I’ve never been a big fan of Marvel’s Doctor Strange character, though I do have memories of bumping into him in his various TV and made-for-TV incarnations throughout childhood and adult life. I have a very vague, yet fond memory of his 1978 made-for-TV movie that Shout! Factory officially released last year on disc. During adulthood I’ve run into this character in Marvel’s 2007 animated movie (didn’t care for this version at all) and on certain episodes of that abysmally animated (action animation mostly) Ultimate Spider-Man toon. If they ever did a worthy and well animated movie or series I believe I could become a fan, but I’m not holding my breath on that. My favorite incarnation, however, is Charles Band’s Doctor Mordrid (1992), which started out as a Doctor Strange film until “complications” prevented Band from doing a direct adaptation.
So, here we are in the 21st century and it’s hard to believe it’s taken this long to get a big budget movie about “superhuman” neurosurgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme Doc Strange into theaters. And this is yet another Marvel origin story. If that statement sounded like I’m bored with origin tales, well, yeah, I kind of am. Not all origin tales are tough to watch, I love Batman Begins (2005), but for every Batman Begins there’s a Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). At least with a lackluster origin movie that generally means the sequel will be better. I rank Strange above Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014). Guardians was entertaining, but I could not watch it again. With Strange I can conceivably see myself viewing it again for it’s a visually arresting movie despite reminding me of the mind-bending architecture of Inception (2010) and the astral fights of The Frighteners (1996).
They did an excellent job choosing Benedict Cumberbatch to play Strange. It’s funny how some actors are made to play certain superheroes. Christopher Reeves will always be the Superman, and I can’t imagine a more perfect fit than Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier for the X-Men. Chris Evans does make a perfect Captain America and there really is no one else who could play Deadpool other than Ryan Reyonlds.
Strange is a renowned (and egotistical) neurosurgeon you would want hand’s down to put you back together if you ever busted your thinker or your spine, but not someone you would necessarily want in your life as a friend or lover. He has an underlying douchebag problem, one that finally catches up with him one night as he’s driving like a bat out of hell to some doctor’s function, driving like he’s immortal basically. One glance away from the road puts him in the hospital with serious nerve damage to his hands making him useless now as a surgeon. Desperate, he cuts ties with his on-again/off-again girlfriend/fellow doctor, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and heads to Nepal when he learns a man named, Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), cured himself of his paraplegic-ness by something he did, or encountered, in Nepal.
Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One, an immortal and the current Sorcerer Supreme, who along with the ones she’s trained, defends the material plane against mystical menaces. She slowly rids Strange of his ego, and in the course of his training we learn he has an inherent knack for the mystical arts, which puts him in the perfect position to help the Ancient One with a little problem she currently has that goes by the name of Dormammu (voiced by Cumberbatch), a powerful evil being from the Dark Dimension who seeks to add Earth to its list of conquests. Dormammu is seen only at the end as a giant, elaborate CGI “face,” but his lackey, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a student of the Ancient One who turned to the “dark side,” is the main villain Strange and his friends face off with during most the movie.
And speaking of friends, there’s fellow sorcerers Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) who fight by his side. The latter is a librarian who keeps tabs on all the mystic books the Ancient One’s students read.
The eye-candy is the magical spells and incantations our magic-users, good and evil, throw at each other, with the mirror world fight scenes being the most eye catching. This is where the Rubik’s Cube-Inception-bending-architecture-thing shows off its metal. All the effects are basically on the money, but despite the FX entertainment value the movie failed to grab me on a deeper level. It’s not a terrible movie by any means, but it’s certainly not as great as a big budget live action Doctor Strange movie should be.
I assume the end-credit sequence with Thor is a set-up to Thor: Ragnarok (2017) coming this November.
On November 28th Disney/Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases Doctor Strange in a solo DVD, a 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD Combo, a Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD Combo, a 3D Blu-ray Best Buy Steelbook Combo, a Blu-ray/DVD Best Buy Steelbook Combo and two separate Target Exclusives, one for the 3D Combo and one for the Blu-ray Combo!
Video/Audio/Subtitle: 1080p 2.39:1 high definition widescreen—7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 French Dolby Digital, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital—English SDH, French, Spanish subs
Extras included . . .
- A Strange Transformation (9:42)
- Strange Company (12:37)
- The Fabric of Reality (12:32)
- Across Time and Space (13:21)
- The Score-cerer Supreme (9:51)
- Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look (7:28)
- Team Thor: Part 2 (4:38)
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (5 scenes/7:52)
- Gag Reel (4:12)
- Audio Commentary by Director Scott Derrickson