STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes
Avengers Reborn sneak peak
Concept art
Dr. Strange history featurette
Marvel video game cinematics

The Pitch

An asshole doctor must leave his medical practice behind in order to become an asshole master of the mystical arts.

The Humans

Bryce Johnson, Paul Nakauchi, Kevin Michael Richard and Michael Yama.

The Nutshell

Doctor Stephen Strange was once a brilliant surgeon but supreme asshole of unequaled caliber. As a result of a tragic car accident, he suffered irreparable damage to the nerves in his hands. With his career as a surgeon in ruins, Stephen had to settle with just being a poor, homeless asshole. He spent all his money on phony cures for his ailment and ended up with nothing but a shaggy beard and a half empty bottle of Night Train.

I…I never knew it was even physically possible to do that with a rectum…

Thanks to a friendly unemployment office worker, Stephen was directed to a new career in the mystic arts. A manservant named Wong met up with Stephen and sent him on a whirlwind quest to meet the Ancient One in the Himalayans. It was there that he learned such awesome spiritual techniques as “freeing your mind” and waxing things off. His training complete, he became the sorcerer supreme and lorded his new status over the rest of the Marvel universe. Basically, it’s the feel good story of an asshole that loses everything in order to become a more powerful asshole.

The Lowdown

Doctor Strange is a hard character to handle. The recent World War Hulk storyline is a testament to that. In terms of power, hardly anyone in the Marvel universe can even come close to Strange. Therefore, the writers constantly have to come up with a reason why Strange can’t just swoop in, use his deus ex machina spell and save the day. Oh, Strange can’t get involved with this conflict because it isn’t mystical! He can’t get involved with this one because it violates his moral code! He can’t get involved with this one because he doesn’t want to miss the new episode of Project Runway!

Locked in a room with an NFL game on the television, Tricia is slowly driven insane by John Mellencamp commercials.

The creative team behind this animated movie has an easier go of things since they can just create a world where Strange is the only superhero around. There are no Spider-Men or Captain Americas to muck things up. With all limitations stripped away, it’s pretty puzzling why the movie turned out to be so mundane. With all the powers at Strange’s disposal, all the writers could come up with is a Power Rangers style team of mystical warriors who battle shadow wolves. That’s all you could manage from decade’s worth of Doctor Strange comics? Hell, even modern day Stan Lee could write something better than that and he’s the madman responsible for Ravage 2099.

Whether it’s the Esurance level quality of the film’s animation or the clichéd plot, every part of Doctor Strange feels like a pilot for a ‘90s era animated series. This show would feel at home right next to the old FOX Kids X-Men series. The only thing that sets Doctor Strange apart are its brief flashes of “grown up” violence where characters are murdered and its shameless geek pandering.

How the idea of the Fleshlight came to be.

It’s one thing to just throw in a reference or two to make the Doctor Strange fanboys giddily clap their hands. It’s quite another to end the movie with one of these references. If you’re one of the five people on Earth who extensively reads Doctor Strange comics, you’ll probably think it’s an awesome ending with an incredible impact. Everyone else will just stare at the television screen in abject confusion. That’s probably not the emotion the people involved with this film were going for.

The idea that Doctor Strange feels more like a television pilot than a movie is only reinforced by its running time. The “feature” is over in less than 80 minutes and only the last 20 deal with Doctor Strange as an actual sorcerer. The guy doesn’t even whip out a real spell until the last five minutes or so, when he figures out he can throw lightning bolts and create brutal rain storms. It’s not that the origin story isn’t handled well, it’s just that there’s surprisingly little Stephen Strange in a movie named after him. It only reinforces the belief that the character is boring and needs all these superfluous characters to carry a movie instead of the protagonist. The film would have been much more interesting if it just picked up after the point where this one ends, with Strange already possessing his powers and ready to battle against supernatural forces.

You know what? I think I’ll just go home and let you handle the Hot Topic version of Sinistar over here.

The Package

A special feature that has nothing to do with Doctor Strange but ends up being pretty cool are the collected cinematics from Activision’s Marvel video games. Most of the cinematics from Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends II are available for instant viewing without all that boring video game action in between them. The animation is actually fairly detailed and often much better than the computer animation featured in Doctor Strange. The writing in the cinematics is about as cheesy as any Stan Lee era story, but the character designs all use the Ultimate Universe aesthetic. It would be a lot more costly than a method than whatever they’re making these Marvel direct-to-DVD films with, but making an entire feature with this animation probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The special features also include sketch galleries and a behind-the-scenes look at Doctor Strange. The gallery is an automated one where you simply watch the same scenes from the movie before they were fully animated and colored in. It’s so brief and pointless that you probably won’t care unless you’ve never seen a storyboard in your life. In that case, your mind will be blown. The behind-the-scenes look is a little cooler as it features interviews with Doctor Strange comic book writers past and present, discussing what makes the character unique and why he was deserving of an animated movie. All the awesome original artwork from the comics shown during this feature makes it all the more depressing how generic the art in the actual feature movie is.

Perhaps my noble self sacrifice will stop this pesky Vietnam War. If I’m really lucky, maybe Rage will even put me on an album cover someday!

The features also include a bonus sneak peak at Marvel’s next animated feature, Avengers Reborn. It’s a more kid friendly feature about the next generation of Avengers and their quest to save the world from Ultron. It isn’t based on any pre-existing comic, so who knows how that one will turn out. The disc also has trailers for films that Marvel fans might be interested in like Ultimate Avengers 2, The Invincible Iron Man and Delta Farce. I suppose Lionsgate figures that the same people who buy back issues of Doctor Strange also love Larry the Cable Guy and DJ Qualls.

Overall: 5.0 out of 10