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Doctor Strange (Blu-ray Review)

Doctor-StrangeDoctor Strange is a Marvel comics character I was fully aware of, knew what he looked like, kinda understood his powers and the like, but knew not much of and backreading or the details of him.  Couldn’t tell you his villains or allies or big arcs he went through.  I believe I did see that 1970s TV movie they made for him back in the day which didn’t really stick with my brain much.  So, this is one of those that is exciting because I have no fandom attachments going in and can just enjoy what they give me and really question nothing at all.  What really appealed to me was their choice of director as well as the insane visuals on display when the trailers began to drop on us.  It was a movie that screamed “I MUST SEE THIS IN 3-D!!!”.  And when I went to the theater I did.  But, here today I’m going to talk about the 2D Blu-ray release of the film.  A film you can pre-order and have for yourself on release day, February 28th!

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Film 

Doctor Strange, the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange, whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident renders his hands useless. When traditional medicine fails him, he travels to the remote Kamar-Taj in search of a cure, but instead discovers the mystical arts and becomes a powerful sorcerer battling dark forces bent on destroying our reality.

Doctor Strange overcomes a rather “typical” origin story to cast a visual tale that proves itself to be one of the most unique entries into the Marvel canon.  Said origin tale winds up zipping by, hampering our lead for a while as kind of a dick, but is able to rise about and become much more than that.  With a character as obscure (Maybe people have heard the name, but sure the “general” cinema goer is a novice) and a world as crazy as Steven Strange’s, audiences definitely need to get up to speed and slowly learn things as to get on board.  Therefore, the origin story is warranted.  Though, movie fans and comic fans may be starting to figure out that many of their characters’ origins tend to overlap and feel a tad repetitive.

Though, if you’ve never seen any other Marvel movie (I don’t know how), Doctor Strange’s best asset is how self contained it is.  While a reference is dropped here or there, this stories leans on no others other than its own.  End credits scenes aside, the film begins and ends and feels complete.  Yes, there is a sense of wonder and door opened for further adventures, but Doctor Strange clearly starts and finishes.  Its sorta a rare thing to see this far down the line.  That’s why its one that I think people will like for the sheer fact its a complete piece of film and not some bridge movie being the link or extension of something else.

Visually, Doctor Strange is AWESOME.  Director Scott Derrickson goes for the jugular on the weird, wild, crazy and trippy and never holds back.  If there was a Marvel movie to get high and watch, THIS IS IT!  This movie crosses through so many dimensions and has so many bizarre effects, all feeling unique and self sufficient.  On the big scren this movie was thrilling just to watch even out of context.  The 3D was really well realized and quickly became one of the top 5 3D experiences I’ve ever had at the theater.  On home video, its not near as cool, but it should be said that most of it still holds up and being able to see things bare unlocks a different appreciation for the work done here.  The powers and action are like nothing we’ve seen in Marvel at this point, and it almost feels refreshed and recharged heading into the future.  I feel it may have an effect on Thor: Ragnarok.

I’m high praising this film, but I do have myself a qualm.  While the cast here is quite good (Tilda Swinton rocks), Rachel McAdams is totally wasted in what feels like a throwaway typical superhero side gal female role.  She’s much better than that, and probably jumped at the chance to be in a Marvel film (I don’t blame her).  But, this is easily one of the weakest in the entire canon.  She’s a great actress, but there is simply nowhere for her to really shine. She does terrific with what little she has. On the other side, Mads Mikkelsen manages the overcome the “weak villain” motif that hampers Marvel movies.  On paper, its here, the villain is not strong and should have much more focus, but Mads is a strong performer and is able to make the little cracks he can slide in memorable.  This is like the Dark Elf kinda one, but done much better.  Still no Loki. Still a typical Marvel villain, but on the better end of such is what I’m trying to convene.

I didn’t expect to enjoy Doctor Strange as much as I have upon the 2 viewings I’ve had.  It was tempting to give this an extra half star, but I’ll reserve that for a later time.  Scott Derrickson has crafted a visual Marvel and proven to be one of the better directors that Marvel has employed.  Like James Gunn before, its one of the times you feel someones true vision is getting across.  Benedict Cumberbatch, while I felt was uninspired casting when it happened, was still quite awesome and a much different angle on the Tony Stark type.  I’m sure we’ll see them trade quips or buddy up in the future for a scene.  Doctor Strange introduced us to a whole new world within a large galaxy.  Its visually exciting and the possibilities are unlimited.  I’m very looking forward to see where a sequel takes the Sorcerer Supreme.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s most beautiful visual achievements thus far, and this Blu-ray helps do it some good justice.  With rich colors and terrific detail, this image should please.  However, there is some murkiness in the earlier “normal” proceedings that keep me from giving this a perfect score.  Part of it is that dingy, static look that Marvel hampers on their films.  This one manages to overcome that though and the crazier things get in this movie, the better the picture is.

Depth:  A 3D movie intended to be 3D, Doctor Strange does quite well with depth and dimensions at such ease.  Spacing, freeness, those are never issues.  There is a lot of movement, shifting, floating and much inter-dimensional craziness on display and the image always handles it with prestige.

Black Levels: Blacks are really rich and strong.  Shadows, outlining, and just a lot of astral and spectral imagery is strengthened by its deep blacks.  No real details are lost on this image.  During this viewing, no crushing was witnessed in the picture.

Color Reproduction:  Colors pop quite “marvel”ously in this image.  Reds and blues are strong, but what really steals the show are the mystical purples, teals and firework spark like majestic portal energy.  The strong colors are part of what make this Blu-ray a visual treat.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the film’s duration, from one dimension to another.  Cuts, dried blood, stubble, lip texture, wrinkles, make-up, the cracking-looking eye make-up and more are readily visible in medium and close-up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital,

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Disney isn’t using Atmos or DTS:X yet, but one can only imagine after hearing this 7.1 track on Doctor Strange, what a treat this movie will be when they do.  The mix is a well envisioned and incredibly impactful one when watching the film.  There is a really cool balance of volumes, with even the smallest of sounds in an ambient room providing a layered crispness to the scene.  The mystical sounds and the like are well rounded, sharp and fully defined.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Where to begin?  Engines roaring, cars crashing, interdimensional beings rumbling voices, the crumbling of cities, bursts of mystical powers, ancient books shutting…you name it, the subwoofer drops the thunder all throughout the film.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This 7.1 has a load of fun with inter-dimensional drama and action.  Every speaker is calculated with great precision.  To highlight it all, is the scene in which the Ancient One shows Doctor Strange the wonders of the dimensions and such and her voice floats around randomly to different channels around the room in the mix.  Its a treat.  Many more sequences follow suit and every corner of any environment always takes in account any sound and where it is in relation to your viewing space.  A real treat.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, with good clarity and a full display of the characters’ diction of the line deliveries.

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Extras 

Doctor Strange comes with the DVD edition and a Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Scott Derrickson

Featurettes (HD, 58:05) – This is your typical behind-the-scenes/making of that comes with these Marvel movies that go over the production with interviews from the director, producers, crew and cast in kind of EPK-esque settings.  However, while its not a Red Shirt production type of retrospective, it is a bit lengthier and feels more meaty and much less generic than most of the previous Marvel films documentaries.

  • A Strange Transformation
  • Strange Company
  • The Fabric of Reality
  • Across Time and Space
  • The Score-cerer Supreme

Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look (HD, 7:28) – A little interview piece headed by Kevin Feige that talks about the remaining Phase 3 movies leading up to Avengers: Infinity War.  You get some behind the scenes, storyboards and concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. ZERO mention of Spider-Man: Homecoming during this entire featurette.

Team Thor Part 2 (HD, 4:38) – A continuation of the comedic short started on the Civil War Blu-ray that has Thor hanging out with his roommate Darryl.

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 7:52) 

Gag Reel (HD, 4:12)

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Summary 

Doctor Strange is another hit for Marvel both quality-wise and financially.  It comes to Blu-ray with what feels like a little more in the extras/featurettes department than normal.  As expected it has a great video and audio performance.  Though, I  have to say, if you have the capabilities on this one, you’ll want to grab the 3D version of the film is that is surely how it was meant to be and should be seen (if you’re able).  I don’t think this one needs a recommendation from me for you to pick it up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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