By Dave Minkus
Released by Lionsgate Films
Released August 14, 2007
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not very familiar with the character of Doctor Strange. I know that my dad used to read him a ton when he was younger, so I know the basics. Doctor Strange actually used to be a doctor. As a matter of fact, he was an extremely gifted surgeon. He also happened to be a complete jerk. He eventually gets into a car accident and loses the use of his hands at a surgical level. Devastated, he ends up being coaxed by a mysterious man into going to Tibet where he becomes a great sorceror and eventually Sorceror Supreme. Oh, and his main bad guy is a creature from another dimension (essentially Hell) named Dormammu.
Got all of that? Well, that’s pretty much what you get when you watch Doctor Strange. This is the fourth animated feature that has come out of Marvel Animated Features, partnered with Lionsgate. The other features have been Ultimate Avengers 1 and 2 and The Invincible Iron Man. Obviously, this title takes a markedly different approach from the previous film simply because of the source material. The very pleasant surprise is that the makers did a great job on this one.
You’ll notice that it took only a few sentences to describe the origin of Doctor Strange. Well, that would make for a VERY short film, but the makers found a way to stretch the film to 95 minutes, impressively without making it feel stretched. They took what could have been shortcomings in the story and fleshed them out. You find out more about why Strange is the jackass he is. You find out more about his training as a sorceror and the origin of his arch-foe, Dormammu. All of these things are great, but the one worry is Dormammu him/itself. In the comics, Dormammu looked like The Human Torch or a guy wearin a ski mask that was on fire. Here, the visual “enhancements” made by the artists are actually enhancements. Dormammu is actually a scary guy. The great thing is that if you’re a big Strange fan, the makers put in all kinds of referrences to the comics and don’t really care if the newbs (like myself) get them or not. Even better is the fact that this is made for adult fans. Kiddies might get a little freaked out by some of the imagery.
As with the other Marvel Entertainment Films, the animation in Doctor Strange is solid. It’s not quite up to full theatrical animation standards, but it stands easily, if not a little ahead, of the best Saturday morning has to offer. The sound does the job and is adequate, but again, it probably could have been better. Again, the strength of the story and the voice acting are what really count. Most importantly, the sound and animation don’t detract from the story, which would have been the worst thing that could have happened.
When it comes to bonus materials, Doctor Strange is about on par with the rest of the Marvel AE films. You get the obligatory trailers, a featurette looking at the origin of the character, concept art and a preview of the next project, which is Avengers Reborn. There is also a promo video of Marvel video game cinematics. The Featurette really is the shining star of the extras. They get Stan Lee, of course, but they also go out of their way to get a couple of the writers not only to talk about how great this film is, but the also talk about their runs on the comic. These featurettes give a glimpse into history and also make you excited to see what you just saw again. Avengers Reborn, on the other hand, is a bit more uncertain. I understand that Marvel AE needs to reach out to younger viewers, but a young Avengers movie that appears to be a Teen Titans ripoff may not be the best way to go. Also, I think most Marvel geeks still cringe when then think back to the “Reborn” storylines attempted a few years back. At the same time, I’ve been pretty impressed with what Marvel AE has come out with, so I’ll be giving Avengers Reborn a shot as well.
Here’s where it all comes down. Is this DVD for you? If you already own the other films, this is absolutely a no-brainer. Pick it up Tuesday morning and have a fun night. For enthusiasts, this is definitely a solid rental that could possibly turn into a purchase for you. I’m proof that it even appeals to newbs to the material like myself, so I would recommend that just about anyone who enjoys comic-related material to do yourself a favor and check this one out.