Rover Film Reviews: Doctor Strange and Arrival



Recent releases feature superheroes and UFOs

Doctor Strange (PG-13)

On November 4, Marvel released its newest superhero movie, Doctor Strange. With the recent saturation of Marvel films released, Strange needed to be impressive and, even more so, innovative. Overall, the film presents a mixture of successes and failures. The protagonist, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), is unlike many of the other superheroes who tend to be rich, unbelievably talented, and smooth with women. Rather, Dr. Strange is a genius neurosurgeon who has a big ego and trouble relating kind words to his romantic interest, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).

The entire story revolves around Dr. Strange’s tragic injury to his hands. After going to failed extreme lengths to try restoring them to their proper use, he decides to journey to Nepal to seek the help of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). He unexpectedly finds himself under her tutelage and is shown and taught things that make no logical scientific sense. These include the possibility of entering another bodily realm or using magic to protect another dimension of the world—which even the Avengers cannot do.

Although the film gives its audience some fascinating CGI visual landscapes and concepts, it seems to reuse certain cinematic experiences from other films like Inception. The narrative is entertaining and includes many entertaining fight scenes, but it still lacks a sense of originality and even reality. For example, Dr. Strange’s ability to grasp magic so quickly makes the audience aware that they are very much watching a film, and Palmer’s acceptance of Strange’s new magic powers seems highly unlikely. The film’s villain, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), not only has typical “villain lines,” but even his makeup is conventional.

Despite the lack of creativity in both his physique and desires, one of the strongest scenes occurs when he (Kaecilius) and Dr. Strange first meet and battle. He tells Strange to come to the “dark side,” where he would gain eternal life. Whether intentional or not, Kaecilius seems to represent the Fallen Angel trying to persuade a man full of goodness always to desire more and even to become stronger than natural law.

Overall, Doctor Strange is a fun, charming film that will entertain. However, it lacks what many Marvel movies have tended to lack: creativity and depth.

Rover Review: 2.5/4 Stars

Arrival (PG-13)

Released November 11, Arrival tells the story of a linguistics professor, Louise (Amy Adams), and her encounter with 12 globally spread out and unidentified objects hovering earth’s orbit. Called in by the United States government to work with the scientist Ian (Jeremy Renner), Louise begins to think of how to communicate with the objects rather than take action. After “working” with the objects and teaching them how to communicate in the English language through their own interstellar way of writing, Louise asks the fateful question, “What are you doing here?”

During different parts of the film, the viewer sees that Louise is dealing with a heavy past: the death of a child, what might be depression, and solitude. The more she communicates with the objects, the more memories from the past flash into her mind and onto the screen. Adams’ impeccable acting is so subtle and gentle that one may even forget that she is acting and that this “invasion” is purely fictional. The way Adams looks at the objects as they send her signs is more memorable than what the objects themselves actually look like. The signs of the objects look like inky black circular writings that seem to mean nothing. However, Louise discovers that they actually say more things and deliver more meaning than a single word would.

As Louise continues to decipher what the objects are trying to tell her, the audience enters more deeply into her head, memories, and future. Eventually, Louise must come to recognize that because she realized that communication is more important than war in maintaining harmony in the world, the objects chose her to spread that message. The film’s white, grey, and blue cinematic tones match well with its purpose and message and serve to give its audience a means to view a complicated human problem with a serene and simplistic background.

Arrival asks its viewers to think about time, grief, communication, decisions, and understanding. Although the film is well made and worthy of a watch, the objects’ purpose in the film remains a bit unclear at the end and may be seen as pointless. However, the beauty of the narrative is that viewers are left thinking and deciding what the meaning is and how it directly applies to their own lives.

Rover Review: 4/4 Stars

Crystal Avila is a senior studying film and television. She is very excited for the new Scorsese film, Silence. She plans to watch many movies this December. If you need a suggestion or review, email her at cavila3@nd.edu.

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