Now, I’m not a fan of Doctor Strange. In fact, the only real knowledge I have of his character comes from the old Spider-Man: The Animated Series cartoon, when he appeared on a handful of episodes, and the odd comic here and there. I got the basic idea of his origin and that’s all I needed. I never really pursued any of his comics or had any real interest in the character. So, when Marvel announced he’d be headlining his own movie, I was pretty indifferent toward it. After viewing the teaser for this movie, Doctor Strange, on the The Invincible Iron Man DVD last year, my opinion changed. It looked excellent! But does Doctor Strange live up to expectations? It sure does!
Peel back the layers of reality, and behold a stunning realm hidden beneath. One of magic and wonder. Of sorcery and enchantment. Of ancient spells, secret doors, and remarkable heroes who protect us from evil. Because this is also a world of dark mysticism, malevolent forces, and unspeakable horrors. And within the shadows around us, a supernatural war is waged. But the balance is shifting. Darkness is winning. Yet there is hope. Join us as Dr. Stephen Strange embarks on a wondrous journey to the heights of a Tibetan mountain, where he seeks healing at the feet of the mysterious Ancient One. But before his wounds can mend, Strange must first let go of his painful past, and awaken a gift granted to very few. The gift of magic. Empowered as the new Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange now tests his limits, rising up against monsters that push at the gates, facing the most terrifying entity humankind has ever known.
If you’re not won over by the synopsis above, have no fear. The movie is great, improving upon some of the mistakes of previous Marvel Animated DTVs. Obviously, this movie is the origin of Doctor Strange, and how he became the Sorcerer Supreme.
We see it all, from Strange’s days as a jerk, ego-driven doctor, to his tragic car accident, and then to his rise as master of the mystic arts. And, yes, the guy is unlikable. So that, in itself, makes it hard to really identify with him, let alone watch a 75 minute movie featuring him. But the story unfolds in the fashion usually befitting an origin movie. We get the training, the betrayal, and his first big battle. And, yes, while some may call that unexciting or bland, it’s quite exciting here. And, along the way, we get caught up in his journey and actually start to like the guy a little bit.
What keeps the movie exciting is the pace. Even though I seemed to be one of the few who enjoyed the previous Marvel Animated DTV, The Invincible Iron Man, it did drag in a few spots and was more than a shade uneven. But it seems that the crew has learned from those mistakes. Most importantly, we’re given a tightly paced second act in Doctor Strange. This is a crucial segment of the movie, since this is where Strange becomes . . . well . . . Strange. And while the second act is pretty solid, it does falter a bit. It doesn’t seem like Strange is really in awe of his surroundings. Perhaps it could be due to his character, but you’d think he’d be more taken aback, even freaked out, but what he’s seeing. Then again, since he’s seen this stuff before, like in the excellent pre-credit teaser, which could be the reason for his lack of amazement. While that was a bit of a problem for me, I liked that he simply gives up at one point during his training, only to be drawn back when a tragic event from his past is put into a new perspective, furthering his drive and helping him accept his new mystic role. Smart touch.
There’s even a cool “Hell Yeah!” moment during the movie’s finale. Strange is facing off against Dormammu, and the evil creature asks who stands before him. Remaining composed, Strange simply says, “I’m Doctor Strange . . . Sorcerer Supreme!” It’s a cool moment, showing that he’s accepted his role, but also that he obviously has a bit more to learn of the Mystic Arts. It’s a cool moment, one fans should appreciate. That’s not the only one, of course. There’s also a couple of great tussle between our protagonist and Mordo. While Mordo is portrayed quite differently here, he’s a different kind of threat for the good doctor.
Of course, a lot of how well the characters come across is based on the performance of the voice actors, which is pretty strong all around. Bryce Johnson gives us a cool, cocky, and jerky Strange, providing a constantly low-key and calm delivery in all the dialogue. Now, that might be the reason why Strange seems rather indifferent toward the mystic arts, but he seems to fit the character just as well. Early on in the movie, in an early scene at the Hospital, he comes across as just . . . cold. It’s just so well done, and really sells Strange’s perception on his medical duties. Kevin Michael Richardson brings us a gruff and tough Mordo, a perfect fit for the role if there ever was one. Hard to believe this is the same actor who gives voice to The Joker in The Batman. Great casting all around.
I have no idea how life-long fans of Doctor Strange will react to this movie. There have been changes made to the mythos, some are even a bit drastic (based on my limited knowledge of the characters). I like that Wong is no longer just a manservant, but someone who can fight alongside Strange if necessary. And, thankfully, he has hair (I never dug the bald look). But they work for the story and the character and, overall, it’s a solid effort all around. Yes, there are a fair amount of nameless characters who die in this movie, but that’s done to not only emphasize the danger, but also emphasize the main characters, as well. And since my knowledge on the world of Doctor Strange is quite limited, I found myself engrossed. It was like discovering this character for the first time. Sure, I’ve seen him in a handful of cartoon episodes and the odd comic crossover, but this seems like the first time I’ve actually gotten to know the character.
As for the animation, it’s the usual quality we’ve come to expect from these movies. There are a few weak parts, though. There’s some CGI that doesn’t meld all that well, such as Dr. Strange’s plane, which looks incomplete. And sometimes the dialogue doesn’t match the lip movements or the background is too zoomed in resulted in jagged edges. Still, there’s some beautiful and even haunting animation. The zombie-fied children look absolutely freaky, for example. There’s also some extreme close ups which look just gorgeous and detailed. So, it’s a mixed bag, but the quality is there.
And, before I forget, I have to note the score. Go out and buy it at the Apple iTunes Store. It’s amazing . . . absolutely amazing. Guy Michelmore’s does such a great job here with the score and it is worth checking out (and should be released outside of the Apple iTunes Store).
The movie is just fun, and tight from start to finish. The movie even has a few scares, a shock or two, and a couple great nods to the comic fans (“Paging Dr. Donald Blake” is my personal favorite). Furthermore, Doctor Strange acknowledges the previous Marvel Animated DTV, The Invincible Iron Man. Well, the acknowledgement is more like an easter egg, and it is best left for fans to discover for themselves. The creative team is improving with each feature, learning from past mistakes and applying that forward, and it really shows here.
Doctor Strange will not disappoint and it comes Recommended. It’s a great movie for either the Marvel Newbie or Marvel Zombie. The creative team obviously cares about doing the character justice, and it’s quite apparent here. However, they also understand that they need to update and refine the concept for the modern audience, something that is no easy task. Of course, they also get the most heat from this, with fans angered that they’d make changes to an established character’s back story. But it has to be, and always has been done. This isn’t the first time an origin has been altered, and likely won’t be the last, either. For those who really like the movie, the door is open for another Doctor Strange movie, which I would gladly support. When you head out to pick up Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, lay down the extra bucks and pick up this title, too. As lame as this pun in, I will say that, yes, the doctor . . . is in. Make an appointment with Doctor Strange!
The Blu-ray release of Doctor Strange is similar to the DVD release of the movie. In fact, save for the high-definition transfer of the movie, it’s basically the exact same release, save for a couple of the perks that come with Blu-ray (the higher-quality transfer, packaging, different menu designs, etc).
The audio and video transfer appear pretty solid, but not perfect. The major problem is the color banding of the image, which means the colors don’t blend as well as they should. There was also some slight pixelization, but, aside from that, no other defects were noted in the video. The audio, however, sounds pretty excellent. The action sequences, particularly the big sequence at the end, sound flat-out amazing, with audio coming from all around the room. Also the quiet scenes are quite stunning, especially when the only sound is blowing wind or the scratching of a pen on paper.
The extras are on par with the usual Marvel Animated Features through Lionsgate Home Entertainment, and, well, are slightly disappointing. There is so much more information that should be presented on these releases and, instead, we get either un-related extras or minimal production information.
First up is the “Best of Marvel Video Game Cinematics,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Cinematics, which are basically cut scenes between levels in a video game, from Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends II are presented here. I will say that, well, as cool as it is to see these cinematics on Blu-ray, it seems like filler to me. Yes, the animation is pretty excellent and they do look cool, but since they’re just taken out of context from the game, they seem…so useless being here. However, fans of the video games will really enjoy having these in high-quality.
Next up is the best extra on the disc, the “Who Is Doctor Strange” featurette. The featurette looks at the comic book origins of Doctor Strange, and why he was picked to headline his own movie. Interviews from a host of artists and writers, both from the comics and the cartoon, are presented. Stan Lee, of course, appears, but he’s so restrained here. He’s not bouncing off the walls, but is actually a bit calm and collected. It’s a nice change, and he actually provides some insight on why he chose names for a few of the characters. It’s a pretty nice featurette which, personally, I would kill if it was longer. I love these types of extras, and I think they could have easily milked a 30 – 60 minutes featurette instead of one lasting barely 15 minutes.
After that is the “Doctor Strange Concept Art,” a two-minute montage of artwork, storyboards, and character designs from the movie. A great little extra, but, of course, too short. I love this stuff, and would like to see a lot more in future Marvel Animated Features releases.
After that is a first look at Avengers Reborn, which, since this preview, morphed into Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. We get an early look at the production of the film and, as you can see by watching this featurette, many things have changed since then and now. Regardless, it’s a solid look at the upcoming feature, a featurette that literally divided the fanbase when it was first announced, which is frankly a shame since the final product is quite excellent.
Finally, we have a trailer gallery featuring trailers for the previous Marvel Animated Features DTVs and a few other Lionsgate features. Nothing too exciting, but it’s nice to have all the trailers for the Animated Marvel Movies (I’m a bit of a trailer nut)
Overall, it’s a fair selection of extras on the Blu-ray, but it is essentially the same bonus features from the Doctor Strange Blu-ray release. They really need tp add more content on these releases, especially with many people seeing out this character for the first time. There’s plenty of material that can surely be slapped on. Personally, I’d also like to see a commentary track bless one of these releases soon. I’m sure there’s a lot that be discussed concerning the creative process of the movie. While the “Cinematics” extra is sort of useless, the rest is worth checking out. Since the extras only add up to about 25 – 40 minutes in total, it won’t take long to go through them. The disc itself looks nice, with a solid menu and a great presentation. Of course, the main attraction is the feature itself, and you should base your purchase on that, with the extra features a nice bonus for the fans. I just wish there was more, though. Thankfully, the main feature Doctor Strange is a solid movie , easily making this release Recommended.
Doctor Strange is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.