Film Review: Doctor Strange DVD

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme

The Master of the Mystic Arts seems like an idea that is great for animation – the cartoonists will be able to bring to life the ethereal quality of magic as envisaged by Steve Ditko and make it even more tangible, the stuff of dreams made real. However, the filmmakers seemed to have completely missed this quite important point at the heart of Doctor Strange and jazzed things up by having all the mystical folk fight with swords.

In one of the extras on the DVD, about the origins of Doctor Strange (with some nice stuff from Stan Lee and Steve Engelhart), the screenwriter for the film (Greg Johnson) talks about the process and the characters. In doing so, he reveals the extent to which he does not understand the idea behind the Sorcerer Supreme – he talks about making the other mystics having their own identifiable form of using magic, which them makes them just like the X-Men. He actually uses that analogy. And this is the guy who wrote the film, someone who admits that he read ‘most’ of the books – he obviously is not a fan of Stephen Strange and he is obviously not a fan of magic, because magic is continually downplayed throughout the film. I can only imagine what Neilalien thought about it …

The film is basically a reworking of the origin story, with the tweak of giving Stephen Strange a younger sister who he couldn’t help when she started having aneurysms as some unnecessary backstory. But the film gets it mostly right, with Strange an arrogant surgeon who loses the gift of his hands in a car crash, loses his money in an effort to heal them, and ending up in the monastery of the Ancient One in Tibet, where he eventually learns magic. All the while, Dormammu is trying to break into this dimension …

The animation style has a nice fluidity and anatomy, and magic is creatively illustrated when it is used. Strange looks good, except his hair and clothing goes a little too far into the zone of ‘New Romantic’ when he accepts his magical abilities. It would have been nice to have had the cloak, even in an updated format, but they decided against that, as well as many other classics of the Strange mythology, such as chanting (I would have liked to hear ‘By the crimson bands of Cytorrak’) and the use of magical incantations that you would expect of the Sorcerer Supreme. Having him fight Mordo with swords seems very silly when they can do bloody magic …

The film is quite enjoyable, despite the deviation from the comic book (why do the creators say how much they like the original stuff, then change it?) – I’m not saying that the film should be the books but at least be on the same page about what the concept is – and tells the story in an entertaining fashion. Just don’t expect anything too dazzling.

Rating: VID

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