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Doctor Strange (3D Blu-ray Review)

24 Feb, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 2/28/17
Box Office $232.43 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3D BD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton.

Director Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange is a superb trip to the mystical realms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing an entertaining origin story for a character that truly lives up to his name.

The 14th film in the MCU canon focuses on Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a world-famous neurosurgeon whose hands are irreparably injured in a car accident (don’t text and drive, kids!). Desperate to rebuild his career, he seeks a mysterious cure in a remote corner of the globe, only to encounter an ancient order of magicians, led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). At first, the arrogant man of science is skeptical of their power, but slowly begins to understand their secrets. As his own abilities grow, he’s faced with a choice: to use his newfound power to heal himself and return to his old life, or to become a part of something bigger than himself.

Cumberbatch's performance comes off a bit like Dr. House or Tony Stark getting magical powers, and part of what makes Strange such a compelling character is the fact that his scientific mind makes him so adept at what would otherwise be called wizardry, since the supernatural feats on display are linked to the larger MCU’s version of science involving various realms of reality as seen in Thor.

One such realm is the domain of the Dormammu, whose immortal energies inspire the rogue sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) to seek his immense dark power to create his ideal vision of humanity. This stands in contrast with the teachings of the Ancient One, a call to natural order strictly enforced by Strange’s allies Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong).

The character motivations elevate the story above most comic book adaptations, as there are several sides in the central conflict, and each character has a good reason for pursuing the course they choose, helped by some good performances by the key actors involved.

What also sets this film apart are the stunning visual effects, which zip viewers through the ghostly astral plane to the mirror dimension, where battles are waged amid a constantly shifting landscape not unlike an MC Escher painting or the dreamscapes of Inception.

To his credit Derrickson in his solo commentary track doesn’t shy away from comparisons to the Chrostopher Nolan film, but rather embraces the challenge to take the seeds of the concept planted there and expand upon them visually. And it’s hard not to be impressed with the result, especially since Inception wasn’t available in 3D the way this one is.

There are in fact several sequences bordering on the psychedelic that really take full advantage of the 3D environment as characters zip through the various planes of reality. This is another of those movies with scenes shot for Imax in which the aspect ratio will change to take advantage of that theatrical format’s larger screens (the shifting aspect ratio is only present in the 3D version).

The Blu-ray also includes eight minutes of deleted scenes that provide some interesting character insights, and five making-of featurettes running about 58 minutes, covering everything from casting, production design, stunts and Michael Giacchino’s terrific musical score.

For laughs, the Blu-ray includes a gag reel that runs about four minutes, and a second installment of the viral “Team Thor” series, in which we find Thor living a normal life after not having been called to participate in the events of Captain America: Civil War.

Finally, there’s a seven-and-a-half-minute preview of the rest of the MCU’s Phase 3, which includes the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, the latter featuring hints gladiatorial combat between Thor and Hulk for all the Planet Hulk fans in the audience. All of this will lead into Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, with Doctor Strange playing a key role along the way.

The digital edition of the film includes a 10-minute featurette about the science of the MCU, which is less about educating viewers and more about using movie clips to promote a museum exhibit. This extra is accessible via the digital copy codes included with the disc.

About the Author: John Latchem

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