Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007) – Directed by Patrick Archibald, Jay Oliva, Richard Sebast, and Frank D. Paur – Starring Bryce Johnson, Paul Nakauchi, Michael Yama, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jonathan Adams, and Tara Strong.
DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME is a rather good animated Marvel movie.
DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME is a rather boring animated Marvel movie.
If this was the pilot episode to a TV show, it wouldn’t be so bad, but as the only Doctor Strange animated movie out there, this doesn’t exactly deliver suffice. The movie is 76 minutes long, and it takes roughly an hour before you see Stephen Strange doing anything magical. For the most part, DOCTOR STRANGE is a mundane, typical origin story. The makers know the main narrative is kinda boring because they keep cutting away from watching Stephen be a dick or have flashbacks about his sister or tearing down a stone wall or just generally being a mopey boor about his damaged hands to other magicians doing magical things.
You know, the action.
I don’t know why we keep getting origin stories. Their continued use suggests that filmmakers think that origin stories are also the best stories, and I find that incredibly disturbing. Are we really to think that the best Doctor Strange story, the best Batman story, the best Spider-Man story, the best whatever story is the origin story and not anything that’s followed since 1963, 1939, 1962, or whatever? Really? You would think that at some production meeting somewhere someone would make the point that these origin stories are played out and that we don’t need them anymore. We get it. There’s plenty of ways to fast-track origins or fold them into the narrative without them being the main plot.
An animated Doctor Strange movie should be an easy home run because animation can bring all of this magic stuff to life, so I don’t know why anyone thinks we’d rather watch a dude doing chores and complaining about his lot in life.
With all of that said, however, DOCTOR STRANGE isn’t a bad movie at all. The animation is quite good, the story is pretty well told, the magical action scenes are really good, and it’s an overall engaging, if not exciting, watch. I applaud Marvel for changing things up and putting out a somber movie, but it’s still a somber origin movie, and how many times are you going to want to re-watch that?
Marvel’s eight animated features released through Lions Gate really aren’t for kids. There’s an older vibe to them, which I dig, but a Doctor Strange animated film could still be serious and actually contain more of what most people probably tuned in to see:
This film is probably 80% Stephen Strange, and even when Doctor Strange pops up, it’s as a dampened magician. He’s the Sorcerer Supreme (his elevation to this role feeling very rushed in the course of the narrative; it seems like one day he’s still lugging rocks and two days later he’s getting promoted) but his big magic tricks largely amount to touching comatose kids on the shoulder, stepping into the dimension where Dormammu has trapped their minds, and bringing them back.
There is some really cool monsters in the film, and for all the slowness of the narrative, the animators step up when they’re called up to design cool-looking monsters and cool-looking magic but the story seems more interested in limiting these moments than expanding upon them.
Mordo plays the bad guy and for a narrative that clearly wants to take a step in the direction of the serious, Mordo is just a thug with a sword and magic spells. (There’s an unbelievable amount of swordplay in this movie; most of the one-on-one battles between Strange and Mordo are sword-related instead.) There’s all sorts of other magic users around, but other than Wong, they’re clearly just cannon fodder.
Like most of the Marvel Animated Features, I bought DOCTOR STRANGE when it hit the $5 bin a few years ago. I watched it, liked it, and then shelved it. I watched it again tonight in between the end of the Red Sox game and the start of the day’s Olympic events in London, and I’ll probably need some reason to watch it again. It’s not the kind of story – as decent as it is – that I’m going to willingly throw in the Blu-Ray player. I wish there were some way to track how often these animated movies get re-watched, because I’d be interested to know if origin stories get re-watched more or less than non-origin stories. I have a feeling that origin stories – especially among long-time comic book fans – just aren’t re-watched at the same frequency, which makes purchasing them a less-likely proposition.
And that’s the curious case of DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME. It’s a pretty good story but it’s not so engaging that I want to come back to it all that often. I wish it was just a Doctor Strange movie instead of a Stephen Strange movie because Stephen only becomes interesting when he becomes the Sorcerer Supreme. Until then, he’s just a jerk.