Friday, March 3, 2017

Doctor Strange Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
From Marvel Studios comes Doctor Strange, the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing, and hope, in an unlikely place—a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that this is not just a center for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality. Before long Strange—armed with newly acquired magical powers—is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt and Scott Adkins, with Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton.
Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
With Doctor Strange, Marvel has fully kicked open the door to mysticism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which will help pave the way for the upcoming Infinity War films and Thanos' quest for the Infinity Stones. This is an important film to push that envelope since the Thor movies were the only ones who touched on it. As usual, there's a group of bad people trying to harness power for their own needs without regard to the rest of the human race. In this case, those people are led by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson), a sorcerer and former protector of a secret sanctum and a student of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

Kaecilius returns to the Sanctum in Kathmandu, Nepal to kill the head librarian in the search for a book that contains a ritual to free an evil entity known as Dormammu who Kaecilius believes will grant him immortal life. The Ancient One tries to stop the traitors but they escape with the torn pages from the book. Across the world, an oblivious Stephen Strange is spending his time as a celebrated and highly arrogant neurosurgeon.His self regard is so high that he's pushed away the one person who actually cares and puts up with him named Christine (Rachel McAdams). When Strange is in a car accident and loses the ability to use his hands (which gave him his whole identity), he is bitterly resentful and depressed and eager to grasp at any straw that might give him back the use of his hands.

That search leads him to Nepal where he goes to learn how he can be healed like one of his former patients was. In Nepal, Strange seeks to find the hidden Sanctum Kamar-Taj and ends up meeting one of its guardians name Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who takes him to meet the Ancient One who reveals the Astral Plane and other dimensions to Strange which wipes away all of his cynicism and doubt. He begs to be taught and he begins to learn the ways of a sorcerer. Strange learns spells and hand to hand combat alongside other students and although he isn't as quick to learn as the others, his fierce determination doesn't go unnoticed by the Ancient One and Mordo.

When the London Sanctum is destroyed by Kaecilius and his followers, Strange goes the to New York Sanctum to help defend it and its not long before Kaecilius and his followers attack Strange there. Although woefully inadequate against the power of Kaecilius, Strange is assisted by a Cloak of Levitation, one of the relics in the house. Knowing that the three Sanctums are the only thing stopping Dormammu from the Dark Dimension from arriving (and one of them is already destroyed), Strange will need to decide how far he is willing to break the laws of nature to stop Kaecilius' plans if it's not already too late.

Doctor Strange  is a visually imaginative and fun film that also really benefits from a very strong cast. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect in this role and it's easy to see why Marvel was willing to push back the film's start date to accommodate his busy schedule. Mads Mikkelson is great in everything he does and I especially like his portrayals of bad guys. Chiwetel Ejiofor keeps the film grounded as Mordo and ironically enough his character provides the voice of reason for this film that is borne from a conviction that will evolve in surprising ways in the future films. It's easy to see why Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One as that casting could have caused an uproar if Marvel had tried to recreate the original incarnation of the character. There are so many ways that this film could have gone, but I'm really happy with the path that director Scott Derrickson chose. The mind trippy visuals, the tone and the film's sense of humor are all well balanced and very welcome. Not only does the film stand brilliantly on its own, it also fantastically accomplishes the goal of pushing the concept of magic into this shared universe.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Disney has released multiple versions of this film in various formats, so I can't speak to how the 3D version looks. This 2D version offers the usual high quality transfer that Disney typically provides, but after seeing this film in the theater in 3D, I can't help but feel like the 2D version is missing something as it looks flatter and more drab. The overall palette is pretty dark with some colors occasionally popping up. The detail level is quite good for a Blu-ray, but overall I found myself wishing for the 3D version or a UHD release. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
I have no complaints at all about Doctor Stranges's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix which is reference quality all the way. From the highs to the lows, this mix delivers on every level as it matches the action on screen whether it's a massive explosion or a low key conversation. The dialogue is crystal clear and Michael Giacchino's score is well served. The directionality is fantastic and is highly accurate and immersive. This is another incredible job by Disney! 
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The extras are pretty good even though I would have preferred them to be more in depth. One thing that I have to commend Disney on concerning the extras is the fact that they've included them for both the physical copy (like usual), but also for the digital copy which is pretty cool. I also like that they included a DVD and digital copy of the film too. All of the extras are in high definition. 
  • A Strange Transformation - This is a general overview of the film that focuses on the story, the cast, the locations, and Benedict Cumberbatches' training the midst of his playing Hamlet in London. 
  • Strange Company - This is a look a the supporting characters in the film and the actors in those roles. 
  • The Fabric of Reality - This is a look at the costumes made for the film and how they tried to remain true to the comic book look while looking real world. We also get a look at some of the filming locations and more. 
  • Across Time and Space - A look at the fight choreography and how they tired to create a new fighting style that blended several forms, wire stunt work, the swapping between the practical and digital effects, and more. 
  • The Score-Cerer Supreme - A welcome look at composer Michael Giacchino's work on the film and he talks about how much he wanted to score this movie. 
  • Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look - This is a great look back at the build up of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what's it's all leading to. I love these kind of extras as they do a great job of reminding you of all the earlier films that you loved and it gets you excited for the future ones. This would play great in Hall H at Comic-Con. 
  • Team Thor: Part 2 - This is the second bit that shows us what Thor was up to during the events of Civil War as he chills with a roommate in Australia. It's pretty funny. 
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - We get a collection of deleted scenes including: "Strange Meets Daniel Drumm," "Kaecilius Searches for Answers," "The Kamar-Taj Courtyard," "Making Contact," and "Lost in Kathmandu."
  • Audio Commentary - We hear from director Scott Derrickson who shares his insights into the making of the film and his choices while making it and how this film affects the rest of the MCU and more.
  • Gag Reel 
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Doctor Strange is a fun and visually inventive movie with a great cast. This film really opens up a whole new chapter for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it's exciting to see that shared universe expand. This Blu-ray offers a very good video presentation but the audio mix will amaze you. The extras are decent but could be more in depth, but Disney was kind enough to include the extras with the Digital Copy too which is really nice. This is a great movie and it's an easy one to recommend!

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