Doctor Strange, 2016.
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton.
Doctor Strange arrives on Blu-ray in a release that also includes the movie on DVD and a code for a digital copy. While the movie is a mixed bag, the Blu-ray offers a nice array of bonus features.
I don’t remember how I acquired it, but when I was a kid, I had a paperback book that reprinted a few Doctor Strange comics from his early run. I read it several times – I recall reading it to distract myself while anxiously awaiting Christmas Day one year – but for whatever reason, I never sought out his other exploits.
With that in mind, I approached Marvel Studios’ big screen adaptation of the adventures of the sorcerer supreme with a mostly blank slate. I knew about the controversy over Tilda Swinton’s casting and the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch’s casting meant hordes of teenage girls would show up at the theater (ask my 14-year-old daughter about that), but I pushed those things aside and instead watched the movie through the eyes of someone whose only preconceived notion was a desire to be entertained.
On that count, Doctor Strange mostly delivers. It serves up a pretty standard origin story, complete with the usual Hero With a Thousand Faces stuff: the reluctant hero; the mentor; the showdown with the dragon in its den; and so forth. Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a solid performance as the titular character, an arrogant doctor brought low by a horrific accident that leaves him unable to perform surgeries anymore.
A broken man seeking a miracle, Strange learns of a man who came back from an even worse injury and he follows a clue given to him to Nepal, where he trains under the Ancient One. Meanwhile, the Ancient One’s former student turned bad guy, Kaecilius, wants to unleash evil from another dimension upon the world, and Strange must figure out a way to stop him. The story beats follow the usual playbook, although the way Strange defeats Dormammu in the end is clever.
One of these days, I’d like to see a Marvel Studios film push those story beats a bit further. For example, Doctor Strange fights a bad guy in astral form while his former colleague Christine operates on his physical body. They knock things around the room during their battle, but no one in the hospital seems interested in investigating all that noise. I would have liked to see someone come in during the conflict to add some wrinkles to the action.
In addition, the humor in this film tends to be forced. While the Marvel Studios movies have generally handled humor well, it falls flat in Doctor Strange. For example, the jokes about Wong’s name are overdone, and later, when Strange puts on his cape and it wipes his face, a nice dramatic moment is undercut by an attempt at humor that fails.
If you’re like my daughter, though, you’re probably a Doctor Strange fan no matter what. There’s certainly plenty to appreciate in this film, so it’s worth a rental at the very least.
The home video release features the film on Blu-ray and DVD, along with a code for a digital copy. The Blu-ray disc also has a nice complement of bonus features, starting with a short introduction by director Scott Derrickson that you can choose to watch before the movie starts. Here’s what else you’ll find on the platter:
- A commentary track with Derrickson that he says he recorded the day before the movie premiered. He does a good job of getting into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking and, yes, he addresses the Ancient One casting controversy. (For the record, I didn’t think that decision was such a big deal. Why not go against expectations with the role?)
- A series of featurettes that run nearly an hour in total. (I appreciate the “play All” option in such situations.) They cover the making of the movie from start to finish, with plenty of comments from the cast and crew.
- Nearly eight minutes of deleted and extended scenes. It’s easy to see why this stuff was cut.
- About 7.5 minutes behind-the-scenes footage and filmmakers’ comments teasing what’s known as Marvel Studios Phase 3, which includes Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.
- Another Team Thor short featuring the God of Thunder and his roommate Darryl, which continues the satirical story that started on the Captain America: Civil War It’s a mock reality TV show that runs about four minutes.
- A gag reel that delivers what you expect.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★