As a big time fan of Silver Age Marvel comics, I get excited every time
a new animated Marvel disc hits the stores. Unfortunately the first
three, Ultimate Avengers 1 and 2, and The Invincible Ironman,
haven't been very good (and that's being charitable.) I had
mixed feelings when I heard about a Doctor Strange animated direct-to-video
movie. I love the character, Steve Ditko's art on the character's
early appearances is absolutely amazing, but if they can't get Ironman
right what chance do they have for a less dynamic person like Stephen
Strange? Much to my surprise, this is the best of the four Marvel
animated discs released so far. While it's far from perfect it is
entertaining and fun to watch, which isn't something I can say about the
The film starts with Strange's origin, which takes about 55 minutes
of this 75 minute feature. (The back cover lists the running time
at 95 minutes, but it's wrong.) Doctor Stephen Strange is a brilliant
neurosurgeon. He's also arrogant, stuck-up, elitist, and an ass-hole.
He only cares about patients who can pay the expensive hospital fees or
those that will get his name in medical journals. When he is in a
car accident that permanently damages his hands, that all changes.
Strange spends all of his money looking for a cure that will allow him
to operate again. Traveling the world he goes to every specialist
and quack but no one can help him. Out of money and out of hope,
he tries to kill himself only to be stopped by a mysterious man named Wong.
Wong give the doctor a map to a place in Tibet, and tells him that his
hands can be healed there.
Borrowing the money to get to China, Strange makes the long and hazardous
trek to the temple of the Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme. There
he is given menial tasks and physical labor. Eventually this allows
his mind to become free, and he's ready to start learning the mystical
After long hours of study with Wong and another disciple Mordo, Strange
is ready to join the Ancient One and his other pupils on a mission.
A being from another dimension, The Dread Dormammu, is trying to break
into our. He's sent monsters to our world several times that the
Ancient One's students have repulsed, but now it looks like he's gained
the power to break through the seals that are trapping him in his own dimension.
Can the Ancient One and Doctor Strange stop this being of pure magic?
There were things I liked about this movie and things I didn't.
To start off with the good, they stayed pretty close to the origin story
that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko worked out. This wasn't good because
they retold (for the most part) the origin from the comics, but because
the origin in the comics was so well done. Strange's character and
the way he changes is an interesting tale; he's an arrogant surgeon who
learns humility when everything he has is taken away.
So why couldn't they leave it like that? It's a great origin.
Unfortunately the creators of this special had to add more to his story
and these parts stick out like a sore thumb. There's some background
added about Strange's sister who has an incurable illness that just didn't
make much sense. They also have Strange's latent mystical ability
emerge early...at one point he touches a patient in a coma and can see into
their mind. That was kind of stupid. What was the deal with
Strange seeing the ghost children while driving too? That didn't
make much sense either.
The character designs were another aspect that disappointed me.
I was really interested in seeing how they portrayed the other dimensions.
With current CGI technology you're only limited by your imagination and
budget, but it seems that there wasn't enough of the former on this show's
creative pool. There wasn't anything new or special about Dormammu's
domain. It basically had floating garbage, including a lawn mower,
filling the place. Yawn. Dormammu himself wasn't all that impressive
either. I can understand why they didn't go with the comic design,
basically a man with a plume of fire for a head, but what they came up
with seemed like a reject from the Incredible Hulk live action movie.
The animation, a mixture of 2D and 3D renderings, was pretty good but
not outstanding. A character like Doctor Strange is supposed to fill
viewers with awe and wonderment. He's a magician after all.
What he does is supposed to be contrary to the natural order of things.
There wasn't any part of this film where I though "Now that was cool!"
or was really impressed. The battle scenes seemed like recycled anime
sequences and the magic usage was pretty tame and run of the mill.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 1.78:1 1080p image looked fine at first glance, but had a problem
or two. When you first see the picture it looks fine. The lines
are tight, the colors are bright and there isn't any mosquito noise in
the backgrounds. The problem with the disc is that there's a lot
of banding throughout the show. From the sky to the lights in a hospital
operating room, the colors don't change as smooth as they should.
I'm probably doing viewers a disservice by mentioning it, since once I
noticed it I couldn't stop seeing this defect in every other scene.
There were a couple of instances were the contrast was a little off,
and the background had some very light pixilation once or twice.
Aliasing wasn't a problem however. Not a horrible image at all and
a generally nice looking show that is unfortunately marred by excessive
Okay, this disc comes with a DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack, which
is really cool, but there aren't any Blu-ray players (to my knowledge)
that can decode this format, which is really lame. If you select
this option the audio will be sent out as a 5.1 DTS track. There's
also a DD 5.1 track, and both sounded pretty good. I viewed the film
with the DTS track enabled (and spot checked the other track) and while
I wasn't blown away by the sound I was very pleased. All six speakers
get a good workout with the rear really kicking in during the battle scenes.
The directionality is good too, with sounds coming from all four corners
of the room. While the battle scenes had a lot of impact and in-your-face
effects the rest of the movie also had good audio effects. From the
light footsteps of someone walking down the hall seemingly on one side
of the room to the wind blowing in the mountains of Tibet, this was a nice
The disc includes some nice extras, the same ones presented on the SD
disc, but these are in HD. It starts out with the cinematics from
the video games Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-men Legends 2.
Viewers can watch a "best of" reel (3 minutes) which is pretty impressive,
or all the cut scenes from those two games. This was a lot more fun
than I thought it would be. These CGI animated heroes look great
and the action is pretty intense at times. All in all these are a
lot of fun.
The Origins of Doctor Strange is a 14 minute featurette where
comic book creators Stan Lee, Steve Englehart, and J. M. DeMatteis along
with the creators who worked on this film talk about Strange, his origins
and his impact on comics and popular media. It's great to hear these
guys talk about their work and I truly enjoyed it.
There's also a "first look" at Avengers Reborn, Marvel's next
animated project. In this the creators talk about the project and
show some preliminary line art. They are trying to get people excited
about the project, and they failed miserably. It sounds really bad.
Apparently it's based on a set of new heroes, the children of the Avengers.
After Ultron kills all of the original Avengers, their offspring have to
defeat the unstoppable robot. The first question I asked myself was
this: If you want to tell an Ultron story, why don't you tell the
story from Avengers 54 and 55 that introduces Ultron (and features
the Masters of Evil: Klaw, Whirlwind, Melter and the Radioactive
Man.) Why do they feel the need to reinvent a character each time
they bring him or her to the small screen? But I digress...
The disc is rounded out by a reel of conceptual art and trailers for
the previously released animated shows Ultimate Avengers 2 and
The Invincible Ironman.
Easily the best of the Marvel direct-to-video animated movies released
so far, Doctor Strange had a great origin story but fell in other
parts. The show lacked the WOW factor that it should have had, and
they added some pretty stupid plot points just because they could.
While this doesn't come close to the best Doctor Strange comics, it was
generally fun to watch. I just wish they had tightened the script
up a bit and didn't try to "re-imagine" the character. Fans of Marvel
comics can get this without having to worry too much. A light recommendation.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.