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Doctor Strange (2016)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/28/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/27/2017

Marvel Comics has been around for nearly 80 years, and they have a very large stable of characters. And I'm sure that there are those who feel like they have placed all of these characters in movie. While that's not exactly accurate (although it certainly feels true), the movies released through Marvel Studios (as opposed which have come from Sony and Fox) have certainly brought us many personalities. They started with some that the general public had most likely heard of, and have moved through some decidedly obscure individuals (Face it, comic book nerds, Ant-Man is not a household name.) These gambles have paid off, and now he have Doctor Strange. Can he continue the trend of success?

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a celebrated neurosurgeon, who is also very self-centered and often keeps others at bay, including on-again/off-again girlfriend, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). While traveling to receive yet another accolade, Dr. Strange is in a car accident, which leaves him with severe nerve damage in his hands. Determined that he will be able to operate again, Strange burns through his personal fortune searching for a cure. Strange learns of a patient who was able to walk again and follows the clues to Nepal, where he finds the temple of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). While Strange is doubtful at first, The Ancient One promises to show the Doctor the world of the unknown, which could lead to a physical healing. However, there are also dark forces, lead by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who want to steal the secrets from the temple and use them to unleash hell on Earth. Despite the fact that he's still just a student, Doctor Strange will have to learn to use his newfound powers to save the world.

Even in the Marvel Universe, Doctor Strange is sort of a fringe character. Yes, he's had his own series on several occasion in the past, and yes, he's teamed up with some of Marvel's biggest names, and yes, he was a member of the Avengers knock-off Defenders, but he has still stayed on the periphery of major stardom. And in the Marvel Universe, he has literally separated himself, as he often prefers to stay in his Sanctum and not get involved with the other super-heroes. Thus, he doesn't seem like the first choice to get his own big-budget feature film. That being said, this could have been a very shrewd move on Marvel's part. After nearly 20 years of non-stop comic book movies, there's a very good chance that some members of the audience have grown wary of super-heroes. Therefore, it's interesting to see Marvel trot out a character who is in the Marvel Universe, but not unlike Thor, comes from a very different place and offers a new take on having super-powers.

So, how weird that what we get turns out to be a lot like other super-hero movies? This is definitely an origin story. Even at nearly two hours, this is one of those super-hero movies where it feels that the story is just beginning as the film ends. Part of this is due to the fact that what Doctor Strange is doing is somewhat different from what we've seen in other movies like this. While there are scenes of Strange sparring with Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a fellow devotee of The Ancient One, we are see him checking out old books from the temple's library. Therefore, the movie has to take some time to elaborate on how learning sorcery is somewhat different from gaining/discovering super-powers. We get to know Strange somewhat, but the movie is more interested in developing his personality, as opposed to learning anything about his background -- the fact that he's an arrogant doctor who gets his comeuppance must suffice here.

Still, Doctor Strange is able to skate by on its strong points. It can be argued that Cumberbatch is playing the same character that he always plays, but he's perfect cast as the jerk who is reluctant to learn something new. Scott Derrickson may seem like an odd choice for director, as his resume consists of a bunch of mediocre horror movies, but Marvel likes to make some unconventional choices behind the camera. The visual effects here are top-notch and are very seamless (although I've yet to figure out exactly what turning a city inside out actually accomplishes). The movie contains a nice amount of humor, which helps to off-set the fact that we are basically watching a man have to deal with a disability. If nothing else, the movie is a tribute to the genius of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for creating another iconic character. Doctor Strange is a well-made movie, but it's definitely in the second-tier of Marvel movies.

Doctor Strange never ties up the story with Christine on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Despite the film's dark themes, it is a very colorful movie (take the hint Zack Snyder) and the colors look fantastic here, most notably the blue tones. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very impressive, and the clarity of the image never undermines the visual effects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very muscular track which is not opposed to showing off, especially during the scenes in which Strange is first introduced to the mystical arts. These scenes produce abundant surround sound effects, some of which are very detailed. We also get appropriate subwoofer action during the fight sequences, and a nice use of stereo to highlight things moving side-to-side on-screen.

The Doctor Strange Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Scott Derrickson. "A Strange Transformation" (10 minutes) gives us an overview of the film and sets up the next few featurettes. "Strange Company" (13 minutes) examines the cast and characters, involving comments from the actors. "The Fabric of Reality" (13 minutes) highlights the work of Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne. "Across Time and Space" (13 minutes) takes us on-set to see the actors preparing for and rehearsing the film's elaborate fight scenes. "The Score-Cerer Supreme" (10 minutes) allows Composer Michael Giacchino to talk about the film's music. "Team Thor: Part 2" (5 minutes) is an odd piece which offers a fake interview with Thor...and his roommate. The Disc contains five DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. I can't believe they cut out a scene where a priest is killed. There's also a nice scene where Strange helps a dog. The final extra is a 4-minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long