A week in film – 2016, week 45

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aside (and more on that later), this week has been all about the heroes. That isn’t particularly surprising considering my background, but it has thrown up some interesting points. Firstly, it’s clearer to me than ever that the DC TV shows – well, OK, at least The Flash and Supergirl – have a better understanding of what one of the key points of superhero fiction is than their cinematic counterparts. Secondly, Marvel can still make a damn movie.
I am, of course, talking about Doctor Strange. Not typically one to wait to see a Marvel movie, I actually came to this a week after release, taking the opportunity to make it the first film I saw at the BFI IMAX (for those unsure of why this is such a big deal, at 25m it’s the biggest cinema screen in Britain). And OH MY GOD, what a decision. From the opening scenes, a mind- and city-bending action sequence in London, to Stephen Strange’s deeply surreal and astonishing introduction to the multiverse, to the ultimate Hong Kong showdown, this film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The VFX work is up there with some of the very best examples, if not sitting right at the top – it is a guarantee that you will not have seen some of the visuals in this film before. Apart from that, though, the origin story for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme isn’t exactly groundbreaking, aside from it being the first Marvel origin story in ages. He is really the only character to really be fleshed out, even if possible (OK, probable) paths for future character developments are hinted at. Poor Rachel McAdams gets basically nothing to do. These flaws aren’t really excusable, nor do they ever stop being noticeable, but there’s such a strong dose of humour and action and, yeah, those visual effects, that it’s still a really, really enjoyable movie. And opens the MCU up to, well, quite a lot more. I’m fascinated to see where this leads the other Marvel characters.
After that there’s Supergirl, which is continuing to be the most entertaining corner of the DCTU. One of the best parts of Supergirl is the constant reliance on hope, and holding its protagonists up as figures of great symbolic power. The season one finale used this to good effect, with Supergirl reminding humanity of its own faith in itself to bring them back from Kryptonian subjugation. This second episode of the second series uses this too, beginning to establish sinister organisation Cadmus as the villains who want to get rid of any alien involvement in Earth, and attempting to bring both Supergirl and Superman to their knees to remind humanity that they’re fallible. Apart from the fact that their actual Metallo-based plan seems kind of stupid (geographically dividing characters is not the same as emotionally dividing them, which, while difficult, probably would have been more effective as an villainous plot), the resulting team-ups of Martian Manhunter and Superman and Kara and Alex are really fun action sequences. In a world where cinematic Superman is stoic and immovable, and quite simply does not appear to be in any way lifting the people of Earth to new heights, it’s still really, really nice to see his TV cousin bringing that power – and showing that it can, in fact, be done.
The Flash, usually so good at also bringing this hopefulness, is doing a nice job of bringing the alternative – asking what the cost of blind faith can be. Barry’s fairly selfish (harsh, but true) attempts to change time, and his assumption that he can get back everything he wants, has many consequences, and the various timelines – including the Flashpoint timeline, where the series opens – are beginning to mesh together. Honestly The Flash is kind of dizzying right now, but I’m pretty interested in where this Doctor Alchemy arc is going, as he attempts to bring the metas of Flashpoint into…well, whatever timeline we’re in now. That timeline isn’t quite the Darkest Timeline, but it’s not far off – Cisco’s grief-stricken, Joe and Iris are estranged. Caitlin’s reveal caught me by surprise, but is actually kind of great. All of these core characters have lost something as a result of Barry’s impulses – and learning that they can never get back to where they were is a really harsh, and fairly powerful, representation of the cost of time travel. The Flash has always been tied its positivity up with sadness (which is why it works so well), and I think the fact that it has embraced this hope makes the loss of Flashpoint even more significant.
But on a completely different note – my God, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has reached new heights of cringeworthy horror and it is majestic. Rebecca’s intense love – or really, whatever the hell it is – and her perception of a new love triangle with him and Greg brings one of the most ridiculously mad songs (and lots of triangle puns), and a whole bunch of scenes which are almost painful to watch. I’m back to feeling how I felt when I started watching this show – I just want someone to make sure Rebecca gets help, rather than finding her funny – but oh God, I have to continue to watch this character car-crash. The songs are just too catchy not to.

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