REVIEW: Doctor Strange
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been very careful and deliberate as it introduces mass audiences to over 75 years of comic book continuity and conventions. Wisely, we had a handful of super-heroes before we had a team and after some hints about outer space, we had a specific look with Guardians of the Galaxy. Sooner or later, once “Stephen Strange” was name-checked in Captain America: Winter Solider, we knew a peek at the supernatural side was coming.
When Doctor Strange finally arrived last November, it was an amazing visual triumph that nicely walked us through some of how magic worked while offering up an origin story that showed a man’s hubris turned into something better. While the broad strokes make Strange and Tony Stark nearly identical, their journeys are vastly different with the former far slower to accept the consequences of his actions.
But the film, out now on disc from Disney Home Entertainment, is also the study of conflicting ideals as Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) comes to accept his new role and responsibilities while an ally, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), sees things vastly differently and sets up a future conflict.
The film, from writers Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson, leavens the heavy supernatural with doses of humor, usually offered up by Wong (Benedict Wong). We also get to see how much Strange has changed and how accepting denizens of Marvel Earth have come to accept the fantastic through Strange’s colleague and former lover Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
While drawing much from the early Stan Lee-Steve Ditko issues of Strange Tales, there are pieces unique to the film, from Palmer to the silly sling rings needed to remain in another location. Disappointingly, the relationship between Strange and his teacher, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), is all-too-brief.
Strange’s search for healing is also one of redemption, counterpointed by Kaecilius’s (Mads Mikkelsen) fall from grace. He and his cypher disciples seek enlightenment and power from the Dark Dimension, exposing the connections the Ancient One has with its ruler, the Dread Dormammu (Cumberbatch). There are rich complexities in the story even if Kaecilius’ personality is two-dimension in comparison with so many of the other characters.
The visually sumptuous production fits in nicely with the rest of the MCU although it is let down by a rote Michael Giacchino score that doesn’t enhance the story nearly enough.
The post credits sequence with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) firmly connects this film to the greater MCU and apparently sets up his appearance in November’s Thor Ragnarok and next summer’s Avengers Infinity War. How supernatural, mythology, and super-science blend should be interesting.
The film has been released in a variety of formats but the Blu-ray has a fine high def 1080p transfer. Given how much goes on through visual effects, it’s good to be able to discern all the detail. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack is a fine companion and makes for a good viewing experience.
The amount of bonus features is pleasantly surprising starting with the commentary. There’s a multipart look at the making of the film that is a little more surface than depth but has good information and BTS footage including A Strange Transformation (9:42), Strange Company (12:37), The Fabric of Reality (12:32), Across Time and Space (13:21), and The Score-Cerer Supreme (9:51).
There is also a brief Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look (7:28) that tries to put things into perspective with a distinct lack of specificity.
For those who liked the Team Thor short, we now get Team Thor: Part 2 (4:38), the best being Thor explaining Civil War to an elementary school class.
There are some interesting Deleted & Extended Scenes (7:52) and a nicely edited Gag Reel (4:12).