Two sewer workers are fleeing for their lives as a huge, invisible something pursues them relentlessly. It captures one of them as his colleague makes his way up the ladder to the street, yelling for help all the way, and as he is being pulled up by another worker the creature grabs him and drags him back into the depths. The other worker makes a break for his truck, gets in and takes off at high speed, but even this is not enough to outrun the beast; how fortunate, then, that a band of sorcerers appear from the darkness to put paid to the monster's activities...
But not among them is Doctor Strange, which should tip you off that this is one of those dreaded "origin" stories of the kind that hold up the plot when you want to get down to the good old fighting monsters with magic stuff. You would think with a character as colourful as Strange, as colourful as the world which surrounds him, in fact, that he would be a natural for transferring to the screen, but perhaps he's too obscure in the pantheon of Marvel Comics characters to have registered with the public at large.
This animated video feature was scripted by Greg Johnson in an attempt to update Dr Strange and flesh out his background. Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, it was Ditko's legendarily psychedelic artwork which made the doctor a cult figure of his day, and if his star has faded over the years then it's not due to lack of imagination in his original incarnation. This 2007 Doctor Strange however, plays like any number of Saturday morning cartoons and suffers from not pushing the boundaries.
This Strange (voiced by Bryce Johnson) is a surgeon haunted by his inability to save his sister from a brain condition which has led him to grow cold hearted and only follow the money where his work is concerned. His colleague Gina (Susan Spano) calls his attention to a strange epidemic of comas in the city's children, and he has a bizarre vision of fire when he examines one of them. Disturbed by this, he promptly crashes his car over a cliff when distracted by a supernatural thingummy, ruining his hands in the process.
You know how in seventies martial arts films (and The Karate Kid, for that matter) that the hero has to undergo teachings from his master to beat the big guy at the end? Well that cliché takes up most of the story in this Doctor Strange, to tedious effect because we all know he will be the Sorcerer Supreme eventually, so why make us wait? Our hero goes to Tibet to meet up with the team we saw at the start, along with the Ancient One (Michael Yama), but what you'll really be wanting to see is Strange making with the spell casting and besting Lovecraftian horrors, something you have to hang around for. Even at an hour and a quarter, this feels too long by half and does nothing for a classic character. Music by Guy Michelmore.
[Lionsgate's DVD has a couple of featurettes, including a history of Doctor Strange, as extras.]