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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Doctor Strange is a bit different than other Marvel Universe movies, since it presents a sorcerer as a superhero. At the start, the main character (Benedict Cumberbatch) is arrogant and selfish, but he slowly learns humility: to better himself and to think of others. Frequent comic book-style action violence includes large-scale destruction, a brutal car crash (the result of texting and driving), bloody wounds and scenes at an operating table, and a terrible fall from a height, crashing through glass. There's also martial arts fighting, fighting with "magical" weapons, a beheading, and other brief, scary stuff. A couple is said to have been in a relationship, and there's a mention of "sleeping together." Language includes one "s--t," two uses of "a--hole" and an "ass." The doctor is an unusual, but very entertaining, member of the superhero club, and the movie's mystical elements provide food for thought as well as fun.
What's the story?
In DOCTOR STRANGE, the title character (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a skilled surgeon who's both successful and arrogant. After crashing his sports car, he finds that his hands are useless, and medical science can't restore them. But he hears of a man who was able to walk again after a spinal injury and seeks the source of this rumor, an Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) in Kathmandu, Nepal. At first the doctor mocks the Ancient One's claims that healing his spirit can heal his body, but he finds her powers genuine and begs to be taught. His training goes better than expected: It even appears that Doctor Strange might be a natural-born sorcerer. But a villain, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), has stolen pages from one of the Ancient One's spell books and intends to use them to bring a dark dimension to Earth. Has Strange learned enough to stop this evil from happening?
Is it any good?
Marvel's 14th Cinematic Universe movie has all the usual action and explosions, but it also has a different type of main character -- one who's magical and appealingly flawed but willing to change. Chiefly known as a horror director, helmer Scott Derrickson unexpectedly adds plenty of playfulness and humor to a story that could have been steeped in self-serious exoticism and mysticism. It helps that Cumberbatch and Swinton, as well as Benedict Wong as the keeper of the spellbook library, bring so much personality to their roles.
Most of Doctor Strange's seriousness is a burden carried by Chiwetel Ejiofor's Mordo character, but comic fans will at least know the reason why. Unfortunately, the best character moments tend to cool down and fizzle out during the big action sequences. But some of those scenes, which have beautiful "folding" effects as the sorcerers change the environment around them, are quite impressive, especially as Strange learns his powers. As the movie's climax arrives, the action becomes bigger and less involving. Still, it's thrilling to see Strange embrace his inner spirit, finding power by going with the current, instead of against it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Doctor Strange's violence. How does it compare to what you've seen in other Marvel movies? Is there a difference in the impact of hand-to-hand combat and catastrophic, buildings-collapsing type of explosions?
Why do you think the Marvel comics have turned into such well-received movies? How does Doctor Strange fit in? How is he different?
What lessons does Doctor Strange learn from the Ancient One? Could you apply any of these lessons to your own life?
How does the movie address texting and driving? Do the consequences seem realistic?
- In theaters: November 4, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 28, 2017
- Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton
- Director: Scott Derrickson
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Character Strengths: Humility, Perseverance
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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