Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Marvel Animation
Release Date: August 14th, 2007
Synopsis: 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.
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Doctor Strange Feature Review
I admit to being sceptical when this feature was first announced – I can literally think of a dozen or so more characters I would rather receive their own DTV that Dr. Strange. I am of the believe that the character works better as a guest star – neither his supporting cast or villains are strong enough to carry an ongoing series and the character doesn’t really have much else going for him, despite a rather nifty costume.
My mind didn’t really change until we saw the preview on The Invincible Iron Man DVD which left me slightly more optimistic for the feature. The word of mouth from those who saw the feature at Comic-Con perked my curiosity further and the guys behind it had delivered before so I bit the bullet and picked it up and I’m very glad I did – this is easily the finest of the four Direct-To-DVD features so far. They’ve done a great job making the character and a rather ho-hum origin somewhat fascinating. I’ve never been one for mystical stories, but this one did intrigue by letting us get a very good look at the central character.
The film starts off with Strange as a jackass and we see his path to redemption – he is obviously a very skilled surgeon, perhaps the best in his field and he is made to eat his humble pie after tasting defeat by failing to find his cure. His frustrations are apparent throughout and are brought out excellently with superb casting with Bryce Dallas in the lead. He’s brilliant throughout, be it as a pompous ass, a frustrated student and finally a Sorcerer Supreme. I know a lot of people have issues with these DTVs but I certainly don’t think the casting should ever be among them. The score is also much better this time around – I found all three of the previous scores to be very flat and was actually hoping they’d consider brining in Kris Carter or William Anderson but Michelmore does a much better job this time around, so kudos to him.
The rest of the casting is pretty much spot on. A special mention must go to Kevin Michael Richardson as Mordo who simply steals the show. It may very well be the best performance of Richardson’s impressive career.
The models are especially nice – I admit I prefer the look Steve Gordon gives most of his characters but there’s nothing un-likeable about any of these. I thought the majority of the characters looked a lot better in this feature than they do in the comics – I simply couldn’t imagine this version of Mordo wearing a cape. Mordo is actually the most interesting character in the feature here – as mentioned above, he was superbly cast, he had a very cool design and he stood out amongst the group – the rest of The Ancient One’s followers were all pretty bland and literally served no purpose other than to die. We don’t get attached to them as characters either – I’ve watched the film three times now and I can’t actually recall any of their names. Given how I think the biggest pitfall of these DTVs thus far is their disappointing villains, it’s good to see it rectified here. I must note that I think the film does a much better job with Wong than I thought it would – a lot of the reviews seem to note that he is much different than his comic book counterpart, which is a good thing to me. I don’t think a tea boy was really needed here – I liked Wong adding a more human touch to Strange’s training – it allowed Steven someone to vent his frustrations towards without The Ancient One telling him how wrong he is. I’m a little dubious about his model though, why make him overweight? It just seems somewhat comical to have a 300lb man jumping off walls.
I was originally worried about what they were going to do with Dormammu here – I thought we might end up with another Mandarin villain here who didn’t have enough screen time to justify his position but the final fight was a very good one, I especially loved this exchange;
Dormammu: Who. Are. You?
Strange: I’m Doctor Strange. Sorcerer Supreme!
It sort of a shame that their fight came at the expense of Mordo, who suffered a disappointing demise. My favourite shot from the movie came for this throwdown though, as Strange uses the Eye Of Agamoto to outclass Mordo and changes his weapon into a bunch of bats, rather smugly. Nice touch.
One of the highlights of the feature is the animation – besides the odd slip up, the feature looks stunning, much stronger than any of the previous three efforts. It’s not quite up to TMS standards but there are several nice little touches here that should be recognised.
Overall, the film isn’t perfect, but Strange is an incredibly difficult character to ‘get’ and the team arguably did a better job than anyone before them. There’s a few minor disappointments but there’s a lot of good in here, certainly worth picking up. This comes recommended from me.