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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Critique of the Marvel Power Fantasy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about the larger thematic preoccupations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is built around the superhero power fantasy, with much of the franchise focusing on the idea that its central characters should be allowed to do whatever they want, to bend the world to their tremendous wills. Multiverse of Madness is an interesting and deliberate deconstruction of this power fantasy, focusing on a superhero who has internalised that idea to a dangerous degree, while teaching another character that perhaps the ends don’t always justify the means.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Marvel’s Strength at Improv…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about Marvel Studios’ production model.

After more than a decade of success, Marvel Studios have built up a deserved reputation as a company that makes efficient and clean blockbusters. However, this reputation is often built upon the myth of the company’s ability to make and commit to long-term plans, to map out the shared universe months and years in advance. In reality, the opposite is true. Marvel Studios succeeds in large part because it has built a robust production machine that has the flexibility to adapt and evolve on the fly and in real-time, to account for any number of unforeseen potential possibilities.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

284. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Luke Dunne, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The master of the mystic arts, Doctor Stephen Strange, is attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer when New York is attacked by a strange creature chasing a young refugee named America Chavez. Strange finds himself drawn into a chase across the vast and infinite multiverse, questioning the nature of the reality in which he has found himself.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Parable About the Dangers of Rejecting Reality…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the film.

Despite its title, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems refreshingly wary of the multiverse as a concept, understanding that the collapse of reality is not necessarily a good thing. Indeed, despite the title, the film is largely about the importance of embracing and accepting one’s original reality, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of retreating into fantasy. In particular, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a horror story about the lengths that people will go to preserve their fantasies – and the consequences of those actions.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Good Old-Fashioned Superhero Fun”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is in theatres around the world now.

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange” as a Film About Time and Death…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Scott Derrickson’s somewhat underrated contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange felt like an oddity when it was released, sandwiched between Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. It was a very conventional origin story, stripped of the legacy character attributes of Ant Man, the crossover baggage of Black Panther or the period piece nostalgia and narrative trickery of Captain Marvel. It was perhaps the most straightforward superhero origin story since the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically recalling both Iron Man and Thor.

However, underneath the surface, there was something more interesting happening. Doctor Strange is a rare superhero movie that is about both the passage of time and inevitability of death, where the ultimate act of villainy is to pervert either flow. It’s a movie about accepting that change happens, and that sometimes a moment doesn’t last forever. It’s a theme that felt particularly relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that it was going to lose two of its three lead characters in the very near future.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the Fate of the MCU Rests on “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good time to reflect on how so much of the fate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to rely on he sequel to Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange was a solid midtier entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was warmly, but not raptuously, received by both audiences and critics. However, there is something fascinating in how the studio has positioned Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as essentially the franchise’s first true “event” movie since Avengers: Endgame. Indeed, there’s a surprising amount riding on the film, following the performance of the previous three Marvel Studios films and the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – What If – “… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the fourth episode of What If…?, streaming on Disney+.

Non-Review Review: Doctor Strange

Some Marvel films succeed by pushing against the house style to provide a clear and unique artistic sensibility, like Iron Man III and Guardians of the Galaxy, films that are undeniably informed by the stylistic sensibilities of their directors as much (if not more than) the concerns of the shared universe. Those films are never distinctive enough to compare to the work done by Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan, but they stand out from the rest of the Marvel production slate for their willingness to tell a different story in a different style.

Some Marvel films suffer from their adherence to the production company’s house style. Just about anything interesting was smothered out of Thor: The Dark World, which frequently seemed to have been written and edited by a computer algorithm designed to amplify the well-received elements of the first film and graft them on to a familiar structure. Even some of the relatively strong films on the slate are not immune, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War unable to follow their bolder ideas to conclusion.

It's a kind of magic...

It’s a kind of magic…

However, there are also films that succeed through their understanding of the studio’s house style and sensibilities, working firmly within the structures and boundaries of what might be termed “the Marvel Cinematic Method.” These films do not just acknowledge the expectations imposed upon these blockbusters, they play towards them. In doing so, they embrace the stability and consistency that such a tried-and-tested approach affords, affording the production team the opportunity to craft enjoyable adventures starring likable actors doing fun things.

The original Thor is perhaps the best example of this approach. Often underrated and overlooked in assessments of Marvel’s cinematic output, Thor ranks among the very best of the company’s feature film slate by virtue of its willingness to embrace the stock superhero story at the heart of the script and focus upon making its cast likeable and its plot moving. There is a solid argument to be made that Thor is the purest solo superhero movie produced in quite some time, dating back to Richard Donner’s Superman. No irony or deconstruction in sight. Just simplicity.

Hair today...

Hair today…

Doctor Strange wisely opts for a similar approach. There are very few surprises to be found in the plotting and structuring of the film. The movie unfolds almost exactly as the audience expects. All the pieces are there, and they are assembled with the reliability of the very expensive watch that the title character chooses to carry around as a memento. The arrogant lead character humbled by tragedy. The nihilistic opponent who embraces the end of all things. The romantic co-lead. The stoic supporting character immune to our hero’s charm. The fallen mentor.

Doctor Strange is not particularly interested in subverting or twisting these stock elements. Instead, it focuses on honing them to a fine point, executing them with the help of a spectacular cast and a knowing grin. More than that, the relative simplicity of the plot framework allows director Scott Derrickson to hang some really impressive choreography and set pieces. The Marvel films have been (fairly) criticised for a certain textural “sameness”, and so the visual and aural stylings of Doctor Strange come as a breath of fresh air.

Strange fascination.

Strange fascination.

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Marvel 1602 (Review)

After spending the tail end of last year looking at the tangled inter-continuity crossovers at Marvel, I thought I’d spend January looking at some of the looser “out of continuity” tales at the major companies.

Although DC invented the term “elseworlds” to describe alternative continuities featuring familiar characters in unfamiliar settings, it was really Marvel who ran with it. Even discounting the Ultimate line, Marvel has produced any number of alternative continuity worlds within the past decade or so – not stories or chapters, but worlds. Tales spin-off in so many different directions that these stories become viable alternative versions of the Marvel Universe, just with a variation upon a theme. Marvel Noir offers us the Marvel Universe as seen through a smokey glass-half-empty lens, with tales of Daredevil, X-Men and Spider-Man changed to fit in this strange new setting. Writer Neil Gaiman, however, crafted an especially interesting alternative to mainstream Marvel with 1602. It pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, transposing the modern day Marvel Universe to 1602.

Take these broken wings...

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