Doctor Strange [HD DVD]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (20th August 2007).
The Film

The Marvel comic book character known as Doctor Strange first debuted in "Strange Tales" #110 in July of 1963. Like many of the classic characters he was created by Stan Lee and wrote his adventures as the legendary Steve Ditko brought him to life with his artwork. Strange was a very different character than previously developed at Marvel, he wasn't really a superhero, he didn't get his powers by accident and stories revolve around spiritual encounters and magic. Differences aside the character was very much a Marvel design as he had flaws that grounded him and made the character more accessible to readers much like Peter Parker had teenage problems and the "X-Men" faced discrimination as mutants, Stephen Strange was a jerk, he wasn't a very nice guy and his ego got the better of him. Until he lost the use of his hands, this would send him crashing down from his metaphorical tower as he searches for a means to get his life back.
Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange becomes a Sorcerer Supreme and defends the Marvel Universe from mystic threats that include demons and other evil manifestations with the use of sorcery. The comic books featuring the character ran for a decent amount of time, he also made many appearances in other Marvel publications helping out heroes and providing consultation. However the character never really broke the barrier to become a top-tier book like "X-Men", "Spider-man", "Daredevil" or "The Avengers" among others, at best he enjoyed a smaller cult following. This is reflected in the characters presence in media as well, aside from a TV-movie made for the CBD network in 1978 he only managed to pop up in a few episodes of some Marvel animated series' such as "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" (1981-1986), "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" (1994-1998) and also "The Incredible Hulk" (1996-1997). Although a live action film was at one time ready to go into production back in 1986 with a script written by Bob Gale but for some reason or another it never happened. The good Doctor has not been the star of his own solo project since the 1978 TV-movie, until now. Lionsgate bows the fourth in a line of Marvel animated features and "Doctor Strange" gets his own movie.
Remaining somewhat faithful to the character's comic book origin, Stephen Strange is a Doctor who does work on abnormal cases, when one night he witnesses a magical battle. Meanwhile at the hospital kids are entering comas mysteriously, they are all linked to a dream of a figure on fire that Strange sees when examining a young girl. Despite pleas from the family he is unable to help the little girl. That night he sees the horrific face yet again and the children as ghosts, distracted he crashes his car in a terrible accident that leaves him unable to use his hands. His world comes crashing down as he spends his time, effort and money in search for anyone and any procedure that can fix his hands. At his lowest point he is greeted by a mysterious man that leads him to Tibet to learn from a master who can help Strange, and he embarks on a journey that will enable him to utilize mystic powers to battle the fiery figure he once saw, the Dormammu, and help save the kids from their bondage.
As mentioned this somewhat faithful to the original origin, obviously a few changes such as period setting are made and the filmmakers expanded the character's opening story arc to reveal more of Stephen before he became the Sorcerer Supreme. This is an origin tale, so it does suffer from the classic origin pitfalls, there isn't much action and a lot of time is spent developing the character, his dilemma and the route taken to become what he becomes. There's almost an hour that passes until Strange is taught the mystical arts and even that is very brief, in the meanwhile we have a few action set pieces involving other characters but essentially this is a story about Stephen Strange and his journey from ego-centric jerk to conquering sorcerer.
Fans of the comic will likely be pleased with this interpretation as it doesn't veer too far from the original source material, even the villain Dormammu (who becomes the Doctor's arch-nemesis) is faithfully represented here in animated form as the fallen Faltinian being who takes the form of a fiery energy, the creature controls the Dark Dimension which is also seen in the film. A few other touches are incorporated into the film that comic fans will pick up on that other might not notice or notice in passing.
The animation style is 2-D line work that is set amid a few digital backgrounds, even though the line work looks traditionally drawn, I suspect it was created in the computer (although the making-of doesn't go into that). A few backgrounds look off, they give the appearance of backgrounds from video games like "Quake" (mainly for the texture) for example concrete 'looks' like concrete but a few building are too stylized and give off an artificial vibe. The mismatch in styles is noticeable and I'm not sure I like it.
Other than that, it's a fairly rudimentary origin story, a few fight scenes thrown in for the kids, visual and verbal references for the fans but I felt they didn't capture the 'magical' elements very well.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this high-definition transfer is presented in full 1080p at 24/fps and has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression. From what I've seen CGI animated films look terrific on Blu-ray, I wasn't sure what to expect from a 2-D animated film. The overall image is slick, but some lines appear jagged sometimes on the characters and sometimes on a few backgrounds, which is also a problem seen on some DVD releases of 2-D films. The plus side is that the colors are much more vibrant and blacks are nice and deep without any noise to speak of. Some dark scenes were a little hard to make out though, but overall it's a serviceable transfer and that's really about all that can be said of it.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 as well as English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX encoded and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX encoded surround. My current home theater set up can decode DTS-ES tracks but not DTS-HD tracks, these tracks are backwards compatible and although I cannot listen to them to full capacity it's still a very powerful mix. The audio on this disc is excellent, dialogue is clean, clear and distortion free but this film is an animated film with action, scenes involving magic and a well produced score so the track is nicely active and aggressive when it needs to be. Ambient sound provides depth along with the score and the effects surrounds and action scenes come to life with full range. DTS tracks are always solid options and this is no difference, perhaps one day soon I'll be able upgrade my receiver to one that supports DTS-HD playback to its fullest extent.

Optional subtitles are included in English and Spanish.

Extras

Lionsgate has included a few supplements that include three featurettes, some video game cinematics and a couple of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these extras.

First up we've got "The Origin of Doctor Strange" a featurette that runs for 14 minutes 2 seconds and takes a look at the character's origin from comics, as well as the development of the character and his classic stories as told by Lee and Ditko. The filmmakers also tell the audience about the film and what fans can expect.

Next up is "A First Look at Avengers Reborn" a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 44 seconds and promotes the release of the next animated film, this time new characters are created, the children of the Avengers and set in the future. This new film is targeted at younger audiences but the filmmakers hope will also appeal to older die-hard Marvel fans as well.

Following that is "Doctor Strange Concept Art" featurette which is a reel that runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds and features pencil sketches, character drawings and backgrounds from early design to fully rendered. This clip is set to music and dialogue from the film.

Also on this disc is a feature entitled "Marvel Video Game Cinematics", these are the "cut' scenes from video games that follow a story line, I'm not entirely sure why this is included on this release as an extra but they are interesting and are split into three sections:

- "Best-of" is basically a glorified trailer for several Marvel themed video games and features footage from the games that lasts for 3 minutes 2 seconds.

- The second section is dedicated to scenes from the "X-Men Legends 2" video game and includes:

- - "Game Scene 1" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds and is a scene featuring Magneto, Sabretooth and Mystique.
- - "Game Scene 2" runs for 1 minute and features Beast versus Apocalypse.
- - "Game Scene 3" runs for 1 minute 35 seconds and features a city under attack.
- - "Game Scene 4" runs for 1 minute 6 seconds and features Archangel.
- - "Game Scene 5" runs for 1 minute 21 seconds and features Sabretooth and Beast.
- - "Game Scene 6" runs for 14 seconds and features Apocalypse getting electrocuted.
- - "Game Scene 7" runs for 1 minute 22 seconds and is a epilogue to the storyline.

- The final section is entitled "Marvel Ultimate Alliance" and features the following scenes from the game:

- - "Game Scene 1" runs for 1 minute 59 seconds and features Dr. Doom.
- - "Game Scene 2" runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds and features S.H.I.E.L.D
- - "Game Scene 3" runs for 1 minute 9 seconds and features Nightcrawler.
- - "Game Scene 4" runs for 1 minute 31 seconds and features Loki.
- - "Game Scene 5" runs for 1 minute 40 seconds and features, Spider-man, Captain America, Thor and Wolverine.
- - "Game Scene 6" runs for 1 minute 51 seconds and is a epilogue to the storyline for the game.

Rounding out the film's extras are two bonus trailers for:

- "Ultimate Avengers 2" whcih runs for 1 minute 40 seconds.
- "The Invincible Iron Man" which runs for 1 minute 24 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: A Extras: C Overall: B-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.