Absurd but amusing. Colorful but dramatic. Flashy but controlled. Doctor Strange does a lot for the Marvel universe, bringing magic and mysticism into the ranks. It’s a wonderfully told hero’s journey, decorated with the type of visual effects magic that makes it possible to appreciate the artistry in CGI. Underneath is a wonderful human story, a man dealing with his physical handicap, coping and learning to accept who he is.
One of the darker films in the Marvel canon, the digital cinematography of Doctor Strange leaves a number of problems behind. On a significant level is consistent vertical banding, hampering, in particular, depth-of-field backgrounds. It’s a problem throughout, subtle but apparent. Compounding things is excessive noise, also a bit of a pest, leaving much of Doctor Strange riddled with mild artifacts.
Much of this can be blamed on the brighter-than-average shadows. Doctor Strange offers wonderful black levels, but is often muted overall by color timing. Those muted spaces allow for noise to congregate, leaving flatness and the artifacts of digital cinematography behind.
Luckily, sharp, refined detail saves the Blu-ray’s image quality. Doctor Strange’s world bends and twists cities into single perspective shots, repeating New York to infinity without a shred of aliasing. Felt texture on Strange’s cape and the stitch work on the costumes shows every time. Even with distance, there’s no loss of definition.
And, even if the color subsides a touch by the consistent Marvel visual design, the bright magic tricks and stunning neon-like intensity of the multi-verse bring out high-end saturation. If not the costumes, then everywhere else is a breeding ground of bright, intense color. Fine stuff, if overall teetering into danger.
While Disney still seems repulsed by new audio codecs at home, DTS-HD 7.1 will suffice. Lots of twisting, moving, and panning happening in this mix. Sweeping sound effects always keep the track busy. Plenty of tricks make sure to utilize the full width of the rear soundstage including Tilda Swinton’s voice swirling around as Strange takes his first out-of-body trip. The entire Hong Kong sequence is a mixing party with countless examples of positional work.
Deafening LFE jumps in when spell casting or when Dormammu’s voice rocks the low-end as he speaks. This goes for all of the city turning magic too. Doctor Strange is a total power hog. Stellar action scenes fit into the audibly flawless Marvel canon. Not one of their discs fell below perfect. Doctor Strange is another blockbuster winner.
An hour of featurettes opens the extras. Praise happy bonuses as they are, their look into the production offers details on five different topics. Likewise, the short look at Marvel’s Phase 3 continues the self-congratulating tone. Five deleted scenes and the short gag reel are worth a look. So is Team Thor: Part 2 if you haven’t caught it yet online. Director Scott Derrickson gets involved with a solo commentary and optional one minute intro with the film.
Even after a near decade of superhero movies, Marvel finds a way to still make them unique with the visually alluring Doctor Strange.
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