Strange, Peculiar, Fantastic Triple Bill

A trio of 2016 films, recently released to rent. Did they live up to their names?

Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016) is the latest new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it's a solid rather than brilliant entry to the series. Here we get his origin story as we see arrogant neuro-surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) forced to search out more spiritual elements in the world when a car crash ruins his career. The result is heavy on the special-effects (winning a visual effects Oscar in the process), but somewhat light on charm as our hero takes on various bad guys in a battle for control of something-something in the astral something. Perfectly watchable guff, but not likely to challenge the big boys in the MCU. If it were a doctor, it would be a small-town GP, rather than any sort of high-flying consultant.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton, 2016) is a so-so adaptation of Ransom Rigg's best-selling novel, which based it's fantasy story around some odd real-life photographs Riggs had collected over the years. It was a diverting enough premise, but the film struggles to make it work on screen, resulting in a mutant X-Child time-travel story which limps along sporadically to lacklustre effect. None of the peculiar children are particularly memorable, the plot is muddled and Samuel L. Jackson on villain duties can't decide whether he's supposed to be scary or funny, ending up being neither. It's a disappointing effort from Burton, who would have seemed tailor-made for tackling such an 'outsider' film, base don his previous work.

Having finally run out of milk, the Harry Potter cash cow has now been forced to calve, resulting in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (David Yates, 2016). And much like a new calf, this new franchise bounds about enthusiastically and aimlessly, but tries not to stray too far from its mother. Eddie Redmayne is the (super)naturalist magician Newt Scamander, whose hunt for strange creatures leads him to New York in 1926. There he stumbles upon some secret wizardy goings-on involving various dangerous things which could mean the end for the no-Maj world as we know it. Or something. A bit overlong and muddled, but maybe I'm just not enough of a Potter-head to get it. Perhaps like its mother franchise before it, it will be less wobbly on its feet as it grows and will produce better quality milk.


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