There’s something to be said for being surprised by a film you’ve got low expectations for, and with the Doctor Strange DVD it’s a special effects assault to the senses that helps to turn the tide. It doesn’t quite get everything right, but there are a lot more compelling positives than there are micro grumbles, making big it a strong new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In addition to the incredible CGI, the cast does a lot to make the film work as well as it does. While the star of the show, Benedict Cumberbatch, sound a bit off with an improvised American accent, we honestly can’t imagine anyone doing a better job in the role of neurosurgeon-turned-cosmic-sorcerer, Doctor Steven Strange. He’s got an impressive range that allows him to deliver both good comic timing and real emotion, as well as all the action and magic that makes the character so unique.
He’s supported by some additional acting heavyweights, with Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel) bringing mystical sincerity as the Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofer (Triple 9) weaving in some serious intensity as Karl Mordo. Mads Mikkleson (Rogue One) is knife-edge sharp as Kaecilius, a former pupil of the the Ancient One who has been corrupted by the immense power of Dormammu of the Dark Dimension.
The story is very well crafted right from Dr. Strange’s early pompous self importance as a world renowned neurosurgeon, through his horrific car accident, attempted recovery and eventual training in the mystical arts in a bid to heal his severely damaged hands. His nemesis is introduced early on, but Strange only faces him in the latter half of the film, building the tension for the inevitable confrontation.
The story may well be based on comic books, but there’s a fair amount of complexity to it all, especially with the way Steven’s character develops through everything he has to go through. It all hinges around around his relationships with the Ancient One with offshoot stems to his mentor Mordo and his newfound enemy, Kaecilius, both of whom studied the mystical arts much in the same way as he is. It’s this interconnection between the four characters that makes the film so interesting, giving it much more depth than we’d expected.
Doctor Strange also gets a lot of its impact from the CGI effects that have been delivered for the film and it’s clear why it picked up an Academy Award nomination for its efforts (it went on to be pipped to the post by the winner, Jungle Book). Some of the scenes are genuinely mind bending and what initially looked a bit gimmicky in the trailer turns out to wow when you see it all in its entirety. There’s a lot of big city manipulation to take in, along with all of the symbol weapons and shields that the sorcery fight with, but our favourite piece of CGI is the Cloak Of Levitation, which is brilliantly personified and very well animated.
In all fairness, the Doctor Strange DVD is well worth adding to the home entertainment collection, but with such incredible visuals you might want to go for either the Blu-ray or Blu-ray 4K options if you’ve got the setup. However, it’s not just the visuals that will see it get played for years to come; the epic story, serious drama, action thrills, time loop spills and comic drills (hey, it rhymes at least) make this a quality superhero flick that goes beyond its genre confines.
Doctor Strange DVD review: 4/5