Saturday, October 29, 2016

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007) Direct to Video Animated Movie

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Focused story, ample character development, beautiful art, mature tone, relatable protagonist, does not pander to children, seamless incorporation of Asian martial arts influences

The Bad: Mediocre music, inconsistent animation, strays from the magical roots of the source material,

3D Readiness: None


As we look forward to the live action Doctor Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, we take a look back at an alternate retelling of the marvellous magician's origin story: Marvel animation's DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME (2007). Where the marvel cinematic universe's live action entry seems to bank on star power, trippy special effects and comedy, this 2007 animated movie presents a more sombre tale of a proud man brought low by unfortunate circumstances yet clawed his way from the depths to master skills beyond his wildest imagination. All this wrapped in a beautiful package that boasts unmistakable Asian influences.

DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME tells of our titular Stephan Strange, an arrogant self-serving world-class doctor who left empathy in a tragic past. If it were not for well placed emotional flashbacks to his past, one would almost feel Strange deserved to get into that accident and deserved to have his hands crippled. 

Having exhausted all resources to cure his disability, Stephan Strange stumbles upon a  monastery in the mysterious Himalayas. There he is given a chance to heal physically, mentally and spiritually. Little did he suspect that the monastery is home to a secret cadre of sorcerers who hunt demons that venture into our world in an effort to prevent a powerful entity from invading earth. Finding a renewed purpose, Stephan trains alongside them and soon masters their magical arts in record time, much to the annoyance of their leader, Baron Mordo. Strange and Mordo soon become rivals but the jealousy boiling within Mordo would lead him to drastic measures in order to best Strange.

The whole premise of a group of magicians training in seclusion and secretly defending earth from demonic invasion hearkens back to many Chinese fairy tales and Japanese folk myths. Both the doctor's personal story of his fall and renewal and the epic extra dimensional invasion arc blend seamlessly into one another, creating a very well balanced show with strong action, interesting characters and a very emotional story.

The script fully fleshes out the good doctor's character, focusing on his development and painting both Strange and Mordo as "ying and yang" opposites: both were great men, humbled by circumstances, but while one overcame his negative emotions, another slid deeper into mad obsession. The rest of the characters are just stock characters there for the sake of being there and to showcase some very creative character designs and magical powers. Thankfully, the talented cast manage to make each voice unique and very professionally acted, even down to the Asian accents which could have turned out corny in less talented hands. 

DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME boasts a distinct asian touch in not just the story, but also the art and animation. Character designs look like they had leaped from the pages of hong kong kung fu comics, characters adopt oriental martial arts movies while casting their spells. There is also an emphasis placed on the weapon duels which storyboarded like something out of Japanese anime.  

The backgrounds are lush and very intricately designed with attention paid to every single detail, be it reflection in puddles or light shining off metals in the background. Character designs retain their slightly stylized Asian look that was prevalent in the Iron Man animated movie but the level of detail has been taken up a notch. More heavy blacks and a greater contrast of colors are used for an overall more dynamic look and feel. 

Sadly this attention to detail does make it fall into the same trap most Japanese anime do: the animation suffers. Some fight scenes devolve into a low frame rate, making for some choppy movements which should have otherwise been fluid in order to best convey the grace and agility of the martial arts. The 3D animation used for vehicles and otherworldly creatures also stood out at a times, looking very out of place and not blended as well with the 2D art. 

Overall Dr Strange is a very enjoyable movie. Complex and emotionally charged enough for the discerning adult who would appreciate a superhero origin story heavier on drama than comedy. Kids may not appreciate this though as the violent and often dark content, plus lack of levity, may turn them away. For the discerning adult and animation fan, DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME is a likeable balance of believable characters, emotional drama and epic fantasy action with an Asian twist coupled with detailed art and impressive acting. 
**********Review End*********

Entertainment: A-
Art: A-
Animation: C+
Story: A-
Voice Acting (English): B+
Characters: B+
Music: D+
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B-