No one does origins stories quite like they do over at Marvel Studios. Further proof of that has arrived with the Blu-Ray and DVD release of its latest superhero, Doctor Strange. The film is the first in the MCU to head into the supernatural and what a wonderful, mesmerizing and dazzling ride it is to behold.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange. As gifted as he is as a neurosurgeon, he is equally obsessed with himself. Narcissism is honestly too tame of a term to describe him as he takes the phrase self-indulgent to whole new heights.
One fateful day, he is driving his insanely expensive sports car at ridiculous speeds while going over surgery notes and fate intervenes and changes his life forever. He has a colossal crash that lands him in the hospital. He is banged up, broken and barely alive. His having survived is of little comfort to the good doctor as his hands are completely shattered. Doctor Strange’s celebrated career is over.
Despondent and desperate, he turns to a patient who he turned away because he felt he couldn’t help him. This man has found a medical miracle and is living a life of joy, where he should have been wallowed in painful sorrow. Seeking his secret, the journey leads Strange to the Asian continent in search of someone called The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She takes on this reluctant man and begins her tutelage. In the process, Strange not only finds a new lease of life, he discovers an entire mystical world that unleashes a power in him to do much more for the human race than he could have as a simple surgeon.
But, the road will not be easy and it will be filled with challenges that will push him to the brink of what he thinks is real, fantasy and what the human body is capable of doing.
Cumberbatch is a brilliant choice to play Strange and once again Marvel shows that their gifts of casting knows no bounds. Although in the comics The Ancient One is Asian, making her a British woman does work because of the talent of Swinton. The role fits her like a glove. Sadly, we wish they had cast an Asian actor, but alas…
Our villain comes in the form of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). The actor delves deeply into his villainy playbook to craft a character that is unlike any he has done before. Joining Cumberbatch in The Ancient One’s school of mysticism (for lack of a better phrase) is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo. Ejiofor and Cumberbatch make quite a pair and as this series heads into a second and third film, we look forward to their brotherly chemistry to deepen. Rachel McAdams plays a love interest of sort. Her Christine Palmer is sadly grossly underused. Hopefully her role will expand in future editions of Doctor Strange.
The best “casting” move Marvel Studios achieved with Doctor Strange actually does not appear on the screen. It is the hiring of director Scott Derrickson. The helmer who has previously been known largely for his horror work (Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil), makes the jump to supernatural superhero effortlessly. He infuses the genre with fresh visuals unlike we’ve ever seen, as well as a handle on the otherworldly aspect of this genre which is fresh territory for superhero filmmakers and superhero fans alike.
That’s why the bevy of bonus features on the Doctor Strange DVD and Blu-Ray is truly sublime. They focus on Derrickson and how his magic touch was a match made in heaven for introducing the world to the marvel-ous character that is Doctor Strange.
Strange Company is a twelve-minute-plus spotlight on the helmer’s pristine job with the film, as well as showcasing the supporting characters (from comics through the big screen) and the thespians who bring them to life.
A fascinating featurette arrives with A Strange Transformation. The almost ten-minute look at the shooting location, sets and story itself delves deep into how some of the action scenes were achieved, most notably, the car crash sequence that truly sets our story in motion. The short bit on Cumberbatch and how he prepared for the role is also quite interesting.
We were also quite taken with The Score-Cerer Supreme. It is rare that the composer for a film gets a shout out on a home video bonus feature, so this is a true treat. This feature explores Michael Giacchino and how he inhaled the source material and the film script itself to craft a score that not only supports the film, but adds to the tonal feel.
Simply gazing at the trailer, it is easy to see that the costumes of Doctor Strange stand alone when it comes to the MCU. We’ve seen superhero outfits and Guardians of the Galaxy out-of-this-world costumes. But, there is something uniquely Eastern and mystical about the threads worn by the characters in Doctor Strange. That’s why The Fabric of Reality is such a wonderful salute to the costuming of the latest Marvel film. They had to be functional, while staying true to the characters and all the while, push boundaries in terms of what we’ve seen in a superhero film. The featurette also explores the film locations and set design as well, which is interesting because those two items seem interwoven with costumes on this particular picture.
The action sequences, or more specifically the fight choreography, in Doctor Strange is quite different than we’ve seen prior in the MCU. Across Time and Space breaks down the melding of fighting styles and the ballet-like movement art of the fight sequences that makes Doctor Strange so special. It is a stunning featurette that is worth watching repeatedly.
For those new to the Doctor Strange world, you might want to check out Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look. It looks back at where we’ve been, and then looks forward to where we’re going — all while firmly clueing the audience into where Doctor Strange fits in it.
Ready for a few laughs? Then don’t miss Team Thor: Part 2 that shows off what Thor has been doing as he chills after some serious battle. The gag reel is also a blast as it shows how the cast of Doctor Strange never took themselves so seriously that precluded them from having a little fun. That’s fitting, because in the end, Doctor Strange itself is a whole lot of fun.
Film Grade: A
Bonus Features: A