Doctor Strange Blu-ray Review
Marvel Meets Inception
Doctor Strange, another hard-to-translate-to-the-screen Marvel character, enters the MCU and blows it wide open.Imagine the possibilities. Parallel universes, alien dimensions, multiverses, alternate Earths - all of a sudden the beloved characters played by Downey Jr, Hemsworth, Evans and even Ruffalo don't have to be 'rebooted' from scratch - we could just investigate their lives in another world, where they could be played by different, younger actors, and given a new story which hints at what happened before (well, not technically, before, more at the same time). It'd be a little like Abrams' Star Trek, enabling multiple actors to play the same role without devaluing the franchise or ruining the timeline. That's what Doctor Strange could mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It could blow it wide open. Right from its Inception-on-acid opening sequence, it makes you giddy as a schoolkid all over again, throwing so many wondrous Escher-esque realities at you that your mind will be barely able to keep up. Using modern effects in simply the best possible way, the movie injects you into an unfathomable world of multiple realities and multiple dimensions, blasting your senses with the kind of visual opulence that make Tarsem Singh's visions feel positively restrained.At once marrying the high-tech savvy of the Avengers universe with the magical imagery of Strange's comic-come-to-life, the movie eschews the more dated Harry Potter form of spell-casting, in favour of the kind of approach Tony Stark would take, if he were a wizard. Its ability to feature wizards and sorcery and yet remind us of everything from Inception to The Matrix speaks of the perfect vision that horror director Scott Derrickson - a great fan of the source material - has adopted here. Doctor Strange may be thinly plotted, and may seek to distract you with sound and fury (and a Guardians of the Galaxy style great sense of humour), but it does so with such verve and passion that it's impossible not be swept up by it. This isn't Interstellar in terms of fifth-dimensional thinking, but it is Inception in terms of its ability to construct - and destruct - visually striking universes like you've never seen before (and challenging the city-destroying end-of-level baddie that always finishes Marvel movies). It barely stops to breathe in its two-hour runtime, leaving you unable to pause to even understand - let alone criticise - some of the marvels you'll see, and offering but one option: go along for the ride.
Picture QualityDisney's UK Region Free Blu-ray release of Doctor Strange delivers a near-perfect 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is stunning, lapping up the spectacular effects, picking up on the intricacies of the environment and the skin textures on close-ups, seldom letting up in its desire to visually marvel. The colour scheme pops at every stage with vibrant, vivid tones, again not least in the outstanding visual effects that allow sorcery and spellwork to take on a Tron: Legacy-like look. Black levels are strong and deep, and allow for excellent shadow detail and, were it not for the potential that could be offered by an upgrade to 4K, this would be a perfect 10 video presentation. It's undoubtedly a reference one.
A Blu-ray image that is near-perfect
The 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D presentation is also surprisingly good, in an age when the future of 3D (at least in home formats) is in question, Doctor Strange proves that, done right, it can still prove thoroughly immersive and bring whole new universes - and dimensions - to life with wonder and awe. To heighten the impact, key sequences are expanded on the 3D release to an aspect ratio closer to 1.90:1. These encompass almost all of the major effects-driven set-pieces, including that wondrous opening gambit, which spins the whole environment at you, and throws you right into the thick of the multi-layered affair in a way that 3D was always intended to do. Roundedness and layered depth is impressive, and, indeed it would be interesting to see if a future 4K experience could best the immersive effect of 3D done right, as it is here.
Sound QualityAs with the video, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is clearly reference quality, engaging at every stage with a thoroughly immersive aural soundscape that will heartily assist in your transportation to another dimension.
The soundtrack is easy demo material
Dialogue remains clear and coherent throughout, and the sweeping, energetic score knows its place at the back of the queue, providing a backbone to the proceedings and keeping the surrounds warmed up and engaged throughout. The effects are wonderfully reflected, however, with dynamic observation across the channels, lapping up finer nuances and lower-level sorcery, but more than prepared to deliver bombastic high octane effects with all the requisite thunder to shake you up right where you sit. Sure, the lack of Dolby Atmos enhancement may still stick in your craw, but with plenty of LFE input, and a very impressive sound design, Doctor Strange makes for easy demo material nonetheless.
ExtrasAs is only commensurate to the MCU releases, Doctor Strange delivers a plethora of quality extra features, headlined by an Audio Commentary with the Director, who talks about the concepts, effects, character and universe. A quintet of Featurettes, each running around 10-15 minutes in length, offer further background into key aspects of the production, from the overview Featurette, A Strange Transformation, to Strange Company, which looks at the supporting cast and characters, to the costumes and and set design in The Fabric of Reality, the action setpieces in Across Time and Space, and the score in The Score-cerer Supreme. There's also an 8 minute selection of Deleted Scenes, a short Gag Reel, and a brief First Look at MCU Phase 3, although fans will probably most be looking forward to Team Thor: Part 2, which rounds out the impressive package.
A plethora of quality extra features make for an impressive package
Things get even better with the UK Zavvi-exclusive Steelbook release, which boasts a distinctive Strange-amulet design, complete with embossed framing and embossed touches on the centrepiece. It's an intricate design and whilst perhaps not up there with the best of the early MCU titles in terms of distinctive symbol, it's still a perfect addition to the pack.
Blu-ray VerdictDoctor Strange is far from just another shallow, single-purposed origin story, which we all hope will lead to a more developed sequel; it's actually the gateway to a new universe for Marvel, suddenly showing audiences how such disparate entities as Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy can co-exist in the same universe, and opening up a realm of possibilities for the future of the MCU way beyond even the many 'phases' that they have already conceived. It's Doctor Strange's boundless vision that gives it such an edge, and if, as with the character, you're prepared to let go and submit yourself to this journey, the possibilities are endless.
It features wizards and sorcery and yet reminds us of everything from Inception to The Matrix
Disney's UK 2D/3D Blu-ray release of Doctor Strange, particularly when dressed up in Zavvi's exclusive steelbook packaging, makes for a tremendous offering, with demo video in 2D and 3D, and demo audio, as well as a comprehensive selection of extras. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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