Doctor Strange (2016) (Blu-ray film review).

March 27, 2017 | By | 2 Replies More

Even before I picked up the ‘Doctor Strange’ blu-ray, I had mixed feelings. A female Ancient One. A black Baron Modo, not even called a Baron. Straying from the source material to tick off representative of different types of people seems an odd compromise to the well-known source. Even a female Ancient One but still not oriental? Not even an apparent old one although that is explained. At least, Wong was still an oriental, although more a magician than a servant although that might change in the second film.

If you know the ‘Doctor Strange’ comicbooks, you will recognise the likes of the Wand of Watoomb named in passing which really goes back to the Steve Ditko period. Other things like the Eye of Agamotto amulet and the cloak of leviatation being revealed as relics holding mystical energy makes sense and often done in other series like the more recent ‘Warehouse 13’. As indeed, making Strange’s new New York home, one of three Sacred Sanctorums protecting the Earth from extra-dimensional beings and their infringement, which happened this time so you know what to expect in the future. I’ve even learnt a different way to pronounce Dormammu. To me, it was always ‘Door-Mam-Mu’ not ‘Dorm-Am-Mu’. Must be a British thing, although four of the leads are British so must be an American pronounciation.

About the only thing I really missed is Strange using incantations. Would it have caused that much loss for him to provoke one spoken spell than point and mystical energy things happen? I thought that only happened with Dr. Fate.

Much of this origin film follows the original source material although Doctor Stephen Strange (actor Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn’t come across as nearly as arrogant as in the 1960s which tends to lessen his transformation. If anything, the arrogance remains and he doesn’t appear as humbled by his training as he should. Having his hands damaged in a car accident, Strange tries all things to restore them to surgical fitness before looking for unorthodox cures and ultimately off to Nepal and his meeting with the Ancient One (actress Tilda Swinton), who appears to be running a martial arts school as well as training a school of sorcerers, amongst them is Mordo (actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), no title and an apparent good guy throughout which was another surprise. His change at the end has nothing to do with any evilness but that shouldn’t be seen as a spoiler. Another twist is that Strange wants to be a willing pupil but is spurned by the Ancient One in something akin to the 1972 ‘Kung Fu’ pilot where you have to show patience and hang around long enough to be taken in and educated. Strange is a poor student until he starts doing things his own way and self-educating, much to the consternation of the librarian Wong (actor Benedict Wong) when he ‘borrows’ books without permission. You do have to wonder if they have library cards.

I’m still at a loss at who Kaecilius (actor Mads Mikkelson) and his cohorts are in the mythology but they do represent Dormammu on Earth and threaten to destroy our blue planet. So much for the three Sacred Sanctorums keeping that from happening, although with one of them destroyed, the cracks were showing. Beyond that is spoilers.

One can’t dispute this is one big special effects movie and the lengthy credits at the end, with two feeds for future films, makes me wonder if it wouldn’t have been cheaper to have used real magic. No overt criticism of the budget but it does raise the level other films of this nature will have to compete with.

As the extras are only available on the blu-ray version, it ended up being the best option this time.

The Gag Reel shows what happens when actors can’t remember their lines or are playful. It also allows you to see how much green screen and hidden wires there are. Strange’s cloak of levitation isn’t always real for instance.

From the extras, director/co-writer Scott Derrickson says he went for actor who could act as well as Cumberbatch than the roles in the comicbook. I would question that it was clichéd having an oriental male mentor though as this was one of the first in Marvel Comics. Then again, who’s to say that there can’t be one in the sequel. After all, it’s only a title and anyone can be ancient or be reincarnated. One would also have to wonder who will run the school now she’ gone.

The five featurettes show a lot of the inner workings of production. I should point out when it comes to the end credits, let them run on or you’ll miss an Easter egg or two.

There’s part 2 of a Thor extra where he’s hanging out in someone’s home in Australia but not really understanding the concepts of money, leaving his hammer on the toilet cover or scaring children with his tales in a school class.

It’s unusual to be told when an audio commentary is recorded prior to release but director Scott Derrickson does it the day before the film premiere, explaining he is was befit of critical and viewer comment, only that of previews. Oddly, although he explains adequately he is rather on the defensive on his casting choices. You do get a lot of insight into how he was selected for direction, passing eight interviews and some tough competition. You do get a lot more technical information plus he’s also a great Doctor Strange fan which makes you wonder if Marvel Studios will sign him up for the sequel.

Derrickson’s comments about people getting too many special effects big budget movies is on the button, yet ‘Doctor Strange’ doesn’t even conceal it has even more. Yes, we know that this film has to be special effects laden but you do have to wonder when there will be some proper people moments just to slow the pace down and not over-whelm the film.

What I tend to apply to all these super-hero films is that they are another reality to the comicbook version. Adding the ‘magical’ aspect to this version of the Marvel Universe is long over-due and certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s inevitable that the Dark Dimension is going to play a significant part in the sequel so I hope it also includes Umar as well as Clea and the Mindless Ones. The magic does have some consistency to the original but without the spell incantation, it’s just another energy weapon and the portals to other places just that. There definitely needs some more defining moments to show the differences or the similarities to the more Science Fiction Marvel Universe.

Watch and make your own judgement.

GF Willmetts

March 2017

(region B blu-ray: pub: Marvel Studio/Disney. 155 minute film with extras. Price: £15.00 (UK). ASIN: BUY0274101)

cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson and Benedict Wong

check out website: www.marvel.com

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Category: Films, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. avatar EamonnMurphy says:

    I saw this yesterday and liked it. You have to accept that Hollywood is going to make changes. I have to say that my friend, not familiar with the source material, was getting confused by the end. I suspect from the way that the last climax was resolved that we might see that Eternity fellow cropping up in the sequel. Mordo warned of consequences.
    I wonder if Steve Ditko got any money. Even Stan admitted – when the mag first came out – that it was mostly Steve’s idea. (My friend said ‘Who’s that old guy? He’s in all these films’)

    • avatar UncleGeoff says:

      Of course but I think the lack of use of using spells is a rather drastic shift from the original source. Considering the Living Tribunal was mentioned as well, I expect him to pop up as well.
      Geoff

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