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"Doctor Strange" DVD Review
August 10, 2007 by James Harvey
Now, Iím not a big fan of Doctor Strange. In fact, the only real knowledge I have of his character comes from the odd comic book appearance and the old Spider-Man: The Animated Series cartoon, when he popped up on a handful of episodes. I got the basic idea of his origin and thatís all I needed. I never really pursued any of his comics or had any real interest in the character. So, when Marvel announced heíd 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, 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 youíre 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 Strangeís 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, itís 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 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 doesnít seem like Strange is really in awe of his surroundings. Perhaps it could be due to his character, but youíd think heíd be more taken aback, even freaked out, but what heís seeing. Then again, since heís 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.
Thereís even a cool ďHell Yeah!Ē moment during the movieís finale. Strange is facing off against Dormammu, and the evil creature asks who stands before him. Remaining composed, Strange simply says, ďIím Doctor Strange . . . Sorcerer Supreme!Ē Itís a cool moment, showing that heís accepted his role, but also that he obviously has a bit more to learn of the Mystic Arts. Itís a cool moment, one fans should appreciate.
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 seemingly a bit drastic (based on the previous knowledge I have 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, itís a solid effort all around. Yes, there are a fair amount of nameless characters who die in this movie, but thatís 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, Iíve seen him in a handful of cartoon episodes and the odd comic crossover, but this seems like the first time Iíve actually gotten to know the character.
The animation is excellent, save for a few weak parts, and the story is 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 (ďPaging Dr. Donald BlakeĒ is my personal favorite). Furthermore, Doctor Strange acknowledges the previous Marvel Animated DTV, The Invincible Iron Man. Thereís continuity there, almost like an easter egg, but it is best left for fans to discover for themselves. This is probably the best Marvel Animated DTV to date. 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.
Sadly, I have to say, the DVD extras are a bit of a letdown. The featurette on Doctor Strange was great, but I do wish it was longer. I really enjoy behind the scenes information, and I wouldíve liked to have heard more. And while it is cool, I thought the video game cinematics were sort of useless. The concept art featurette was, again, nice to see, but too short. Rounding off the extras is a first look at the next animated Marvel DTV Avengers Reborn (which Iím looking forward to, regardless of the unnecessary bashing heaped onto it) and a trailer gallery (why is the trailer for Delta Farce included?). The extras are a bit lacking, something a commentary and longer featurette would cure.
Lacking extras aside, the audio and video transfer appear pretty solid. Whether itís an action scene or a quiet one, the audio is sharp and clear. Whatís solid about these DVDs is the attention paid to the sound mixing. Every little detail is thought of, whether itís the rustling of leaves or the crumbling of a building, the sound is thorough and clear. The score is, of course, amazing. The video is just as solid, with little to no artifacting or shimmering.
Doctor Strange is one movie that I would easily Recommend. Itís a great movie for either the Marvel newbies or Marvel Zombie. The creative team obviously cares about doing the character justice, and itís 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. While the extras are a bit of a letdown, the main attraction is the movie itself, and you wonít be disappointed. And yes, the door is open for another Doctor Strange movie, which I would gladly support. As lame as this pun in, I will say that, yes, the doctor . . . is in. Make an appointment with Doctor Strange!
Doctor Strange is available on DVD and Blu-Ray August 14th, 2007. Doctor Strange is released through Lionsgate in the United States and Maple Pictures in Canada.