Faith · Movie Review · Movies · Star Wars · The Rise of Skywalker · Uncategorized

Best Movies of 2019 + The Best of the Decade

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These are a list of the best movies that I saw in the theater in 2019.

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From my original review, “The Kid Who Would be King is the perfect movie for families to share together. It brings back the adventure and fun without neglecting important themes that parents and kids can discuss long after the film is over. Movies like this need your support, so take friends and family and enjoy.”

 

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From my original review, “Shazam! is bewitching. It feels like the type of superhero movie that Steven Spielberg might have made in the 80s. The movie’s greatest strength is its stars. Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman and Zachary Levi as Billy/Shazam, make this movie work. They are the heart of the film, in a movie that’s just as much about family, as it is about being a superhero.”

Don’t miss The 602 Club review as well!

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From my original review, “With the three hour run time and the contrivances to overcome Thanos, there are some issues. The movie does feel a bit long, but it also plays out better than Infinity War. Where that movie left you feeling unable to focus because there were so many characters and not a moments rest, Endgame is able to take its time. This may be it’s greatest strength, that you don’t feel rushed, you’re allowed the opportunity to care about what’s happening because you’re not being whiplashed between stories every other minute. For my book, Endgame is the poignantly satisfying conclusion to this part of the Marvel saga I wanted. It is not the perfect movie but it’s the one we deserve.”

Don’t miss The 602 Club review as well!

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Tarantino has crafted a love letter to the 70s as his alternate history version of Sharon Tate’s fate will captivate you from frame one. Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt give the performances of their careers in this film. This is a long movie, but I was never bored. Tarantino has created something special here, make sure you don’t miss it.

 

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I fell in love with this movie. This film is based on the life of Sarfraz Manzoor and how his love of Bruce Springsteen’s music helped change his life. Set in the middle of the 80s, Javed Khan is the son of Pakistani immigrants, in a small town outside of London, struggling to find his place in the world, when a friend introduces him to the music of The Boss and it completely changes his perspective. It’s one of the best “feel good” movies of the year.

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The hidden gem of the year. The movie is loosely based on Zack Gottsagen’s desire to become an actor, which for the film has been changed to wrestler. Gottsagen shines and Shia LaBeouf is outstanding. This is absolutely a joy to watch and should not be missed. Poignant and funny, make sure you see this movie!

 

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Joker is a staggering work. This movie transcends the comic book genre completely. Joaquin Phoenix is nothing short of brilliant in the title role. He gives the best performance of the year as a man who descends further into the depths insane clarity, leading him to become the most iconic villain of all time, or does he? One of the very best movies of the year.

Don’t miss The 602 Club review as well!

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This is the incredible true story of the Ford Motor Company’s challenge of Ferrari at Le Mans to try to become the first American car company to win the iconic 24 hour race. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are spectacular as Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. This is one of the best movies about racing I’ve seen and another one of this year’s very best films.

 

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Frozen II is the better of the Frozen films. The movie tackles what it means to grow up, find your place in the world and doing the next right thing. The music is not quite as good as the first movie, but the themes and the animation more than make up for it. This movie is perfect for families and will leave them plenty to talk about once it’s over.

Don’t miss the Cinema Stories and The 602 Club review!

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This is the best film of the year in my book. The movie is inspired by the 1998 article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod. It tells the story of journalist Lloyd Vogal who is tasked with profiling Fred Rogers. Through his interactions and conversations with Fred, his eyes are opened to the ways in which his life is broken and his relationships are fractured. The messages in this movie show just how timeless the ideas of Mr. Rogers are and just how much they are needed in our very broken world. Make sure you watch with plenty of Kleenex.

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The first sequel to Jumanji was a complete surprise and thankfully, The Next Level is as well. A rare continuation of a series that is just as good as the previous entry. Honestly that all comes down to the writing which allows for the story to evolve the characters and teach them new lessons and not just feel like a bigger, louder remake. The perfect movie for fun with friends and family!

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

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This will probably be the most controversial choice on this list, but honestly, I really like this movie. I think what astounds me the most is the way Abrams was able to take elements from The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens as well as ideas from the previous two trilogies and wrap it all up. The movie does suffer from the problems that have plagued the sequels from the beginning, in that there was not a plan in place before they began, so this film has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Because of this, it should have been 3 hours or possibly 2 movies. In the end, I’m happy with it, I have found my “in” for the film and truly enjoyed my time with these characters. I’m thankful that I’ll enjoy Abrams’ sequels as a duology for years to come.

Don’t miss The 602 Club and Aggressive Negotiations‘ reviews!

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For me, this is Eastwood’s best film since Gran Torino. This is one of the most timely movies of the year. Watching the media convict someone in the court of public opinion, highlights what has sadly become common place in today’s society. Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell give phenomenal performances and this may be the best I have ever seen from Olivia Wilde. This is an important movie that should not be missed.

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Like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Little Women is a joyous, heartfelt, sublime film. It’s message of “Do it for someone else” as well as it’s reinforcement that we are not meant to go through life as lone rangers is absolutely perfect. The cast is outstanding and Greta Gerwig has cemented herself as one of the foremost directors in Hollywood. This is in my top three of the year.

Honorable mentions: Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Late Night, Toy Story 4.

My list for best of the decade.

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. Interstellar
  3. Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition 
  4. Skyfall
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road
  6. Inception 
  7. The Descendants 
  8. The Dark Knight Rises
  9. Mission Impossible: Fallout
  10. Joker
  11. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  13. Logan
  14. Man of Steel
  15. A Quiet Place
  16. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  17. The Spectacular Now
  18. Tron Legacy
  19. Moonrise Kingdom
  20. Hell or High Water
  21. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  22. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  23. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  24. The Social Network
  25. The Man from UNCLE
Avengers · Faith · Marvel · MCU · Movie Review · Movies · The 602 Club · Uncategorized

Avengers: Endgame – Review

avengers_endgame_ver44_xxlgThis is a tricky one to write when many people have still not seen the film, so no worries if you are reading this, there will be no spoilers. Look for the spoilers on The 602 Club podcast next Tuesday. If you listen to my podcasts or have read this blog, you know I am not afraid to be critical of Marvel movies when I feel it is warranted. Case in point, I felt like Infinity War was, “ a mixed bag that has the effect of one being served a gourmet burger and then only being given a minute to eat it. There is so much happening, yet there’s so little pay off, leaving the audience unfulfilled, wanting a better movie and resolution. We all know the conclusion is coming in 2019, so now that the compulsory is over, we wait and wait and wait.” It was frustrating to feel this way, specifically since I just didn’t feel much about the movie, other than ambivalence and this left me trepidatious for Endgame.

So with that preamble, I know you are are all waiting eagerly for my thoughts on the end of the Infinity Stone Saga…. it is satisfying. That’s really what we want after this twenty-one film, eleven year investment, right? We want to be satisfied emotionally and thankfully Endgame is everything Infinity War was not in that department. The movie will capture you from start to finish. Personally I am happy with where my favorite characters are at the end and that is enough.

With the three hour run time and the contrivances to overcome Thanos, there are some issues. The movie does feel a bit long, but it also plays out better than Infinity War. Where that movie left you feeling unable to focus because there were so many characters and not a moments rest, Endgame is able to take its time. This may be it’s greatest strength, that you don’t feel rushed, you’re allowed the opportunity to care about what’s happening because you’re not being whiplashed between stories every other minute. For my book, Endgame is the poignantly satisfying conclusion to this part of the Marvel saga I wanted. It is not the perfect movie but it’s the one we deserve. Endgame is rate 4 out of 5 Cap Shields.

DC Comics · Faith · Movie Review · Movies · Shazam · Uncategorized

Shazam! – Review

MV5BMjIyNTkwODY1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUyMTA5NjM@._V1_DC Comics saw its last movie, Aquaman obliterate expectations and it all began with doing early screenings for fans. Now with Shazam!, two weeks away and garnering strong, early buzz, they’re hoping to repeat that success by giving fans the opportunity to see their latest movie. I was lucky enough to see it durning one of these screenings and the question is, ” Is the magic strong with Shazam! or does it fizzle out?”.

Shazam! is bewitching. It feels like the type of superhero movie that Steven Spielberg might have made in the 80s. The movie’s greatest strength is its stars. Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman and Zachary Levi as Billy/Shazam, make this movie work. They are the heart of the film, in a movie that’s just as much about family, as it is about being a superhero.

Like all good 80s movies, this one does not shy away from the PG-13 label, in fact there are a few moments that it leans into it harder than one might expect, with some truly scary moments that might be too much for an audience that is much younger than the label.

Because the movie is not out till April 5th, this review is brief and vague but don’t let that fool you, DC Comics and Warner Brothers have a hit on their hands. Shazam! charts its own course and while rooted in the DCEU with wonderful references, at the same time, it’s completely its own. David Sandberg knew exactly how to take the source material and bring it to life in a way that feels fresh, fun and yet grounded in heart the whole time. Shazam! is rated 4 out of 5 stars!

Christianity · Faith · Film · Mister Rogers' Neighborhood · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Review

Wont-You-Be-My-Neighbor-691x1024I grew up on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a child. In fact, my mother is fond of reminding me that my love for the cardigan can be directly linked to the show and asking for the Mr. Rogers type of sweater when we were shopping. I loved this show as a child. The trolly, the props he used as representations of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the puppets and the man himself. I remember getting a lump in my throat the first time I saw the trailer for Won’t You Be My Neighbor as memories of watching the show flooded back, so I was keen to see the film as soon as I could. I’ll say right up front, it’s brilliant. I may be slightly biased, growing up loving this man and his show, but I don’t think I am. I think this is exactly the kind of movie we need at this point in time.

Love You Neighbor as Yourself

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church. He actually put  his aspirations to the ministry on hold when he saw television and was inspired to get into children’s programing. He was disheartened to see the things geared towards children and helped start The Children’s Corner, which aired on the public television station WQED. He would leave the show and finally pursue his theological degree, but he never lost his passion for television. In fact, in may ways, his pulpit for all those years was living out the first and second commandments given by Jesus in the Gospels,

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 34-40

You can see the importance of the show even being called, neighborhood. Mr. Rogers modeled the life of love and faith in the way he dealt with his “neighbors” on the show. In a world scared to go out it’s front door most of the time, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a reminder of just what we’ve lost. Fred Rogers treated everyone with the respect they deserved, not because they had “earned” it, but because they were a child of God, created in his image and therefore was his neighbor, who he was called to love. Fred Rogers may never have given a sermon, but his life was one, living out the two great commandments to the best of his ability.

Children

The most striking thing about the film is the way it shows Rogers deep and unwavering commitment to children. Even though he was in television, he actually didn’t like it all that much. He deplored the way it treated children as mini consumers, what was peddled as children’s programing and how it did more harm than good for them. He rightly understood just how impactful what a child sees, is to them.

He spoke to children about subjects many struggle to talk about, assassination, divorce, death, just to name a few. He never talked down to children, but especially through the puppets like Daniel Tiger, he was able to express the deepest feelings of their heart on a plethora of topics. The show was never slow, but purposefully deliberate and intentional. In many ways it helped foster children’s abilities to think about whatever he was saying because it was not too quickly rushing to the next thing, allowing them to ponder and truly mull the subject in their minds.

The reason for all of this was that Rogers believed completely in the solemn responsibility it was to speak into a child’s life. What a child watches, sees and hears will have a massive impact on who they become. Because of this he felt that anyone producing content for children should not take it lightly. In a society full of “children’s” programing, Won’t You Be My Neighbor asks that we as a society reevaluate what we’re allowing our children to be subjected to from the earliest age and and if it’s really appropriate or beneficial for them.

The most important message from Rogers to children ties into Jesus’ second great commandment and it was his consistent refrain at the end of every episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

“You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just your being you/yourself. There’s only one person in the whole world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can like you just/exactly the way you are. I’ll be back next time. Bye-bye!”

Fred Rogers understood the human dignity that was endowed by our Creator because we are image bearers of God and that each person does not have to earn love, but is loved. He showed this to  the children watching is program, everyday, for years and it’s a message needed now, more than ever.

Conclusion

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a 5 out of 5. Seek it out, watch it, encourage others to do so as well. The world sorely needs more Fred Rogers in the world, who’s kindness, vulnerability and grace still reverberate as strongly now as they did when he was alive.

 

Christianity · Faith · Film · Lady Bird · Longing · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Lady Bird – Review

vMYzdmdmednGmEr0FZaLFZj2ptZLady Bird is the new film from director Greta Gerwig in a semi-autobiographical work staring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Mefcalf (Gerwig has said nothing in the movie happened to her, but the feelings and core of the movie did). The film is an exploration of the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter, struggling to find understand each other.

Longing

Lady Bird is not actually her name, it’s the name she’s given herself. She’s determined to find out who she is and be that, on her own, with no help from others. She has a profound longing in her soul to be known, loved, understood by herself and others. Her “Lady Bird” moniker is one of her many ways of trying to satisfy this lacking sense of being and belonging. Yet, as we see throughout the movie, her attempts to satiate her desire is through molding herself into what others want. She tries to be what different boys want, reading their same books, smoking what they smoke and this is not limited to just boys. Lady Bird does the same thing with girls, trying to be their friend but “hating” what they hate, telling lies about where she lives to seem “cooler” and shunning her actual life. Her search for meaning leads her from one quicksand to the next, continually finding herself drowning in the disappointment of another false identity.

She works to not only define herself through others, but wrestles with this internally. She  wants to be good at things she already knows she’s not. There’s a brilliant scene that exemplifies this when she’s talking to one the nun’s, at her Catholic school,

Lady Bird: What I’d really like is to be on Math Olympiad.
The Nun: But math isn’t something you’re terribly strong in.
Lady Bird: That we know of yet.

Of course we already do know she’s dismal at math, since we’ve already seen her in math class and the grade she received proves the nun’s point. Lady Bird, like many of us, seeks to be everything she is not because what she is, seems completely incomplete.

Lady Bird is not the only one with this sense of longing, permeating their lives. Her mother grapples with working double shifts at the hospital in an attempt to keep the family afloat. Her father’s depression has worsened because of his inability to find a job, in an culture that sees him as too old to contribute. Lady Bird’s best friend pines over her teacher who is nice to her,  a wishful desire for a father figure that is lacking her life. The film is replete with characters who are aching for something they might not even be able to put a finger on.

The end of the movie beautifully brings all this longing into focus. Lady Bird has gotten her wish to attend college in New York, “…where culture is…”. She’s at a party and starts a conversation with a guy, asks him if he believes in God, to which he says no, because it’s ridiculous and her reply is most interesting. She says, “People go by the names their parents made up for them, but they don’t believe in God.” The next morning, she wakes up on a hospital bed, not remembering how she got there. She leaves and as she walks the streets, asks a man what day it is, he say’s Sunday. She finds her way to a church and as she’s there, you can see the wheels turning in her head. Maybe life is not about being what others want me to be, maybe it’s about being who I was made to be.

To accentuate the point she calls her parents and leaves them a message on the answering machine. She calls herself by her given name Christine for the first time in the movie. She’s dropped all pretense about who she is and begun to accept it. Where she is from, how she was raised, her parents, all of it. It’s a powerful moment.

DI_0SwQVoAAQ9DzA bit earlier in the movie, she’s asked her mother if she likes her. Her mother says to her,

Marion McPherson: I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.
Lady Bird: What if this is the best version?

At the end, Christine accepts who she is, for who she is and it seems that it will actually free her to finally become the best version of herself. She recognizes the name that her parents gave her, which earlier she equated with a belief in God. Maybe she’s realized that the longing to be loved, known and accepted can be fulfilled, if she’ll will take hold of it. She’s been fully known from the beginning of her life. In that conversation with her mother, she wanted her mother to say something nice and her mother ask her, “Do you want me to lie?”. The ugly truth about love is that it does not lie to protect our feelings, it pushes us to see our faults and loves us too much to leave us in them. It’s only by knowing the bad news about who we are that we can be ready to accept the good news.  Tim Keller puts it this way,

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Conclusion

The more I think about the movie the more I like it and that’s always a good sign. It’s well acted and moving. I highly recommend Lady Bird, it’s rated four and a half out of five stars.

abortion · Faith · Film · Forgiveness · Movie Review · Movies · Planet of the Apes · Uncategorized · War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes – Review

war-for-planet-of-the-apes-poster-5Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on the film.

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I’ll admit, in 2011 when Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released, I was a sceptic. Honestly, the trailers did nothing for me, leaving me unimpressed and unmotivated to see the movie in the theater. So I didn’t. I ended up seeing the movie on a whim with some friends, at home, because we had heard so many people raving about it. It won us all over, so much so that after it was over we turned on the original Planet of the Apes because we were so enthused by what we had just seen. Fast forward to 2017 and the last film in the trilogy has been released, War for the Planet of the Apes, completing the saga and leaving me with the same desire, to watch the original to connect the dots.

Mercy

The movie begins with humans attacking an ape base. The apes are able to repel the invaders and Caesar sends four captives back to the human colonel as a peace offering. His message is simple, allow us the woods and the fighting can end. Sadly, there is no mercy in the Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson, only hate and hubris. The Colonel cannot let the apes live, cannot show mercy. He’s driven by fear, fear of the virus, apes and even himself.

There is a moment between Caesar and the Colonel when Caesar has been captured and the Colonel explains his rationale for what he’s doing. Humanity has begun changing again. The Simian flu virus has begun to evolve and it’s leaving humans unable to speak. It’s unclear whether it’s truly affecting their reasoning as well, but the Colonel has no mercy on them, even his own son. He willingly sacrifices his own son and anyone else that is caught with this virus to try to protect the rest of humanity. He speaks of learning from history but his actions shows he clearly hasn’t, as his first reaction with these humans as well as the apes is to just kill what he is afraid of or doesn’t understand.

Caesar finds himself mirroring the Colonel and Koba (from the previous 2 films). As man and specifically the Colonel, continue to take more and more from him, he finds it harder to let go of his own hate and show forgiveness and mercy. Yet, there is a moment in the film, where he’s faced with a similar situation as the Colonel, does he leave his son to die to save the rest of the apes, or does he find another way? He chooses the love of his son and all the other ape children over the “smarter” call. Caesar embodies the idea that the right thing is the right thing to do, even if it’s the hardest thing.

Even after all this, Caesar cannot let go of his hate for the Colonel, so with all his people making their way to safety, he seeks revenge, one last time. What he finds is poetic justice, the Colonel has succumb to the enhanced virus. It takes all Caesar’s will and mercy to not pull the trigger and just walk away. It’s a powerful moment. Caesar let’s go of his hate and thirst for vengeance. It brings to mind Deuteronomy where the Lord says, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution…”. Here the vengeance is swift and sure, as man’s hubris and god-playing are rewarded with a destructive avalanche and a virus, robbing them of their faculties.

The Unwanted  

war-planet-of-apes-novaOne of the most beautiful messages of the film comes from the mute girl Nova, that Maurice adopts after the apes kill her caretaker that has tried to kill them. This unwanted girl has the updated Simian virus and Caesar would leave her to die (as would the Colonel), yet Maurice shows compassion and love for her. Yes, she is mute, but just because she cannot speak, does not mean she has no value. So many children are lost today because they are unwanted or their parents are told they will be born with a debilitating disease. Nova, because of Maurice’s mercy turns out to be instrumental in saving not just Caesar but the rest of the apes. She might not be able to speak, but her mind is still sharp allowing her to learning sign language from the apes. All humans, born and unborn, sick, infirm or strong and viral, have dignity and the right to life. As with Nova, who might they turn out to be if given the chance to live?

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16

The unwanted, the unloved, the accident, the sick, they are all made the same, in the image of God and who have we lost, simply because they were unwanted?

It is also a powerful reminder of our relationship in relation to God. As the Apostle Paul puts in the Book of Romans,

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We were once enemies of God, yet he shows us mercy and grace, that in our most rebellious and unloveable, he offers forgiveness and reconciliation. A reflection of our closeness to God is our reaction to the most unwanted. Our capacity for mercy, increases as our understanding of our need for it from God expands. For God, no one is unwanted.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. john 3:16 & 17

The Movie

This movie has so many other themes I could talk about, but honestly, just go see it. It’s a triumph of filmmaking. The effects are some of the best ever seen on screen. There was never a moment I didn’t believe what was happening. The music was moving and perfectly matched to the film. War for the Planet of the Apes is the perfect conclusion to one of the best film trilogies in years. It’s rated 5 out of 5 Bad Apes.

Disney · Doctor Strange · Faith · Film · Marvel · MCU · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Doctor Strange – Review

doctor_strange_imax_posterThis review contains Spoilers.

Listen to The 602 Club episode here!

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us many types of heroes. There are men in super suits, a boy bitten by a radioactive spider, a man irradiated by gamma rays, a being brought to life by an infinity stone, a norse god, a former Soviet super spy and a guy that’s really good with a bow, plus a girl that’s been made, in-human. Yet in all of this there has been something missing, something that’s a little esoteric and outside reality and this year Marvel fills that void with it’s newest hero, Doctor Strange.

Perfect Fit

Doctor Stephen Strange is the quintessential man of the 21st century. He’s a materialist that believes there is nothing outside his five senses that he or science cannot explain. He’s arrogant and a complete narcissist, incapable of having anything in his life be more important than himself and to top it off he takes no accountability for the actions that lead him to loosing everything; because paying attention to your phone on a windy road while it’s raining is someone else’s fault. The beauty of the film is how he will be confronted by his beliefs and way of life and find it lacking.

All There is

The dominate view in the modern, scientific world is that there is nothing beyond the five senses that cannot or will not be explained by science. The idea of a soul or anything beyond the material is rejected. Strange is firmly in this camp until he finds himself broken from the accident, unable to heal himself though his intellect and medicine. At the end of his rope, he finds hope in another way. The Ancient One literally opens his mind to whole new realms, dimensions, plains of existence and shows just how little he truly know about the nature of reality. Watching him learn how just how inadequate he is brings to mind Isaiah 55: 8-9,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Strange must unlearn what he has learned about the universe, in fact Mordo who first finds him and brings him to The Ancient One tells him, “Forget everything that you think you know.”

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Letting Go

During his training, Strange struggles to let go of his feelings of inadequacy because of his disfigured hands, leading him to have difficulty with even the simplest magic. The Ancient One tells him that to find the power he must surrender control before he can gain it back. The idea is ridiculous to him and his “modern” sensibilities, but it mirrors Jesus’ words in Matthew 10, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Who’s Number One

One of the most important moments in the film is an interaction with Strange and The Ancient One. Strange has begun to excel in his magical studies but his arrogance as a doctor transfers itself to arrogance as a sorcerer until he is challenged to think differently.

The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.

Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?

The Ancient One: It’s not about you.

It’s an incredible scene that speaks to the biblical idea seen from the beginning of time, that it’s not about us it’s about something much bigger. Watching Strange learn his lesson as he confronts Dormammu, who he has lock in an eternal time loop to save earth, is perfect. Strange is willing to spend beyond eternity, dying over and over again, if that’s what it takes to ensure the safety of the planet. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Strange has finally been able to let go of his arrogance and narcism, realizing that there are more important things that just himself.

The Movie

With all of the praise for the themes, one would assume that the rest of the movie is just as good, but it’s only partially the case. Sadly, the villain suffers the “Marvel Syndrome” which is, a villain that’s not all that interesting or dynamic. And unfortunately this also the case with our main protagonist. Doctor Strange is an arrogant jerk, very similar to Tony Stark and his turn in the movie, while thematically well done is not as impactful as it should be. In the end it seems to easy and the turn lacks any sense of depth that one would expect. The movie gets lost in the kaleidoscope visuals, forgetting that the real story is the characters, leaving the viewer feeling cheated. Doctor Strange feels less like it’s title would suggest and more like another formulaic Marvel origin story.

Luckily Benedict Cumberbatch was cast and immediately has the charisma needed to carry the movie, without him, the lack of depth would be detrimental. All together, the cast is solid with Tilda Swinton, as The Ancient One, the true stand out, even though she does live  beyond this film (which is a loss to the series). The music is good, Michael Giacchino has created one of the more memorable themes in the MCU. All together the movie is thematically wonderful yet suffers from rushed character development and more focus on empty CGI spectacle than heart. Doctor Strange is rate 3.5 out of 5 levitating capes.