: Joss Whedon

PLOT: When Loki threatens to conquer Earth using the Tesseract, SHIELD director Nick Fury assembles some of Earth’s mightiest heroes together to combat the Asgardian god. If they can’t save the planet, then they’ll damn sure avenge it.

Well. Here it is. The big event that Marvel has been building up to for five films, where Earth’s mightiest heroes come together at last. We have never seen anything like this before on the big screen, different superheroes in the same universe teaming up to stop a global threat. And it. Was. AWESOME!! Easily top 5 best comic book movie of all time. What sells this movie is the interactions between the characters and you can thank Joss Whedon for that. I could listen to the banter for nearly three hours and be completely satisfied. In this movie, Bruce Banner is played by Mark Ruffalo instead of Edward Norton and I’m fine with it. Besides, he portrays Banner better than Norton. This movie made me fall in love with Black Widow because she was awesome. It washed the bad taste in my mouth that Iron Man 2 left when they introduced her. Loki was the perfect villain to bring these heroes together. Just seeing Tom Hiddleston play this character is a delight.

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There’s also the action, which is amazing. The battle of New York in the climax is like something ripped out of a comic book and brought to life in film. Every action set showcases each hero’s powers and/or abilities and we get some sweet combos. This film has so much replay value and a lot of memorable lines and scenes including this little treat.

I could watch that scene over and over and never get sick of it. I give this film a perfect 10/10.

Tony, as Iron Man in his battle damaged suit sitting with water around him, while his house behind is destroyed. Stark's Iron Legion is flying, while the Marvel logo with the film's title, credits and release date are below.

Iron Man 3

Release Date: May 3, 2013

Director: Shane Black

PLOT: Phase 2 of the MCU begins with post-Avengers Tony Stark being put to the ultimate test when a terrorist named The Mandarin threatens the United States with calculated human bombs. With his home destroyed, Tony must use his wits to combat The Mandarin and his pawns.

Oh, boy. This film. Iron Man 3 is a very controversial film due to some of the choices that were made while making it and to this day, it still remains one of the most polarizing Marvel films ever. And I… actually like this film. Let me explain. Is this one of Marvel’s best films? No. But there are plenty of things to like in it, one of those things being Tony Stark and his personal journey. In this film, Tony is experiencing PTSD thanks to the events of The Avengers and has random panic attacks. Meanwhile, he has to deal with The Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) threatening the United States with people injected with the Extremis virus that causes them to explode. When The Mandarin sends some helicopters to attack Tony in his house, Tony is forced to go halfway through the country, along with Rhodey to stop The Mandarin.

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Let’s talk about the reason why this film is so controversial: the twist. So The Mandarin has been built up to be this intimidating, ultra-badass villain and once Tony and Rhodey find him, turns out it was all an act. The Mandarin isn’t even real, he’s just an actor. Cue the number of fanboys screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” This twist alone was the kiss of death for some people and ruined their experience of the film. And I… kinda like this twist. Why? Because it plays with expectations and it’s the kind of thing Marvel does to keep things fresh and new to prevent their movies from becoming stale. Besides, the reveal is friggin’ hilarious. Unfortunately, that leaves us with the real villain who’s been pulling the strings all along and another addition to the “generic MCU villain” portfolio, Aldrich Killian (played by Guy Pierce). He’s the founder of the think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics or AIM and he’s created the Extremis virus, which gives people fire powers because reasons. And he wants to take revenge on Tony for rejecting him years ago while he was a huge fan.

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Jeez. Does that sound familiar?

There are some impressive action scenes, whether it be the attack on Tony’s home, the scene where Tony saves the passengers of Air Force One after the Extremis soldiers captured the President, and then there’s the climax when Tony activates all of the Iron Man suits to help fight the Extremis soldiers. It was awesome seeing all of the different armors in action. Overall, this is an enjoyable movie that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Not as good as the first Iron Man, but it’s most definitely better than Iron Man 2. I give it a 7/10.

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Thor: The Dark World

Release Date: November 8, 2013

Director: Alan Taynor

PLOT: When the Dark Elves plan to plunge the Nine Realms into darkness using a deadly weapon, Thor must team up with Loki to save all of reality.

Remember when I said that Iron Man 2 was the second-worst film in the MCU? Well, here’s number one, the second Thor movie. This is the MCU film that I like the least. The positives? Thor and Loki. Any scene with Loki in it is the best. Lady Sif and the Warriors Three are still awesome. We get to spend more time exploring the Nine Realms, which is always a good thing. Negatives: the villains SUUUUUUUUUUUCK!! We have Malekith and the Dark Elves, who want to plunge the universe into darkness using the Aether because… they’re UV-sensitive? I don’t know. Their reasoning is stupid. Malekith takes the cake for the worst MCU villain as he has no character at all. The human characters are still insufferable and Jane Foster is still bland. Anytime they’re on Earth, I just zone out. The best parts of the movie are in the second act with Thor and Loki, everything else ranged from passable to snooze. The final act was pretty meh, though it was pretty cool to see Thor and Malekith go through portals to other dimensions. This is one of the few MCU films that I don’t find myself watching again and again. I hope Thor: Ragnarok delivers because I’ve had it with these Thor movies. I give it a 5/10.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Release Date: April 4, 2014

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo

PLOT: Steve Rogers is adjusting to life in the 21st century as Captain America when a conspiracy involving SHIELD and Hydra marks him as a fugitive. Now, he, alongside Black Widow and Falcon, must uncover this mystery while facing off against a mysterious assassin called The Winter Soldier.

Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of those sequels that surpasses the original. Nothing against First Avenger, but I enjoy this film even more. Chris Evans is back as Captain America, who is still kicking ass while getting used to our times. Assisting him is Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. This character gets better with each film she appears in. Anthony Mackie makes his debut appearance as Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon, a very loyal ally to Cap who’s willing to help uncover the Hydra conspiracy. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is a bad motherfucker as usual. We don’t get much character out of the Winter Soldier, who, spoilers, is Bucky. All we know is that Bucky didn’t die during the events of First Avenger. He was found by Hydra, was given a metal arm, and was trained to be an assassin, carrying out Hydra’s deeds. The fight choreography in the action scenes are great, even if they do suffer a bit from the shaky cam. Seems like the Captain America sequels have the most impact on the MCU outside of the Avengers movies. In Winter Soldier, it was revealed that there was sleeper agents among SHIELD rankings who plan to use their helicarriers to wipe out anyone whom Hydra deems a threat. Eventually, Cap, Widow, Falcon, and Fury dismantles SHIELD, expose Hydra’s dirty laundry, and go into hiding. One of the best MCU films out now and one of the best comic book movies ever. I give it a 9/10.

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space with the film's title, credits and slogan.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Release Date: August 1,2014

Director: James Gunn

PLOT: After stealing an artifact of immense power, space pirate Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, forms an alliance with uncanny misfits, including a talking raccoon and a tree that only knows three words. Now, these Guardians must step to be heroes when the planet of Xandar is targeted by Kree fanatic Ronan The Accuser.

When Marvel announced that they were gonna make a movie based on Guardians Of The Galaxy, many people were like…

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Taking a property that very little people know about and making a movie out of it is a HUGE risk for any studio and for Marvel, it paid off extremely well because this is one of their best films to date and one of my all-time favorites. It takes a rag-tag team of strangers who don’t like each other and have them be heroes. Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill, who is very much like Han Solo, a snarky rebel who plays by his own rules. Zoe Saldana kicks ass as the lovely, but deadly Gamora, who wants to kill her stepfather Thanos. Dave Bautista plays Drax The Destroyer, a complex character who doesn’t know about metaphors (leading to some funny scenes) and is motivated to find the man who killed his family. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provides the voices for fan-favorites Rocket Raccoon and Groot. I find it amazing that The Avengers exist in the same universe as a foul-mouthed alien raccoon and a talking tree that knows says three words (make that four). The villain is a Kree named Ronan The Accuser, who wants to use an Orb that contains an Infinity Stone to destroy Xandar because he’s in love with the Kree race so much or some dumb reason. He most definitely is one of Marvel’s weaker villains. The action is very standard, there’s a lot of dogfights and shootouts. The most exciting highlights are the prison breakout and the final battle to defend Xandar where the Guardians team up with the Nova Corps and the Ravagers. This film has an awesome soundtrack consisting of songs from the 60s and 70s and they’re woven into the plot seamlessly. This is another film that has tons of quotable lines and scenes and a lot of them are hilarious all around. I’ve watched this film a million times and I’ll watch it a million times more until I die. I can’t wait for the sequel. I give this movie a 9/10.

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Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Director: Joss Whedon

PLOT: Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have activated a dormant peace-keeping program named Ultron in order to help the Avengers combat worldly threats. But then the program has gained artificial intelligence and decided that humanity must be destroyed. Now the Avengers must assemble once again in order to save the world from a catastrophe that’ll be caused by Ultron.

The sequel to the smash hit, The Avengers, expectations for Age Of Ultron were at an all-time high. The original six Avengers were coming back, Joss Whedon is directing again, and new characters were going to be introduced. When the film was released, people were let down not because it was bad (because it’s not), but because it wasn’t as great as its predecessor. A shame because this film was still entertaining as hell. Yes, the film was a bit overstuffed thanks to the amount of characters in it and sub-plots and Easter eggs teasing future films. But that classic Joss Whedon banter is still there and it’s as entertaining as ever. In the first movie, Hawkeye barely got much screen-time and most of it was him as Loki’s pawn. In Age Of Ultron, he plays a much bigger role as the more grounded individual amongst a team with a super soldier, a billionaire playboy, a Norse god, an assassin, and a raging green monster. I wasn’t a big fan of Banner and Black Widow becoming an item, it’s one of those things that just came out of nowhere. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson respectively) were okay for the most part and so was Vision (played by Paul Bettany).

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Now let’s talk Ultron, played by the great James Spader. Just like Loki, he’s a perfect villain for the Avengers, being able to travel to multiple places at the same time via the Internet and testing the Avengers both physically and mentally. People criticized him for being too much like Loki because he jokes a lot and I don’t see anything wrong with that. He does brings some genuine entertainment to the film and I love the fact that Ultron decided that humanity must be destroyed for the sake of the planet after browsing the Internet. If you were an A.I. and your first exposure to humanity was through the Internet, you’d want to commit global genocide as well. Something else I’m fine with is them changing up his origin so that he was created by Stark and Banner instead of Hank Pym like it was in the comics. I don’t care about Hank Pym, so I’m not gonna make a big fuss out of it. Just like the first Avengers movie, Age Of Ultron has a lot of great action. If anything, the action is much bigger and more global this time around with the final act taking place in Sokovia, which is being lifted into the sky by Ultron, who plans to use it as a meteor. The Avengers have to get all of the citizens to safety while combating Ultron’s drone army. So, yeah. A bit disappointing compared to the first Avengers, but it’s still an entertaining film. I give it an 8/10.

Official poster shows Ant-Man in his suit, and introduces a montage of him starts to shrink with his size-reduction ability, with a montage of helicopters, a police officer holds his gun, two men in suit and tie and sunglasses and the film's villain Darren Cross is walking with them smiling, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and Evengeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne with the film's title, credits, and release date below them, and the cast names above.

Ant-Man

Release Date: July 17, 2015

Director: Peyton Reed

PLOT: Ex-burglar Scott Lang is attempting to get his life together after serving a three-year prison sentence when he comes across Hank Pym, who allows him access to the Ant-Man suit. When a former protege of Pym’s has recreated the technology of the suit, Hank and Scott plan the ultimate heist in order to prevent the suit from ending up in the wrong hands.

Here’s a film that’s been in development for a long time before the idea of a Marvel Cinematic Universe came to be. Originally, it was supposed to be directed by Edgar Wright, but then he left the project due to creative differences with the studio. That’s when Peyton Reed took over and finished the film, working in some of Wright’s ideas. This was a film that, just like Guardians Of The Galaxy initially, people were expecting to bomb. And yet, just like Guardians, it didn’t and it was a pretty good movie. What I love about Marvel movies is that they take certain movie subgenres and insert them into their films. Guardians was a space adventure, Winter Soldier was a spy thriller, the Avengers movies are your big blockbuster events, and Ant-Man is pretty much a comedy heist. There is a lot of jokes in this movie; not all of them are hits, but a majority of them can generate giggles at least. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, an ex-felon desperate to make ends meet with a job and paying child support for his daughter that he’s willing to go back to burglary. This is when he runs into Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas), who is much older than his comic book counterpart and is less of a dick as well, which is a plus.

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Seriously.

Helping them both is Hank’s daughter Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly) and Scott’s crew (Michael Pena, T.I., David Dastmalchian). The villain is Darren Cross, a former apprentice of Hank who managed to recreate the Pym Particles and made a suit called the Yellowjacket. He’s definitely one of the weaker villains of the MCU as his motivation is to be better than Pym and greed. The shrinking scenes are amazing, taking small spaces and making them bigger than they seem. I’m impressed by the effects used for the shrinking scenes. The heist scene is very fun to watch as Scott and his crew try to steal the Yellowjacket suit, but then they failed, which leads into the final battle between Scott as Ant-Man and Cross in the Yellowjacket suit. Should I mention that this battle takes place in Scott’s daughter’s bedroom? It’s one of the coolest and funniest final battles in a Marvel movie, a lot of shrinking and growing and very creative scenes involving toys. It ends with Scott shrinking down and destroying Cross suit, sending them both to subatomic size. As he keeps shrinking, Scott enters the quantum realm, which is one of the most trippy sequences in a Marvel movie before Doctor Strange. Overall, Ant-Man is a very fun film to watch outside of the big movie events. I give it an 8/10.


Now we’ve gone through all of the Marvel films released so far. For those wondering where’s Captain America: Civil War, I already did a review of it alongside some DC movie about a guy dressed as a bat fighting an alien wearing red and blue tights. Now let’s get into Marvel’s most recent film. This is Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange, wearing his traditional costume, coming out from a flowing energetic portal, and around him the world and New York turning around itself with the film's cast names above him and the film's title, credits and billing are underneath.

Let’s start things off with the plot as usual.

THE PLOT

Doctor Stephen Strange is a well-renowned neuro-surgeon with an ego bigger than Kanye’s who gets involved in a horrific car accident that destroy his ability to use his hands. Desperate to find a way to fix them, Strange heads over to Nepal where he meets The Ancient One, who teaches him the mystical arts and shaping him up to be the Sorcerer Supreme. Now one might look at the plot and say that it share similarities to the plot of the first Iron Man movie, mainly in that both are about rich assholes who suffer a traumatic accident that nearly costed their lives and they both go through a journey of self-redemption and become superheroes. One key difference is that Doctor Strange delves into something that Marvel has yet to truly go into, magic. And I’m not talking about science magic like in the Thor movies, but legit magic. There is a lot of exposition explaining the magical dimensions and all of that crap, but it’s never boring, which is good.

THE CHARACTERS

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When it comes to casting, Marvel has had a near-perfect track record and that track record isn’t changing anytime soon. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the greatest actors working today and he was excellent as Doctor Strange, capturing the good doctor’s fall of shame when his hands were destroyed. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Baron Mordo, who in the comics, was a villain. Here, he’s an ally of Strange who helps him learn the ways of the mystic arts. Eventually, he questions his beliefs when it was revealed that The Ancient One was drawing power out from the Dark Dimension. If there ever was a Doctor Strange 2, I hope Mordo becomes the main villain. Wong was really entertaining and Rachael McAdams as Christine Palmer was decent.

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Now let’s address the elephant in the room, The Ancient One. In the comics, this character was an old Tibetan man. The movie changed him into a Celtic woman played by Tilda Swinton. As you’d expect, the controversy around this casting choice has caused people to accuse Marvel of whitewashing. As a person of color, it’s not a big deal to me. I believe that a role should go to the best actor/actress available and the studio is lucky to have Tilda Swinton on board because she’s a great actress and she nailed it as The Ancient One. The villain, Kaecillus, is a bit underdeveloped, but he was alright. His plan is to bring eternal life to everyone and he believes that summoning the being known as Dormammu would do the trick. At least he’s not motivated by evil.

THE ACTION & SPECIAL EFFECTS

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There’s no way to talk about Doctor Strange without talking about the visuals. My goodness, this is one of the best-looking films out this year. There’s a lot of good use of CGI in this film and you can tell that the money spent on the effects were worth it. When The Ancient One sends Strange into an inter-dimensional trip, it was like an LSD trip times 1000. The chase scene in New York could give Inception a run for its money in terms of buildings and streets bending and transforming to the will of magic. This is one of those films that you have to see in 3D for the visual experience. It flows really well with the action where the sorcerers make hand gestures in order to create weapons and shields for combat. One of the best scenes is in the end where Doctor Strange goes into the Dark Dimension to confront Dormammu for a bargain. Of course, being a malevolent demon, Dormammu kills Strange before he could even bargain, but little did he know that Strange set a time loop beforehand so they could do all of this over and over until he listens to the bargain. A huge subversion to the typical climax of most comic book movies where the bad guys are usually defeated by physical force. Strange actually outsmarts Dormammu by making a bargain to trap Kaecillus into the Dark Dimension while Dormammu himself doesn’t touch the Earth.

I give Doctor Strange a strong 8/10. It’s a great origin story for this character and it’s the perfect gateway into introducing the magical aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The title character is portrayed excellently along with the rest of the characters. The action and visuals are mindblowing and are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the MCU. The villains could’ve used more development, but I’ve seen worse. Doctor Strange is a very faithful adaptation of the source material. Steve Ditko would be so proud. Another great thing about the film that could be said for most of the other MCU films is that it brings something new to the table of comic book movies that we haven’t seen before. I hope Marvel keeps this up for however long they decide to make these movies. There’s no doubt about it: Marvel pretty much ruled this year’s films thanks to this and Civil War. I can’t wait to see what the films of 2017 offer us.

Peace!!

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