Doctor Strange (Blu-ray) (2016)

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Released 1-Mar-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Strange Transformation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Strange Company
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Fabric of Reality
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Across Time and Space
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Score-Cerer Supreme
Featurette-Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look
Short Film-Team Thor: Part 2
Deleted Scenes
Outtakes-Gag Reel
Audio Commentary-with director Scott Derrickson
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2016
Running Time 114:58
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Scott Derrickson
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Benedict Wong
Rachel McAdams
Mads Mikkelsen
Tilda Swinton
Michael Stuhlbarg
Benjamin Bratt
Scott Adkins
Zara Phythian
Alaa Safi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Giacchino


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD High Resolution Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Czech
Hungarian
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Mid and post-credits scenes

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Plot Synopsis

†††† At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a certain degree of competency is expected and it seems impossible for the studio to produce an outright bad motion picture. With this in mind, although the productions can be somewhat let down by imperfections or nit-picky things, you can always rest assured that the movies are at least good and still stand above most other blockbusters in a given year. Therefore, while 2016ís Doctor Strange does fall short of the brilliance of Iron Man and The Avengers, it is a competent way to establish and introduce a new comic book superhero to the ever-expanding MCU. And with its emphasis on magic and alternate dimensions, itís a refreshing change from the norm. Itís just disappointing that Doctor Strange feels so...by-the-numbers. Oh sure, itís well-made from top to bottom and the actors are superb, but the narrative structure is pure clichť and itís produced like any other superhero blockbuster when an experimental style would be more suitable considering the source.

†††† A hotshot New York-based neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), maintains a remarkable perfect record, consistently performing miracles in operating theatres. Strange has one hell of an ego to boot, too cocky and self-absorbed to have a relationship with sweet fellow surgeon Christine (Rachel McAdams). But Strange is taught a painful lesson in humility when a horrendous car accident leaves him with severe nerve damage, rendering him no longer able to use his hands to perform surgeries. Desperate for a solution, Strange is led to Nepal in pursuit of a rumoured miracle breakthrough, finding his way to the secret compound Kamar-Taj where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Although Strange outright rejects the possibility of other dimensions, the Ancient One opens his eyes to the powers within him far greater than the mere physical. Accepted into the compound as a student, Strange also becomes acquainted with his mentor Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and librarian Wong (Benedict Wong). As Strange hones his skills in the Mystic Arts, former student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) goes against the Ancient Oneís teachings, stealing pages from a sacred text to contact Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, putting Earth in immediate peril.

†††† Refreshingly, Doctor Strange actually feels closer to a standalone Phase One Marvel movie, as itís welcomely unburdened of obligatory MCU connections. Additional scenes in the credits do set up future Marvel movies, and thereís a subtle reference to Captain America: Civil War, but thatís about it, making this one ideal for more casual viewers as well as the uninitiated. Written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), C. Robert Cargill (Sinister), and director Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange adopts the time-honoured ďorigins storyĒ format thatís unfortunately been done to death this century alone - itís hard to shake the feeling that youíve seen this narrative before. As the movie works through its familiar origins routine, it feels like homework, as there isnít enough to sufficiently enliven the material. Especially in the shadow of Deadpool, this formula is all the more rote and stale. Dialogue is not exactly a strong suit either, but at least the movie is peppered with amusing moments, and the soundtrack features a couple of catchy songs.

†††† Even though Doctor Strange was advertised as a mind-bending, surreal extravaganza, it still plays out with an action/blockbuster sensibility due to the apparently unwritten rule that every superhero movie must be action-oriented. But hereís the thing - trippy, psychedelic, colourful visuals are best appreciated when you can sit back, relax, soak in it, and properly take it all in. Thus, Derrickson concentrates on delivering large-scale, kinetic action set-pieces as opposed to deliberately-paced, surrealistic immersion and esoteric cerebral exploration that might have made for a more interesting movie, especially in the context of the MCU which is already in danger of feeling too ďfactory made.Ē After all, Doctor Strange was presented as ďthe weird Marvel movie.Ē

†††† With that said, however, once you can accept that it kind of had to be an action movie, there is plenty to enjoy. The set-pieces are genuinely enthralling, observing these talented characters conjuring up weapons out of thin air, manipulating gravity, and even battling it out in the astral dimension. Doctor Strange is one of the most visually intriguing and breathtaking offerings in the MCU (next to the Guardians of the Galaxy pictures), and the $165 million budget is put to good use to create stunning battlefields of folding cities and brilliant displays of light, earning the visual effects team a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Commendably, the movie builds to a satisfying climax which allows Strange to use both his physical skills as well as his intellectual prowess as he endeavours to vanquish the powerful Dormammu. Horror maestro Scott Derricksonís last blockbuster attempt was the 2008 underperformer The Day the Earth Stood Still, and luckily he shows much better command of the material here.

†††† Espousing a convincing enough American accent, Cumberbatch is ideal in the role of Stephen Strange, suiting the character to a tee. He convincingly conveys the various aspects of Strange - from his self-inflated cockiness to his psychological breakdown and subsequent rebuilding, Cumberbatch never sets a wrong foot. Alongside him, Ejiofor is instantly likeable, while Wong is a downright standout. Swinton chose to portray the Ancient One as androgynous, and she easily impresses in the role, while McAdams is her usual appealing self. Showing up as the primary villain is Mikkelsen, an immensely talented performer who made a huge impression in the television show Hannibal, and who has also appeared in the likes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Salvation. Heís reliably terrific as Kaecilius, sinister whilst simultaneously displaying his trademark charm. Also keep a lookout for action star Scott Adkins in a small role which nevertheless gives him the chance to show off his insane fighting abilities.

†††† This review may seem overly negative in some respects, but that is certainly not my intention. For all intents and purposes, Doctor Strange is a very good, often great addition to the Marvel franchise, but its rote construction does let it down to a certain degree. Happily, however, there is still much to admire - it looks amazing, the magical powers are fascinating, and it lovingly inaugurates a new Marvel franchise that promises to be something different. With the obligatory origins story out of the way, fingers crossed that Doctor Strange 2 is an improvement - it certainly left me hungry to see a sequel. It should go without saying by now, but be sure to stick around until the end of the credits.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† For its theatrical run, Doctor Strange was screened in Dolby Cinemas across the United States, complete with Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range. It's therefore disappointing that Disney have only chosen to release this particular Marvel entry on standard Blu-ray, rather than 4K Blu-ray. This 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition image is framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and doesn't open up to 1.90:1 during the IMAX sequences - as per standard operating procedure at this point, the IMAX scenes are saved for the 3D Blu-ray. Doctor Strange was produced for hundreds of millions of dollars, and it therefore looks enormously professional and polished, though this Blu-ray transfer is far from perfect. Indeed, with each new 4K Ultra HD release, it's becoming harder and harder to overlook the inherent shortcomings of 1080p.

†††† Doctor Strange is a very VFX-heavy blockbuster, and the CGI is often highly-detailed. Textures are strong for the most part, and are most evident during brightly-lit scenes set outdoors. A close-up of Mordo at 24:34 shows just what the transfer can do, for instance, and costumes usually look nuanced and detailed. Also see the close-ups of Strange and Kaecilius during their conversation at the 64-minute mark. Admittedly, lower-light scenes aren't as successful, and there's a bit of a haze over the image at times, but clarity remains consistently pleasing - there are no traces of black crush. In addition, there is no smeariness on display during the more fast-moving action scenes, as the transfer looks stable and well-encoded. On that note, the presentation is welcomely free of bothersome aliasing, macroblocking and other compression-related artefacts. Sharpness is where the transfer really shines - aside from a few soft moments, the movie boasts razor-sharp edges. This isn't one of the best Blu-ray presentations of the year by any stretch, but it does well enough on its own terms.

†††† Since Doctor Strange was predominantly shot digitally (using Arri Alexa cameras), the texturing does have a tendency to look flat and smooth, and certain shots are soft as well (see Christine visiting Strange at his home after the car accident at around the 18-minute mark). I can't help but feel that the movie could have looked a lot better with a 4K Blu-ray release. Furthermore, while the colours do look nice enough, the movie does look drab and undeniably lacks pop during certain scenes, which can likely be attributed to the limited colour space of standard Blu-ray. It doesn't help that contrast is weak, failing to bring out as much fine detail as it should. Nevertheless, the colours do look luscious during the more psychedelic set-pieces - in particular, the final showdown between Strange and Dormammu, which looks absolutely gorgeous and is full of bright colours.

†††† Doctor Strange is a perfect fit for 4K Blu-ray given its colourful look and unique visual style, and such a release would undoubtedly provide a considerable upgrade over this still very good 1080p Blu-ray. Shortcomings aside, this disc is just fine at this point, providing a pleasing textured and mostly good-looking transfer that should please casual fans.

†††† Subtitles are available and pose no issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Unfortunately, news is much worse on the audio front. Whereas every other territory was fortunate enough to be permitted a lossless 7.1 audio track, Disney have short-changed Australian consumers for whatever reason, providing only a lossy DTS-HD HR 5.1 audio mix. Thus, we lose channels and we get an inferior lossy encode. This is indefensible, and unfortunately I can only recommend you don't buy this release as a direct result. Even if you didn't know this was a lossy track in advance, it's clear from the beginning that something is off, as it's noticeably unaggressive and limp. Oh sure, it's loud during certain sequences, but it's very uneven, and left me constantly grabbing the remote control to toggle the audio up or down. Ambience is noticeably weak - for instance, see the opening shot of the movie, and the subsequent scene that takes place. Dialogue sounds muffled, and is unfortunately mixed too low compared to some of the more bombastic sound effects. And when the characters speak loudly, the audio peaks. This sounds like a middle-of-the-range DVD, not a Blu-ray.

†††† For a 5.1 track, the audio seriously lacks dynamic range as well - it should be much more immersive and rich, but instead it comes up lacking. Sure, the rear channels are used for music, and other sound effects come through the rear during the action scenes, but there's none of the sophisticated panning effects that were evident in the cinema. You also won't find much deliberate surround activity or separation. Subwoofer use is fine during some of the louder moments, but it doesn't accentuate the audio as much as it should.

†††† Personally, I found this track painful to listen to, and I kept wanting to stop the disc and snap it in half before tossing it in the bin. Though the track may sound fine to the unfussy, it still has the potential to sound much better - and it does sound much better on the U.K. release, which I own. And since I have a 7.1 set-up, this just isn't good enough. Whenever Disney spearheads a 4K UHD Blu-ray release, we can only hope we get a lossless track, preferably Dolby Atmos to please everybody. For those interested, the disc also contains English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Czech, Hungarian and Polish.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† Thankfully, there's a bit more video material here than usual from Marvel/Disney - there's about an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes, plus an audio commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and some additional stuff. It's not the more comprehensive selection of extras you'll ever see, but the effort is appreciated nevertheless.

A Strange Transformation (HD; 9:42)

†††† Rather than a more focused documentary, this is a very broad behind-the-scenes look at Doctor Strange, covering the concept, casting, shooting, music, and other aspects. There's a fair bit of revealing behind-the-scenes footage intermingled with the cast and crew interviews. And it's all slickly-presented, of course. Worth watching.

Strange Company (HD; 12:37)

†††† Whereas the first featurette touched upon the casting of Cumberbatch, this next piece focuses on the movie's supporting cast. Therefore, various members of the crew discuss the likes of Swinton, Wong, Ejiofor and Mikkelsen, while the actors themselves also chime in with thoughts about the project and their characters. In addition, the hiring of director Derrickson is covered.

The Fabric of Reality (HD; 12:32)

†††† This excellent behind-the-scenes featurette is dedicated to the movie's exquisite production design, more specifically the costumes, props and sets. Some of the sets - including enormous recreations of Hong Kong and Nepal streets - are staggering. Many key members of the crew chime in to discuss the project, and there's ample footage showing a number of things being constructed, as well as on-set footage in which we can see the props, sets and costumes in action. It's also fun to see Cumberbatch walking into a NYC comic-book shop in full costume.

Across Time and Space (HD; 13:21)

†††† This next featurette initially zeroes in on the fight choreography and stunts, taking a look at the extensive training required for the movie, particularly for Cumberbatch. (Scott Adkins is even interviewed.) In addition, the visual effects and general style of Doctor Strange is covered, and there's a tonne of insightful behind-the-scenes footage mixed with interviews and digital effects comparisons. There is a lot to absorb. If you'd like to know how many visual elements of the movie were executed, this is a must-watch.

The Score-Cerer Supreme (HD; 9:51)

†††† Michael Giacchino's exquisite original score is the subject of this featurette. Both Giacchino and Derrickson have a lot to say about the collaboration, and there's revealing footage of the scoring sessions. Giacchino points out many of the different themes included in the soundtrack, and the feelings that the music was intended to convey. And as a nice bonus, the last couple minutes of this featurette cover the mid-credits scene with Chris Hemsworth as Thor, which is an absolute joy.

Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look (HD; 7:28)

†††† Starting with a brisk recap of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, this featurette is focused on Phase 3 of the lucrative franchise. It provides brief glimpses at Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War (oddly, Spider-Man: Homecoming is excluded), with several of the creative individuals involved dropping in to discuss their work. This is definitely an interesting sit, and left me wanting to see more.

Team Thor: Part 2 (HD; 4:38)

†††† A follow-up to the hilarious Team Thor short movie, Part 2 checks back in with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his housemate Daryl (Daley Pearson). The short was once again directed by Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi (the director of 2017's Thor: Ragnarok), who maintains a marvellous sense of humour. Team Thor: Part 2 is seriously funny, and a wonderful inclusion to the disc.

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD; 7:52)

†††† Available to watch individually or via a "Play All" function, this is a selection of five deleted & extended scenes at various stages of completion. The scenes are worth watching for the most part and have merit, though it's easy to see why they were trimmed. Here's what's included:

Gag Reel (HD; 4:12)

†††† The obligatory collection of line flubs, muck-ups and general on-set tomfoolery. This is actually very funny.

Audio Commentary

†††† Director Scott Derrickson sits down the day before the premiere to talk about Doctor Strange, and he's therefore not focused on critical reception or box office. Derrickson is instantly talkative, opening up about his longstanding fondness for the Doctor Strange comic books, being initially hired by Marvel, working with the studio, and bringing out his horror sensibilities in certain scenes. In addition, Derrickson has a lot to impart about the movie's themes as well as its structuring, explaining that the movie didn't need to go beyond the two-hour mark and most scenes needed to be cut down. He runs through many of the actors, even explaining that he watched 12 Years a Slave the day before meeting Ejiofor. I also appreciated Derrickson talking about Scott Adkins, who is a star in his own right but still agreed to take on a minor role. Another fun trivia fact is that James Gunn shot four Stan Lee cameos in one day for different movies, Doctor Strange included, and Taika Waititi directed the mid-credits scene. There is inevitable overlap with the video extras, including the story about delaying the release date in order to fit into Cumberbatch's schedule, and there are some patches of dead air as well, but there's still a lot of valuable information throughout the track which enhances the viewing experience.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † Disney's region free United States release features the same selection of supplements, but it also has a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track which easily trumps the underwhelming audio mix on our local release. The Region B U.K. release likewise has lossless 7.1 audio. I can only recommend that you import from overseas.

Summary

†††† Doctor Strange is another "daring" entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it ultimately comes off like a standard blockbuster as opposed to something more surrealistic. It certainly delivers like gangbusters from an action standpoint, however, leaving you to decide if that's enough or not. I still very much enjoyed the movie, and would like to see a more audacious sequel.

†††† Disney delivers stellar video (though the lack of a 4K option is disappointing), but weak lossy audio. Special features are informative and enjoyable. This package comes lightly recommended on the strength of the movie, but importing is definitely a better option for superior audio.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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