Archive for November, 2016

Nov 08 2016

Preliminary review of Dr. Strange

Published by under Comic Book Movies

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

  • I feel like a marketing executive put a gun to the screenwriter’s head and said “I don’t CARE what the movie is about, put New York City, London, and Hong Kong in it. Just do that thing where the villain is trying to collect plot coupons around the world in places that happen to be major marketing centers. What about like magic sanctums or something? Have we tried that yet?” The plot coupon setup would have been less obvious if the cities had actually been used more cleverly. The scenes in Hong Kong, London, and probably NYC could have happened virtually anywhere.
  • Notably, Dr. Strange bends over backwards to insult the love interest, and dares her to leave, and the next time they see each other she’s basically forgotten about the whole thing. From a plot development perspective, probably not ideal. I wouldn’t suggest having a character work that hard to do something distinctive/extraordinary unless you’re willing to deal with the consequences. In this case, I think it makes the love interest seem very hard to like.
  • The movie was funny in more than a few places, but off the top of my head, I wouldn’t recommend the writing on most other levels. For example, Dr. Strange doesn’t really earn most of what he has (with the exception of the final scene) – e.g. his cape wins a battle for him, his cape chooses him for no reason, he happens to get a super-lucky assist from somebody in New York that happens to have been to the Nepalese healer he’s looking for (AND has a personal reason not to help Strange but does so anyway), he just happens to have been born with incredible magical talent, his sort-of-girlfriend forgives him far too easily to feel like a human, he gets treated as exceptional long before he’s actually done anything exceptional, etc. It gets better gradually – e.g. the scene where he steals magic tomes using telekinesis works not because his telekinesis is better than anybody else’s, but because he’s willing to try using it in a way that most other characters wouldn’t. Also, in the final scene, he cleverly uses limited capabilities to force a draw with a more powerful adversary.
  • “The Cloak of Levitation” is a notably bad name for anything. He’s a sorcerer. I don’t think he needs an explanation for why he wears a cape.
  • Dr. Strange got a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Over the first half of the movie, I would have guessed 50-60%. By the end, maybe 60-70%. I don’t think it passes the smell test on action quality, and the character development is noticeably weaker than in most other MCU movies.
  • Wow, Nepal is a lot more racially diverse than I was expecting. Dr. Strange gets randomly mugged by a white guy, a black guy, and an east Asian that looked/sounded like a casting director found them at a business luncheon and hoped nobody would notice if they were wearing street clothes. It’s like the United Nations of Nepalese street crime. (And, weirdly, even less Nepalese than the rest of Dr. Strange’s Nepal).
  • The fight scenes were disappointing. The trailer set this up as some mindbending, Inception-level mojo. Instead we got half-assed CGI melee for the most part. The action in even a mediocre kung fu movie is miles ahead of this.
  • The ending is genuinely clever, and probably the only element of this movie that I’ll remember a year from now. Negotiated settlements between hero and villain are exceptionally rare in superhero movies (see also Watchmen). Also, the bargaining scene allowed the screenwriter to avoid some of the more serious problems floating around world-level threats — they are hard to talk to and rarely have much interesting to say (see also Suicide Squad, Green Lantern, the last two Fantastic Four movies, etc). We didn’t get to avoid the purple-swirling-dust stuff, though (see, well, pretty much every superhero movie where the planet is threatened).

29 responses so far

Nov 06 2016

Calling All Supervillain Stories

Den Warren, (K-Tron, Metahuman Wars) is issuing a call for 3k-5k word submissions for a superhero prose fiction anthology titled, The Supreme Archvillain Election.

Each submission will be a supervillain sitting at a huge table explaining why they should be voted as the Supreme Archvillain, then they go into a story, etc. Reprint excerpts and new writers welcome.

6 responses so far