This movie has some serious issues. But first, the positives.
I thought the retelling of the origin story was well done. This movie does an good job at introducing someone who has never heard of Dr. Strange to the core concepts of the character. You have all of the critical elements - Mordo, The Ancient One, Wong, and the bad guy, Dormammu. They just drag it out a bit more than it was in the comics and give Dr. Strange more of a back story with his dying sister, April. This gives the viewer a greater understanding of why Dr. Strange is such a jerk. Really, when you think about it, the story is essentially the same story as the Newbery Medal winning novel, Johnny Tremain.
Visually, it is interesting enough. The animation is well done and the character designs are pretty good. They manage to give each magician their own look and reflects their different abilities and personalities. The way the magical powers express themselves is cool like the swords that are drawn out of thin air and using the "eye" amulets to see invisible creatures.
The sequence with Dr. Strange's training in the temple is pretty cool too, especially the wall that he has to tear down every day but rebuilds itself. I also liked the nod they gave fans at the end when they mention (SPOILER) Clea.
Now, not everything is sunshine and roses. Like I said, this movie has some serious problems.
The issue with the characters is that there are so many magicians that, outside of Mordo, Wong, and the Ancient One you don't even learn their names. Now that might be okay if these folks were in the background but they're the primary focus of all the movie's action until the end! You can't even find out their names in the credits because they're not listed. So when you're watching these magicians fight and die you really don't care at all because you don't even know who they are.
Not only doesn't the viewer care about the magician "good guys" they don't care about the villains, either. We don't even see Dormammu until 3/4 of the way through the film. Until then, it's an endless parade of nameless creatures with no backstory whatsoever.
The biggest problem with this movie, however, is that it is very slowly paced. Since the viewer doesn't care about any of the earlier action, the good magicians or the evil creatures we're left with a story that drags on. There's lots of talking that is sure to bore kids. Every point the writers want to get across is beaten to death. We get it. Stephen Strange is a big jerk. We get it. Stephen Strange's hands don't work and nobody can fix them. The flashbacks to Stephen's dying sister, April, while interesting, just slow the movie down even more.
I'm not sure who their target audience was for this movie - kids or adults. The inclusion of some swearing and some disturbing images (such as flying bat-piranha things eating all the flesh from a dozen or so victims leaving a skeleton behind, Dr. Strange's suicide attempt, or a few dozen kids streaming demonic flames out of their mouths) makes me think they were going for an older audience. Also, the general pace of the story and the fact that Dr. Strange is a big, adult jerk who refuses to help sick children in the beginning of the movie would also be turn-offs to children watching. But on the other hand the plot revolves around children and everything is kept uncomplicated so a child could understand it. Either way, I think they missed the mark with this one. The final product is one that neither children nor adults will likely enjoy.
1LR Review - 7 out of 20 - It's a Failure!