Another day, another trailer for the new Suspiria. Turn on all the lights and feast on this:
There’s really not much to add about this latest slice on intensity since we talked about Suspiria just the other day (see here), but damn, Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s classic of Italian gothic horror is looking more impressive with everything we hear about it and see from it. I couldn’t be any more sold on this baby.
Which means I’ve reached peak saturation point on PR for Suspiria, and this is definitely the final trailer I’ll be sharing. I want to go into this as cold as possible (especially considering my familiarity with the source material), but suffice to say I’m going to be first in line come November 2nd.
Take a look at the brand new, long-awaited teaser trailer for the remake of Dario Argento’s classic horror, Suspiria:
So let’s be clear on this from the outset: this one is going to divide people. On one hand, the film has tremendous word of mouth: early reaction to just a preview scene of the film, at Cinemacon in Las Vegas, saw viewers outraged, traumatized and, allegedly, vomiting (of course, that could just be a piece of classic old ballyhoo), it has a very intriguing director, Luca Guadagnino, lauded for his previous work including the Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name, and the writer is the showrunner of the superb AMC series, The Terror, David Kajganich. Plus the film has a killer (pun intended) cast headed by Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Jessica Harper (star of the original).
Alongside this we have the reported reaction of one Quentin Tarantino who, according to an interview with Guadagnino in the Italian publication, La Repubblica, had an emotional response to his film:
“I showed it to Quentin Tarantino. We’ve been friends since our jury duty at the Venice Film Festival. I was nervous but eager to hear his advice. We saw it at his place and his reaction warmed me. He was enthusiastic about it, in the end he was crying and hugged me.”
Well, that’s not too shabby.
Finally, we have a trailer which, is nothing else, is suffused with a peculiar and mysterious atmosphere and some genuinely creepy imagery, and at the very least it certainly isn’t trying to copy Argento’s colour palette, as this is all about your wintry browns and greys. I mean, this thing has a lot going for it, right…!?
On the other hand, these guys are messing with a much-loved, bona fide classic of Italian horror cinema (in fact, of just cinema). Dario Argento’s colour-splashed 1977 original, co-written with the great Daria Nicolodi, has wormed (pun intended again, sorry… if you’ve seen the original) its way into the affections of cinema-lovers for its outrageous visuals, sound and dread-drenched atmosphere.
I held a showing of the original at one my regular Dave’s Music & Movie Nights screenings, here in Norway, a few years back and the reaction of viewers to Argento’s unsettling masterpiece was palpable.
I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that Hollywood is never going to stop with its obsession for remakes, and so long as the originals aren’t hidden from view I’m of the mind that it can be of genuine interest to see artists take a new spin on much-loved favourites. Without this kind of thinking we wouldn’t have John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and aren’t we all grateful for those!? Of course, the downside to that thinking gives us Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, about which, the less said the better (don’t @ me, okay!?)…
Either way, the new Suspiria from Amazon Studios is a bold move that’s bound to be divisive and might just be something special. Personally, I’m ready to have the shit scared out of me. So, show us what you’ve got come November 2…
Many who know me might suggest I was always going to give this movie an easy ride. Doctor Strange has been one of my most beloved characters since I was first introduced to him sometime in the early 1970s. Let’s face it, I’m an easy mark for a movie featuring anything to do with Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts, right!?
But, as excited as I’ve been about seeing the good Doctor onscreen, I was always going to be this movie’s worst enemy, sitting in the dark of the theatre daring it to take a wrong step with the Sorcerer Supreme, challenging it to weigh up against forty years of expectation. Doctor Strange has lived and breathed in my imagination for decades, so my warning to director Scott Derrickson and the Marvel team might have best been summed up by Yeats: Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Thankfully, I needn’t have worried, Doctor Strange delivers as faithful a translation of Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s creation as a fan could ever wish for, and embellishes it with thoughtful meditations that give this version of the character some important textures.
The thrust of the plot follows that of the comics, and sees talented but arrogant neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange lose the use of his hands in an accident but gain a new life as he travels to the mystical Kamar-Taj to study the teachings of The Ancient One.
As Strange learns to use his newfound powers he comes into conflict with one of The Ancient One’s ex-students and uncovers a threat to the very existence of our reality.
Ultimately what makes Doctor Strange work is that beyond the far-out visuals and imaginative sparkle, Derrickson and the Marvel team have crafted a remarkably human story. Director, script and cast combine to give us a set of characters we care for and the storytelling is gifted with many grace notes of humour and small, human moments. Benedict Cumberbatch shines (sometimes literally) as he enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe, breathing a fully formed life into Doctor Stephen Strange even before the event that takes him on his spiritual journey.
Likewise, both Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor are magnificent as The Ancient One and Karl Mordo respectively, both actors doing a lot of heavy lifting to fill in their unscripted humanity. Likewise, out of necessity of script mechanics, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, fills in a lot of blanks through sheer will of performance. I can only hope she is given more to do in the sequel, because here she teeters dangerously on the edge of being wasted, and McAdams deserves far better than that. Benedict Wong is superb value too, as a version of Wong thankfully and necessarily much developed from the early comics.
The one actor given short shrift is Mads Mikkelsen, which also highlights the film’s one unfortunate weak point. With so much screen time given to introducing Strange and his supporting cast of characters, we’re never allowed to creep beneath the skin of Mikkelsen’s villainous Kaecilius. This is a charge often levelled at Marvel villains of course, and unfortunately Doctor Strange isn’t going to buck that trend. Thankfully, this is balanced out by the long game developed for Ejiofor’s Mordo, and if you want the full effect of this you should most definitely stay in your seat until the very end of the credits for the vital scene which will no doubt kick off important events for the sequel. Also of note is the final title card, which promises that: Doctor Strange will return.
For a megalithic blockbuster, Doctor Strange has also emerged as a rather personal movie. Director Derrickson’s well documented faith and spiritualism both shine through and inform the film, adding fascinating and thoughtful layers to the story that needs to function for the franchise. The plot is playful with any number of ideologies and both studio and audiences should be happy that such an intelligent, contemplative fit was found for the character.
This thoughtfulness spills through into the climax of the film, which veers beautifully away from the usual CGI slam-fest (though it involves plenty of CGI) to bring about a truly unusual (oh go on then… downright Strange) resolution, true to the character and true to the notions of ego and selflessness at the heart of the mysticism which propels the film, care of Derrickson (and scriptwriters John Spaihts and C. Robert Cargil).
Of course, the real spiritual heart of Doctor Strange in the comics lies in the astonishing visuals envisioned by co-creator, Steve Ditko, and it’s from here the film truly dazzles. In this age of CGI bloat and fix-it-in-post visual effects, it’s increasingly rare to walk out from a movie feeling you’ve seen something wondrous and fresh, and Doctor Strange delivers both feelings in bucketfuls: from travels through glorious LSD landscapes of the psychedelic multiverse to breathtaking battles across ever-expanding M.C. Escher cityscapes, the film is a treat for the senses.
Those senses include your hearing, as Michael Giacchino (composer of wonderful scores for films such as Pixar’s The Incredibles and the recent Star Trek reboot – as well as, allegedly, Marvel’s forthcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) lavishes the film with one of the studio’s most effective scores, including a Doctor Strange theme (all harpsichord, Hammond organ, sitars and jingle-jangle guitar) that you’re sure to be humming as you leave the theatre.
They say you should be careful what you wish for, but as an almost lifelong fan of the good Doctor, I could not have hoped for a more thrilling, magical and human translation of the story that’s played out in my psyche for so long.
Buy the ticket, take the ride, you’ll be glad you joined Marvel and Doctor Strange for this trip.