Please enjoy episode 3 of Time Well Spent with Ronald.
Star Wars continues the story with its first big budget feature length spin-off. ‘Rogue One’ bridges the gap between episodes 3 and 4 of the main canon and tells an adjacent story in the star wars universe. While this story doesn’t assists main canon its primary goal is to flesh out the rich star wars universe.
Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) receives its second film with Doctor Strange. One of the lesser known heroes (as far as mainstream knowledge of superheroes go) Doctor Strange is a bridge for the MCU from the known villains, factions, and heroes to new and more “mystical” unknown villains, factions and heroes. As the Avengers will need time to regroup and prepare for their eventual clash with Thanos, the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and Doctor Strange will reset the stage for the coming conflict in “Avengers: Infinity War”.
A few words about “Doctor Strange”:
- Strange pacing (no pun intended) – there was no marking of the passage of time. From the time doctor strange was in training to the time he mastered his craft seemed especially fast. Some of this was explained by his superior intellect, however in some ways this felt like cheating. This made portions of the movie feel rushed. By the time we reach the main conflict, the film does not feel like it got to this point naturally.
- Benedict Cumberbatch played his role well, but did nothing new. – a spin on his typical take of being brilliant as is the case in most of his roles. He was more arrogant than usual in this, but with a heart of gold as is standard with marvel heroes. This shtick is pretty familiar coming from him, however what made it better was imagining his interactions with the rest of the folks in the MCU. He will fit right in.
- Stark change in genre – Typically Marvel movies are action/adventure films with a touch of fantasy. Sure there are portals, talismans, stones and other mcguffins however these are all typically more seasoning than sustenance. Doctor Strange falls deeper into the category of Fantasy/Adventure, where much of the plot is driven by the mysticism.
- Excellent special effects – Imagine if all of the coolest portions of the movie ‘Inception’ that had to do with bending time and space were used over and over as a method of physical combat. Between this, and the brilliant colors and time moving backwards, this film visually is stunning. Watching these scenes was very enjoyable.
- Sets up for next phase well – This film does a good job of expanding the universe. With some of rules set by what is established in Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange builds larger on this theme by setting rules in the “multiverse”. Routinely using the portals they create and artifacts they use for battle, Doctor Strange gives a glimpse into where the MCU is going. Much of the universe has been driven by physical actions and characters fighting back physical forces, however Doctor Strange doubles down on the mystical doors opened by Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Forgettable conflict – It almost didn’t feel like a conflict much as obligatory first level challenge for the new hero. Even the bad guys weren’t completely fleshed out as much as they were placeholders standing in place as stereotypical movie conflict. By the end of the film this becomes unimportant as what is most important is introducing a new direction for the MCU.
Writer’s note: For those of you that have not read our previous piece on the series ‘Black Mirror’ you can do so by clicking here. This piece talks more about the show as a whole and gives an entry point into watching the series.
To pick up where we left off last, the first episode of the new season of ‘Black Mirror’ entitled ‘Nosedive’ immediately re-establishes the tone set by the previous two seasons and Christmas special. Using a bit of a despondent score and a sanitized color aesthetic immediately you are reminded that we are being showed a view of our possible future. One of the differences of this episode from previous episodes is how bright and cheery it is, as well as its use of sanitized language. However as the show continues it becomes obvious that the cheeriness is a possible wink to dedicated viewers who know things will only continue to fall apart. While the first episode of season three boasts the only real “happy” ending seen on this series as the season continues the show continues to shine.
A few words about ‘Black Mirror’ (Season 3):
- Satirized technology – In many episodes of this season the way technology is used is greatly advanced. This show very much plays with the “what if” factor with regards to where technology is going. Questions like “What if the entire windshield of a car were used as a screen?” to “What if NFC technology were standard in all business transactions?”. This is done effectively because most times no attention is drawn to the advance in technology itself, but rather these portions are spinkled into the show like seasoning for the viewer to enjoy.
- Continues to cover the trajectory of technology -The majority of the episodes of this season cover where technology is going. This is done through using “satirized technology” as well as playing with ideas of our interactions with each other changing based on technology. This is enjoyable because at first glance you can view an episode and think to yourself “This would never happen”, but after continuing to watch will change to the thought of “Isn’t this already happening?”. Black Mirror does an excellent job of asking the question “How far is too far?”
- Covers current theories about technology and human interaction – As stated before, the question of “Isn’t this happening already” is understated in some episodes however in a few episodes it is the main question. These could be considered to be the allegorical or metaphorical episodes. These episodes do a good job of providing commentary to our current state by telling us a cautionary tale. A good example of this being effectively done are in the episodes of “Shut up and Dance” and “Hated by the nation”
- Stays consistent with the tone of the rest of the series – With the exception of “Nosedive” (and as far as the spirit of the show even “Nosedive” meets this mark) the tone of the show is still dark and unsettling. Everything from the aesthetics to scoring to ideas, while this show is easily binged watched, the ideas of the show will leave a lasting impression on you. A combination of thinking through these ideas while processing what is on the screen will definitely leave you feeling a certain way. For dedicated viewers this will be something easily done and in most cases enjoyable. However getting used to the dark tone of this show for new viewers may take some adjusting. Unsettled, is the best description of feelings after watching even the brightest episode of this season.
- Experiments with multiple genres – Season 3 does a better job of experimenting with different genres of television and film. This is done while masterfully remaining the same show. You will travel through multiple genres including horror, romance, and even police procedural (esque) episodes all while still hitting the points stated above. Above all the tone remains the same, which is remarkable when considering that it legitimately is crossing genres.
- Diverse casting – Race and gender in casting are not an issue in this season (nor was it ever in this show) People are placed in the roles that are best for them and the viewer has no need to be concerned with their race or gender. This is also the case for leads in each episode. To be clear, 2 of the 6 episodes have white men lead characters. 3 of the 6 episodes have women lead characters. 2 of the 6 episodes have black lead characters. This is done without a shoehorn and gives the show a very relate able feel across the board.
- Immersive world building – Each episode is a world unto itself. Each world is built so effectively that a whole season could be built around each premise. This is not unique to season three, however it is on great display in this season. The ideas are bigger than the vehicles themselves and because of this, the stakes of each episode feel real and weighty. This allows for you to be completely immersed in one episode, then end the episode and completely immerse yourself in another episode. There is no inherent need to watch the episodes in order, however I believe they were set up in the order they are in an extremely effective manner, and I would recommend watching them in the order presented on Netflix.
- Boiler plate boxes checked (great acting, great direction, great writing) – Without saying, direction, writing, and acting are impeccable on this show. It would be difficult to go through each episode to pinpoint some favorite moments. However for each episode to only have about one hour to establish characters, plot, and story it is done without feeling rushed or like an afterthought.
Black Mirror season three continues to be Netflix at its best. It is an underrated show that not everyone will enjoy because it is about way more than what you are being shown on the surface. I strongly encourage all of you to begin with season 1 as a means of getting the tone and direction the show intends to take. This is not a show for your kids, at all, not even a little, do not let them watch. 4.75 of 5 stars. (note this is an increase from 4.5 from the original Black Mirror post)