Marvel goes mystical in Doctor Strange and the addition of superhero sorcery provides a welcome change of pace in a cinematic universe that’s become much too uniform. Reality, along with architecture, is bent and folded Inception-style, with director Scott Derrickson and his effects team providing singular landscapes for comic book clashes. That said, the trippy visuals and thrilling wizardry can’t completely mask the all-too-familiar Marvel staples, including the hero’s arc and a villain who wishes to destroy the world as we know it because…well, because he’s got reasons.
Hacksaw Ridge, a true story about a pacifist who served in World War II, opens with a slow-motion montage of somersaulting bodies on fire. The juxtaposition of content is made all the more incongruent with a righteous voiceover. The intro helps set up the stark differences between the film’s maudlin first half and brutal second half in which director Mel Gibson depicts graphic battle scenes, his first opportunity to do so since 2006’s vastly superior Apocalypto. The clashing contexts fail to connect. Medal of Honor recipient Desmond T. Doss is unquestionably a hero; unfortunately, this dramatization of his heroism feels a little too sanitized despite all of the battlefield viscera.