- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Marvel Comics‘ cinematic blockbuster debut of its famed Sorcerer Supreme moves to the high-definition format to magically entertain home theater viewers in Doctor Strange (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 115 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).

Adapted from the work of sequential art masters Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, director Scott Derrickson’s origin story explores the life of arrogant and brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his downfall caused by the loss of surgical skills due to a horrendous car crash that crushed his hands.

After medical advances fail to repair his nerve-damaged appendages, he seeks out spiritual healing at a Tibetan sorcerer-training compound Kamar-Taj led by his eventual mysterious mentor, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), to begin training for something much bigger.

His arrival is just in time as a former disgruntled pupil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) of the mystical trainer looks to align with a Dark Dimension entity named Dormammu to reshape the world.

Dr. Strange must not only learn his new craft and help stop Kaecilius but eventually protect New York City by taking residence at the famed Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village.

An excellent ensemble cast led brilliantly by Mr. Cumberbatch, Miss Swinton and Mr. Mikkelsen also features Rachel McAdams as his frustrated love interest Christine Palmer, Chiwetel Ejiofor as fellow sorcerer and ultimate rival Karl Mordo and Benedict Wong as Kamar-Taj librarian Wong.

The 1080p digital transfer highlights some fantastic special effects from Stephane Ceretti’s team that merge practical and digital stunts to display sizzling spells crafted by the many sorcerers and the turning of city blocks and buildings into shifting Jango pieces (think “Inception”).

They also create a trippy vision of Dormammu’s florescent-colored realm and astral projection moments looking ripped from the comics; and bring to life the Doctor’s famous red Cloak of Levitation, which has a mind of its own.

It’s a shame that Disney has not joined the ultra high-definition bandwagon, as “Doctor Strange” would have been the perfect movie to showcase the power of 4K UHD and high-dynamic-range imaging.

“Doctor Strange” is one of the best Marvel movies to date, and I dare any fan not to shed a little tear of joy after watching this seminal comic book legend don his legendary costume and smite the forces of mystical evil.

Geek note: Pay attention to the end credits for an amusing cut scene introducing the sorcerer into “The Avengers” universe.

Best extras: The studio offers a well-rounded selection of bonus content led by a mandatory optional commentary track from Mr. Derrickson.

Recorded the day before the premiere of the movie, untainted by audience opinion or box office success or failure, the track finds the director bubbling with enthusiasm and ready to talk detail about a project he took very seriously.

He repeats many a time his love of the comics growing up and offers specifics on adapting the source material down to the flack he got for casting Miss Swinton in a normally oriental male role and his bringing Steve Ditko’s psychedelic art style to the screen.

Listeners not only get a great and near non-stop overview of the challenges and successes achieved in the film but a bit of an education in 1960s sequential art.

By the way, the director also offers a video introduction to the film, a bit promotional, but heartfelt nonetheless.

Next, viewers can watch five featurettes that spend an hour covering the overall production — including casting, costuming and musical score but highlighting the intense fight choreography and an introduction to digital magic behind some very slick special effects.

What’s odd, but welcomed, are the interesting interviews with all of the primary cast members. Instead of kissing each other’s butts and the director’s, they often pay reverence to the source material and production team’s efforts while even expressing gratitude for being allowed to become a part of Marvel Comics‘ universe of films.

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