Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

One of the best days of the month for me as a kid was when my older brother would come home with his stack of comics.  I would usually read The Avengers or the Fantastic Four first, follow that up with Spiderman and Marvel Team-up, then see what Luke Cage and the Hulk were up to.  There were titles he would buy that I would check out as the month wore on but near the bottom of the list was Doctor Strange.  I don’t know what it was about Doctor Strange, be it that wacky costume he wore with the gay yellow sash or the fact he really didn’t do anything other than fancy magic tricks.  I mean he never really kicked anybody’s ass and his villains were always these odd mystical types.  I knew he was the Sorcerer Supreme and all, and I knew if worst came to worst one of the other heroes in the Marvel Universe would need to call on Strange to close this portal or that portal to save the universe, but Stephen Strange just wasn’t my top book.  So when Marvel announced their next animated DTV feature would be Doctor Strange, and considering how somewhat lackluster the two Avengers features were, and how totally underwhelming the Iron Man feature was, I wasn’t holding out too much hope.  Well surprise surprise, Marvel’s Doctor Strange is the best animated feature their studio has put out to date, by far.

One thing these Marvel features have never wanted for is action, maybe too much so.  ‘Doctor Strange’ starts out with the action volume cranked to 11 with a band of mystical dudes chasing a crazed demon beast eating up humans in a sewer.  These mystical cats are able to subdue the beast as it rampages through the city, but though they are invisible to they human eye, one motorist, Dr. Stephen Strange, is inexplicably able to see them as well as the beast which the mysticals do find peculiar.  Shaken by what he’s seen, the brilliant but arrogant and detached neurosurgeon heads to the hospital where he ignores poor patients and works only on cases that can get him

published.   A colleague, Dr. Gina Atwater, though disgusted with her former lover, needs his expertise as her coma ward is filling up with children and she doesn’t know why.  Strange reluctantly decides to do a check up on one, but when he touches the child he sees what she sees and what she sees is some kind of ugly.  This is too much weirdness for one night so Strange exits the hospital only to see more odd visions as he drives, resulting in a horrific car accident damaging his most prized possession, his hands.

Desperate, Strange literally goes broke attempting to find a cure for his damaged hands, and finally comes to the end of his line.  A mysterious mystical named Wong appears before him and guides him to Tibet where a cure may lay.  In Tibet, Strange meets his master, the Ancient One who of course speaks in parables and circles like old Asian dudes do in stories in like these, and eventually Strange absorbs the knowledge that the old dude is kicking to him and he takes to the sorcery like a bee takes to honey.  So much so that he may be the only one of the Ancient One’s crew of mysticals who may be able to stop the onslaught of evil mystical Dormammu who has returned to lay claim to this world.  Can Doctor Strange, the newly crowned but totally inexperienced Sorcerer Supreme, save this world and send Dormammu back to his? 

After the opening tour de force action sequence, the next half hour to forty minutes of ‘Doctor Strange’ was dedicated to building the character of Strange, his life, the reasons behind his detachment and the world of the mysticals.  The narrative benefited greatly from the care that the filmmakers took in building the background, which ultimately made for a much better movie and gave the action sequences that they did have more impact.  The voice acting was top notch with Bryce Johnson providing the voice of Doctor Strange and the pacing was excellent from start to finish.  The previous Marvel DTV series were fairly violent affairs and ‘Doctor Strange’ is as well with numerous characters dying, in horrible fashion no less.  So despite the crisp and improved animation, this isn’t a show that younger children should probably be watching though I did let my eleven year old watch, but then I’m a lousy parent so I have an excuse.

I thought it was funny though, as Stephen Strange was all disheveled and unkempt during his stay in Tibet, but once he was able to get his stuff together he decided to give himself a shave and a haircut.  He should work for Great Clips like a mofo because he gave himself the dopest, sweetest shave and cut I’ve ever seen.  Perfectly feathered and layered.  And listening to the ancient one say in his soft wise voice “it’s there because you think it’s there” or “Imagine the unimaginable” was getting a little corny after a while.  How about a STRAIGHT answer every once in a while wise Asian dude?  “What’s 2+2?”  “It is what you believe it is.” 

Otherwise this was some fine entertainment, and after the disappointment that ‘The Invincible Iron Man’ was I once again look forward to Marvel’s next installment in their original animated feature series.

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