Doctor Strange trailer: Marvel goes mystical for the win

Doctor Strange Ancient One

Marvel just released its first trailer for Doctor Strange, and once again the world has been reminded just how laughable it was for Steven Spielberg to say superhero movies are primed to go “the way of the Western.”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange and Tilda Swinton look ready to launch yet another franchise in what will be a welcome change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange NYC

The narration to the trailer gives fans a good glimpse of what they can expect from director Scott Derrickson’s take on The Sorcerer Supreme.

Ancient One: You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?

Strange: I don’t believe in fairytales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.

Ancient One: You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility. … There are other ways to save lives … so much you don’t know.

Strange (after being introduced to the spirit world): Teach me.

Nothing can make this blogger — a man of faith, a lucid dreamer, and a fan of meditation — happier than to see Marvel Studios utilize a hero who travels to different dimensions, the spirit world, etc.

Doctor Strange

At the start of the trailer an unknown person (Perhaps Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo?) says: “Stephen Strange, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.”

If that is the message at the heart of Doctor Strange, and it is coupled with Inception-like special effects, then Marvel Studios will have one heck of a movie in theaters on Nov. 4, 2016.

Marvel’s creative well is much deeper than the average moviegoer realizes, and the successful introduction of Steve Ditko’s character to a wide audience will help ensure that it is tapped for many years to come.

What are your thoughts on the new Doctor Strange trailer? Let me know in the comments section below.

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‘Captain America: Civil War’ trailer: Spidey, and more proof Russo bros. on point

Tony Stark Civil War

The second trailer for Captain America: Civil War was released Thursday, and it is good. Correction: It is excellent. It looks as if directors Joe and Anthony Russuo, along with writers Christopher Markus Stephen McFeely, will handle “Civil War” like is should have been years ago in the comics. Who is right? Who is wrong? The comic books — predictably — went with stupid political potshots instead of exploring complex issues in ways everyone could enjoy.

How do political leaders maximize security and individual liberty when man is fallible and capable of horrendous deeds? It’s a good question. Markus and McFeely appear to understand that’s it’s not as simplistic as “Conservatives, bad! Liberals, good!” as the writers in Marvel’s comics division would have you believe.

The exchange between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in the trailer portends good things to come on May 6:

Tony Stark: That’s why I’m here. We need to be put in check. Whatever form that takes, I’m game.

Stever Rogers: I’m sorry, Tony. If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could.

Tony Stark: Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.

Steve Rogers: I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.

It is telling that Captain America’s rebuttal to Tony’s call for a “check” on people with superpowers is to acknowledge that he has no self-control.

Steve Rogers is obviously a good man, but a.) Not all men are good, and b.) The individual with an all-consuming desire to right wrongs in a fallen world is, in fact, dangerous.

Captain America Civil War

Captain America: Winter Soldier showed that there are legitimate reasons to fear and distrust the federal government, but Rogers appears to have decided that because man-made institutions are subject to the shortcomings of men, then he should be given a license to act outside the rule of law. When Stark talks about punching Rogers in his “perfect teeth” it resonates with viewers because Captain America smugly but unwittingly stands upon a moral pedestal.

How strange is it that Tony Stark understands The Federalist Papers better than Captain America?

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” — Federalist 51, James Madison.

These are the questions the Russo brothers seem ready to explore with maturity and professionalism, and for that fans should be grateful. Sadly, the comic book writers tend to dish out partisan slop and then feign indignation when they’re taken to task.

Tony Stark Cap

Finally, it is good to know that Spider-Man will make an appearance in a great movie for the first time in years. While it is frustrating that Marvel Studios was not able to wrestle full control of the character from Sony Pictures, at least fans know there will be a “check” on Sony’s habitual stupidity.

Check back in at this blog opening weekend for a full review of Captain America: Civil War. I’m looking forward to your feedback.

SpiderMan Civil War

‘Batman v Superman’ trailer: Zack Snyder goes were Marvel Studios fears to tread

Batman v Superman 911The Batman v Superman trailer is out, and one thing is obvious: Zack Synder is going with a level of realism that Marvel Studios has shown no desire to duplicate. Anyone who lived through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will not be able to see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne engulfed in dust and debris without thinking of that day. If they decide to accept the director’s decision, then they can appreciate what the visual does for the story — while everyone else sprints away from the carnage, Bruce Wayne hurls himself head first into the chaos. That is the kind of bravery (bordering on psychosis) a man would need for him to seriously attempt to challenge Superman.

Batman v Superman flyThere are plenty of valid criticisms that could be made of Mr. Synder’s DC Universe, but it is hard to deny that his Superman exudes raw power. When he is on the screen, he demands respect. The argument that his costume is dated and cheesy just doesn’t fly (no pun intended), because if you can be led to believe that a character possesses the power to exterminate the entire human race, then you will respect him in almost any outfit.

Batman v Superman desertThe strength Superman wields is what will (understandably) cause Bruce Wayne to fear the alien and, at least for a portion of the film, seek to destroy him.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor telegraphs exactly what “Batman versus Superman” is about:

“Black and blue. God versus man. Day versus night.”

If a man had the power of a god — but he wasn’t God — wouldn’t he have to be destroyed? The same question would, of course, apply to a … Wonder Woman.

Batman v Superman Wonder WomanMarvel Studios has a track record of making great movies, but for the most part it has shied away from the level of realism embraced by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Synder’s “Man of Steel.” Both kinds of movies can happily exist in the summertime blockbuster market, but Marvel’s problem is that there are only so many times the world can be demolished in a shared cinematic universe before the cotton candy-ish tone seems weird. Perhaps Marvel Studio’s “Civil War” will finally address that problem, but as of now DC has the pole position on superhero fare that makes an audience think about real-world issues.

If you plan on seeing “Batman v Superman,” then let me know what you think about the trailer or anything else related to the movie in the comments section below.

Marvel announces ‘I am Groot’ for Phase 3; DC scrambles for response

Groot with girl Guardians of the Galaxy

Before the weekend was out on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s successful box office debut, Marvel Studios released some news the size of an oak tree. Or, perhaps a Groot. The reasoning is also likely to enrage DC fans. Marvel’s Phase 3 will include ‘I am Groot,’ to be released in the summer of 2017, which all but guarantees that the plant from Planet X gets his day in the sun before “Justice League.”

“We are Groot!” Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige said at a press conference late Saturday. “It’s a go. It’s happening. I know a lot of people are wondering how we’re going to pull this off, but I assure you that ‘I am Groot’ has an amazing creative team behind it. The screenplay is great and we’re close to sealing the deal with a director who I’m sure will knock it out of the ballpark.”

The Hollywood Reporter reached out to ‘Man of Steel’ producer Wesley Coller for a response and was told that a reply would be forthcoming. Entertainment Weekly likewise said that calls to DC’s front office were not returned.

DC’s silence, in many ways, speaks louder than words. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is scheduled to be released May 6, 2016, which would put Marvel Studios in a position to have ‘I am Groot’ in theaters before fans ever get a chance to see an official Justice League movie. While all comic fans can rejoice at the sheer volume of superhero films being made, it’s sure to inflame the rivalry between the two industry giants.

In a recent article with the Belfast Telegraph, actor Vin Diesel said that playing Groot was a challenge for him as an actor, due to the character’s limited vocabulary. When asked about the ‘I am Groot’ movie by the Los Angeles Times, he said “I love the character. He’s challenging, but it’s worth every second. The world fell in love with Groot this weekend because he’s innocent and pure and good. I consider it an honor to be able to bring this character to life in his very own movie.”

Besides DC fans, diversity activists voiced “serious concern” with Marvel’s decision.

“I…I can not get behind this,” said Eileen Einhorn, a Gender Studies major at U.C. Berkeley. “It’s troublesome that although Vin Diesel is not white that his true nature must be hidden behind tree bark. I’m worried that Groot’s limited vocabulary sends a coded racial message about the mental acuity of minorities and, worst of all…Groot is a man. Until Black Widow gets her own movie I urge anyone who loves diversity to boycott ‘I am Groot.'”

When asked during his press conference if Rocket Raccoon would be getting his own movie, Feige just smiled and said, “Phase 4 may have some surprises to your liking. That’s all I’ll say right now. Sometimes I feel as if all of this isn’t real. Like it’s satire. The fans have been good to us. As long as they keep seeing Marvel movies, we’ll keep making them.”

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel gets its heroic misfits right on the first try

‘Thor: The Dark World’: Tom Hiddleston makes Marvel’s job easy

Tom HIddleson LokiDark Elves, monsters and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in ‘Thor: The Dark World’ — what can go wrong? Not much, really. Audiences seem to agree:

Marvel Studios and Disney’s Thor: The Dark World thundered its way to a $86.1 million domestic launch as it continued its global assault, finishing the weekend with a sizeable $327 million in worldwide ticket sales.

That’s an impressive start considering the first Thor, which debuted to $65.7 million domestically in May 2011, grossed $449.3 million globally in all. The sequel nabbed one of the top November openings of all time in North America, although it couldn’t quite match the $88.4 million earned by Skyfall on the same weekend a year ago.

Marvel Studios is making it look easy at this point, which is rather impressive given the number of moving parts each of these films have. Kevin Feige, President of Production at Marvel Studios, must be eating his Cheerios or Wheaties over the last couple of years, because his job performance has been strong.

Anyone who goes to ‘Thor: The Dark World’ looking for a complex plot will be disappointed: Creatures of darkness want to fill all of existence filled with darkness. Thor must stop them. He does. The end.

Those who are looking for a little action, a little adventure, a helping of humor and a good dose of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki making everything he touches awesome will be pleased. Adopted kid who has all sorts of issues with mother, father and brother constantly plots and plans ways to show that he loves them  — and hates them — to death. The end.

Chris Hemsworth does a fine job as Thor — he looks the part, is believably noble and worthy of Mjolnir — but it’s the nature of his relationship with his adopted brother Loki that makes the trek to the movie theater worth it. Hiddleston, in many ways, is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Without him, ‘The Dark World’ becomes an exponentially duller film. It may seem sad that, in his own movie, Thor needs Loki in order to achieve his full box-office potential, but is it really? You can’t have Yin without Yang, and you can’t fully appreciate Thor’s honor without holding him up to the actions of his mischievous brother.

At one point in ‘The Dark World’ Thor says, “Mother wouldn’t want us to fight.” Loki’s response: ” But she wouldn’t be that surprised.” Note to Thor: moviegoers want you to fight. We like when the anger and the jealously and the sibling rivalry plays out on screen because in our own mini-Asgards we deal with it every day. Do we overcome the pettiness and achieve great things, or do we give into our darker half and do as Loki would? If we see ourselves as manipulators, do we manipulate to serve our own selfish ends, or do we manipulate others so that they might soar? Seeing that struggle as depicted by Hiddleston is what elevates Marvel’s second Thor movie from “I’ll wait until it’s on Netflix” to “I’ll be there opening weekend sitting one row behind the girl with the Thor outfit on.”

If you’re looking for a fun “popcorn” movie to see this November, make a trip to see Thor’s second solo movie. If you want to see something that is critically acclaimed that doesn’t lend itself to carelessly flicking popcorn into your mouth, see “12 years a slave.”

Note: To the person who sees Marvel movies and then continues to leave as soon as the end credits begin to roll, I have a question for you: Why? You know you’re not supposed to, but you do it anyway. I say this out of love: Get with the program, already.