When I first became aware that Marvel was releasing an animated "Doctor Strange" movie, I was overjoyed. Putting classic comic book characters on the big or small screen always brings warm fuzzy feelings to my fanboy heart. My joy was short lived as I discovered that this incarnation of "Dr. Strange" is not the character that I grew up with.
The plot: After Doctor Stephen Strange winds up in an accident that leaves his hands fatally injured, he begins to feel worthless. His work is his life and he feels lost as he is unable to work with his hands. To pile on the problems, Strange is having flashbacks of losing his sister. Arriving in the nick of time, a man named Wang directs Strange to Tibet where he can be miraculously healed. In Tibet, he meets the Ancient One who teaches Strange not only to heal himself, but to learn magic that will forever change his destiny. On his new path, Strange is swept into a battle against the evil Darmammu and the back stabbing Mordo.
Much to my dismay, the character of "Dr. Strange" has been dramatically altered. Instead of characterizing Stephen Strange as a cocky, personably, confident jackass like in the comic books he has been reduced to an emo wimp with a useless tacked on backstory about the death of his sister. The lifeless voice work by Bryce Johnson doesn't help the character either.
Another aggravating creative choice was the bright idea of including a large amount of sorcerers. If the sorcerers were fully developed characters, I wouldn't have minded so much. Instead writer Greg Johnson simply has them slaughtered by various creatures to create a greater sense of danger. By focusing on the sorcerers we the viewer are also kept from seeing more interaction between Mordo and Strange. Mordo is after all Strange's nemesis. Aside from a few quick exchanges and skirmishes, the two are hardly on screen at the same time.
When all else fails, I can at least say that the visuals are engaging. The plethora of magic, creatures, and dimensions make for a nice feast for the eyes. In the back of my mind, however, I couldn't help but envision the artwork of Steve Ditko which was more magical and dazzling than any frame of this film.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. I have no complaints about the video quality. No inconsistencies in the picture were noticeable and the color saturation was note perfect.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track was sensational. The sound was so crystal clear that I even jumped a few times during suspenseful scenes. The audio really transports you into the world of monsters and magic.
As with previous Marvel animated features, the DVDs are packed with bonus features. The extras included are:
* A gallery of trailers for "The Dresden Files," "The Invincible Iron Man," "Ultimate Avengers 1 and 2" and "Delta Farce"...shudder. Why a Larry The Cable Guy movie trailer is mixed in with all sci-fi/fantasy trailers is beyond me.
* My favorite extra is a first look at the next animated Marvel project, which in this case is "Teen Avengers" (it was originally titled "Avengers Reborn.") Set in the future, "Teen Avengers" will focus on never before seen characters that are the offspring of Avengers members like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, etc. While I would prefer to see characters from the Marvel vaults get their own animated film, I am not opposed to Marvel creating an original kid-friendly film. The character designs certainly show promise. From what I hear, the project is due out July 2008 just in time for San Diego Comic Con.
* The best of Marvel video game cinematics are CGI scenes from the ULTIMATE ALLIANCE and X-MEN LEGENDS 2 video games. The CGI work is certainly impressive and I would love to see it integrated into an animated film.
* The two minute "Doctor Strange' concept art is exactly what it sounds like.
* Another fun extra is the 14 minute "Origin of Doctor Strange." the interviews with Stan Lee added with discussions about Steve Ditko were both infinitely more satisfying than the entire film. The creative team behind the movie attempt to explain how they are adding more depth to the character, but their work merely pales in comparison to Lee and Ditko's vision.
Comic book fans looking for a faithful adaptation of "Dr Strange" will sadly be disappointed by this animated feature. For a superior Marvel animated movie, I'd advise checking out the first "Ultimate Avengers."
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.