A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this cartoon derives from a Marvel comic book steeped in occult magic and mysticism, and sorcery that impinges on the real world (as opposed to fairy tales). It's wildly fantastical and not quite as campy as the comics (none of Stan Lee's nonsensical invocations such as "By the hoary hosts of Haggoth!"). There is also some creepy imagery, especially involving bewitched and zombie-like children. One attempted suicide.
What's the story?
Based on the Marvel Comics superhero surgeon, this animated adventure finds Doctor Stephen Strange helpless to save the city's children, who are lapsing into mysterious comas. A demonic vision tied to the mystery comas causes an accident that cripples the surgeon's hands , and he spends all his money seeking a cure. On a stranger's advice, Strange visits a monastery in Asia and embarks on a rigorous training program meant to rehabilitate him physically and emotionally. The monastery's Sorcerer Supreme directs an army of mystical warriors who teleport to the city to fight off demons controlled by Dormamu, an evil entity determined to gain power who holds the key to solving the mystery comas. Strange ends up in a bitter rivalry with an ambitious warrior Mordo over who gets to become the next Sorcerer Supreme and continue the battle against evil.
Is it any good?
There is some effectively spooky imagery, both animated and CGI, that might creep out especially younger kids, and the story takes itself ultra-seriously. You don't have to have read the comics to comprehend the basic A to B (and To Be Continued...) origin story; understanding the fine details on how exactly wizard A gets around to defeating evil god B, well, you're on your own. Kids who have read the comics may find more value in this Japanese-animated realization of the superhero than adults expecting another Spider-Man.
Nothing all that surprising happens, ultimately (except nobody in the nameless city seems to notice a monster apocalypse and armies of zombies in the streets), with the door open at the end for continuing episodes. But in the end there isn't much here. You'd think Strange's metamorphosis from a man of science to a superdude of spells and sorcery would be kind of cool, but no big deal is made of it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the decision to make Dr. Stephen Strange the Sorcerer Supreme, a job he didn't even seek. Why do you think he was chosen over Mordo? Even better question, Why didn't the old master think of choosing faithful servant Wong, who doesn't seem to give anybody any trouble? Is Strange's bitterness in his medical practice understandable? Do the spectacular live-action comic-book movies of recent years leave cartoons like these in the dust?
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