Doctor Strange (3D 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
Dual Disc Set
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 $34.95 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
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
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Mid and post-credits scenes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

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

†††† On top of the standard 2D Blu-ray, Disney have also chosen to release Doctor Strange on 3D Blu-ray for those interested, and the result is (predictably) another winner from the House of Mouse. The MVC-encoded presentation is endowed with differing aspect ratios - for the most part, it's framed at 2.39:1, but the movie opens up to 1.90:1 during its IMAX sequences to fill more of the screen for maximum immersion. As per standard operating practise for Marvel/Disney, Doctor Strange was shot in regular old 2D before being converted in post-production, but as usual you would be hard-pressed to guess that this is just another conversion job since it looks natively 3D (we have really come a long way since 2010's Clash of the Titans). Although the format may seem unnecessary for certain movies, 3D is a great fit for Doctor Strange due to its visual style, and the movie is all the more immersive in three dimensions. It's clear that the movie was planned to be in 3D from the beginning and was designed appropriately.

†††† The 3D presentation starts out strong, with the epic introductory Marvel logo that shows insane depth and separation, and it's only uphill from there. Even during the more mundane scenes like Strange performing surgery at the hospital, or casually talking with Christine, the 3D effects are on full display. Cityscapes look breathtaking, appearing to stretch back into the screen endlessly. The shot looking through a rainy window of Strange lying in bed with Christine beside him excels in providing a sense of object separation, making you feel as if you're actually looking through a window. When Strange looks out the window of his apartment, the cityscape outside has noticeable depth, but it's also not overdone. Characters are rounded and three-dimensional at all times - just see Strange wearing a mechanism on his head whilst performing surgery, or waking up in his bed following the accident. And on it goes. You will find no shots that look like a pop-up book with 2D cardboard cut-outs at different depths - every visual element is convincingly three-dimensional.

†††† Opening up the frame to 1.90:1 during the IMAX sequences provides more eye candy and more to absorb. And it's not just the action scenes - Strange's initial meeting with the Ancient One, and his initial journey through pure psychedelia, is opened up as well, and looks stunning. VFX-heavy scenes fare extremely well as a general rule - it's likely that the CGI was rendered in 3D, and therefore didn't require a conversion. Strange's battle in the astral dimension at the hospital looks amazing; the characters are transparent, yet they appear separate to whatever you can see through them. When Michael Stuhlbarg's character grabs something from the vending machine in the same sequence, the hallway appears to stretch out deep into the television. The entire Hong Kong-set climax is permitted the expanded IMAX aspect ratio, and it looks extraordinary - particularly when Strange ventures into the Dark Dimension to confront Dormammu. Luckily, both the mid-credits and the post-credits scenes are in 3D, and the post-credits scene is actually opened up to 1.90:1.

†††† As with the 2D Blu-ray, detailing is fine but unspectacular, often looking on the smooth side, and certain scenes look soft as well. Indeed, contrast is lacking and highlights are strictly mediocre, which left me playing with my television settings to see if I could get a stronger picture (I couldn't). In addition, colours are strong during certain sequences, but the movie does look undeniably drab at times, in need of more pop. This is almost inevitable given the dimming effects of 3D glasses though, not to mention the 2D presentation likewise suffered in the colour department. Oh how I yearn for High Dynamic Range. This aside, the encode is otherwise free of imperfections. At no point did I detect any artefacts on my display - there's no aliasing, macroblocking or banding, nor is there any ghosting. Doctor Strange looks seriously great in 3D, and it's the best way to watch this Marvel blockbuster until a 4K Blu-ray release comes along. (However, I'll forever be pulling out the U.K. 3D release with its superior 7.1 lossless audio.)

†††† Subtitles are provided. It can be a bit weird adjusting to them (I rarely watch 3D with subtitles because of this), but they're easy to read.


Video Ratings Summary
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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
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Extras

†††† The 3D disc itself contains no special features. However, the combo pack also contains the 2D disc containing a welcome selection of special features. It appears that Disney has turned over a new leaf starting with Doctor Strange - the House of Mouse has a nasty habit of phasing out 3D/2D combo packs after a couple of months and subsequently selling the 3D disc by itself for an inflated price, but Doctor Strange is still sold in a combo pack for a reasonable price and there's no 3D-only set. This is indeed promising.

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 covers 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 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.

† † The same supplements are available worldwide, but overseas editions come with lossless 7.1 audio, instantly making them superior. Import.

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 delivers like gangbusters from an action standpoint for sure, leaving you to decide if that's enough or not. I still very much enjoy the movie, however, and would like to see a more audacious sequel.

†††† Disney has unfortunately delivered a disappointing 3D release. Video is fine and the supply of extras is terrific, but the lossy audio is a letdown no matter which way you look at it. If you don't care about audio, then buy with confidence. But if you value sound, it's best that you import.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, November 14, 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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