5:00 PM, 25th March, 2017
A large part of what keeps drawing me back to Disney animation is visual. Moana has superb art direction – full of glittering, sun-drenched Pacific Ocean waterscapes, but the view never becomes monotonous, nor do the bright colours ever hurt our eyes. And the character animation, a longstanding Disney strength, is once again inspired. I can’t not mention the chicken, a creature somehow kept alive by the sheer force of its own stupidity; or the villainous race of – of all things – coconuts. And I was excited to see the seventh Disney animated feature from directors Musker and Clements, whose past work includes The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
Hard to sell this stuff to anyone who isn’t an animation buff, though, so I’ll take a different tack: this is a film that succeeds in transporting us to its own unique and semi-enchanted world, and it does so by drawing heavily on Polynesian mythology, and respecting it, without ever feeling constrained by it. To say the story is traditional is unfair; say rather that it’s archetypal. Moana, the heroine, sets out on a heroic journey, abandoning her people in order to save them. She is reluctantly helped by the demigod Maui – at first more demi than god – and the two of them are effective counterweights to each other; she’s Luke to his Han, so to speak. We also rarely lose sight of that chicken… I can’t imagine anyone walking into this film without walking out grinning.
7:00 PM, 25th March, 2017
After a car crash leaves his hands mangled, gifted-yet-arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) finds his career over and his life in ruins. Desperate for healing, he looks for a solution beyond Western medicine and heads to Nepal to seek out a purported miracle cure. What he finds instead is The Ancient One (Swinton) – an enigmatic sorcerer who opens up Strange’s mind to an unseen world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Discovering his true calling, Strange commences training in the mystic arts, not just to regain the use of his hands, but to also stave off dark forces being conjured by a turncoat ex-disciple (Mads Mikkelsen).
Debuting in comic book form in 1963, Doctor Strange and his trippy, psychedelic world was no doubt a product of the drug-induced haze of the era. But leave it to Marvel Studios to turn another one of their B-list characters into a visually awesome and thrillingly fun big-screen adventure (Iron Man was far from a household name before Marvel’s first film).
From the very first scene it’s clear that Doctor Strange is something different. Characters bend gravity, time and reality to their will, resulting in stunning action sequences that can only be described as Inception meets The Matrix by way of Salvador Dali. Though ostensibly an origin story, the film and its Oscar-calibre cast manage to put a playful and distinctive spin on Marvel’s winning formula for their 14th (!) consecutive hit. So conjure up a portal to the ANU Film Group to experience Doctor Strange on the big screen!