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Movie Review

Doctor Strange also known as “Dr. Strange,” “Doctor Extraño”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.

Reviewed by: Jessica D. Lovett
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Superhero Sci-Fi Action Adventure Fantasy
Length:
1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
November 4, 2016 (wide—3,800+ theaters)
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

self-centeredness

arrogance and pride / compare to humility


dealing with personal tragedy


magic and magicians in the Bible

sorcery in the Bible

enchantments

alternate dimension


Can mysticism lead to God? Answer

Why I stopped following Buddha and started following Jesus Christ? Answer

Ten Questions I’d Ask If I Could Interview Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) Today

personal story: Jesus Christ 2, Buddha 0

Featuring: Benedict CumberbatchDr. Stephen Strange
Chiwetel EjioforMordo
Rachel McAdamsChristine Palmer
Tilda SwintonThe Ancient One
Benedict Wong … Wong
Mads Mikkelsen … Kaecilius
Michael Stuhlbarg … Dr. Nicodemus West
more »
Director: Scott Derrickson—“Deliver Us from Evil” (2014), “Sinister” (2012), “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005)
Producer: Marvel Studios
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Propelled by selfish ambition to discover the power of witchcraft and sorcery in order to participate in a spiritually based faction wrought with strife

Marvel’s newest comic book based film, “Doctor Strange” is the most visually stunning, creative film set in the Avengers universe, so far. Where the Avengers movies take you flying by buildings and careening over fiery explosions, “Doctor Strange” takes you through rainbow-tinted alternative dimensions in time and space and racing madly over folding scenery as it collapses around you! It is a psychedelic, extremely witty, fairy tale completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, though it does have a kind of Harry Potter slash Matrix vibe. It also turns the whole superhero idea on its head, equating the power of magic with something to be attained as one gains a higher personal spirituality. For example, more difficult spells are mastered as one reaches higher levels of spiritual enlightenment. Michael Giacchino’s (composer for “Star Trek Beyond,” “Ratatouille,” “Up,” “Jurassic World”) sweeping, breathtaking score is the perfect backdrop for the impossible sights of the film. With so many films being predictable, plot-driven or remakes of very familiar tales, “Doctor Strange” certainly takes many flights of fancy that one cannot anticipate beforehand, which in itself is a treat.

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a gifted neurosurgeon who seems to have all the worldly trappings of success: a penthouse apartment, fancy sports car, patients begging to be seen by him, and respected speaking engagements. His world is anchored by the dexterity and control of his hands and his renowned skill in surgery. In a car accident on the way to one of his speaking engagements, his hands are injured beyond repair, and it is all he can do after much therapy to write his name in the shaky handwriting of a 5-year-old. Seeing his existence as shattered and hopeless, he pours his remaining fortune into finding a cure for his hands in order to regain his career.

Stumbling into the story of someone in similar situation who was healed beyond predictions after going to a mysterious sanctuary in the Himalayas, he buys a one-way ticket there with his last cent. There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who ushers her new pupil into the world of spiritual warfare and the power of the mind over matter.

A much more multifaceted and deep plot than previous Marvel films, “Doctor Strange” explores many different ideas about life and the struggle that all have for inner peace. The film makes the audience come to terms with what moral or societal rules they would deem acceptable to break in order to save others’ lives. Also, exploring the themes of mind-over-matter, the validity of achievement out of hubris vs. humility, atheism vs. religion, career as idolatry, the role of a physician in the lives of patients, single universe vs. multiverse, and personal loyalty, this film turns over many philosophical themes that simply do not fit in other comic book superhero films that are have more science-based plots than does the mystical, seeking story of Dr. Stephen Strange.

Adam Frank, astrophysicist at the University of Rochester who served as a consultant for the film, explained the rift like this:

“People often want to talk about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and science, but here’s a place where really, what we’re looking at is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and philosophy. The real question here is the mind-body problem, which goes back to Plato and Aristotle, but really to Descartes. What is the relationship between [the] mind—not just our thinking, but our subjective experience of the world—and matter? Many people in science will come at a reductionist perspective—that you are nothing more than your neurons, and your neurons are nothing more than quarks, so that the fundamental objects and their rules determine everything that happens on larger structures. But a nonreductionist perspective says no, there’s actually something more going on there—that mind experience cannot be reduced just to gears in your head; there is some way in which there’s something fundamental going on about the universe at the level of experience that has to be included in the counts of atoms. That’s the way we talked about this; that’s the way in for “Doctor Strange.”

Marvel films have always had a profound respect for science and what they have done with “Doctor Strange” is take a very brilliant, scientific character who has built his entire life on the knowledge and boundaries that his science-based education has given him and put him in a compromising situation that forces him to explore the limitless spiritual side of the world that he has never given any regard whatsoever to before. That being said, it has more than its fair share of controversial material that is sure to offend those sensitive to signs of the occult. “Occult” can be defined by “supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena.” There is no masking the fact that a black-and-white thinking, logical doctor is led into a fantastical world of “occultism” and that, by default, creates lots of gray areas in his newly reforming points of view about the universe. He experiences spiritual journeys though different kaleidoscope-like places that he finds difficult to fathom. In short, the word that most critics are commonly using to describe this movie is “trippy.” It is that! Mixing up essences of several world religions, “Doctor Strange” has many uses of symbolism and fictitious emblems of opposing spiritual groups to give its story gravitas, but I am honestly not schooled enough in these things to tell if any of the symbols are actually made up for the comic only or are “real” occult images.

Obviously, different groups being assigned a symbol to identify its henchmen and whatnot does not make that symbol inherently evil. However, like many films before it, “Doctor Strange” does use its beguiling imagery to make witchcraft and the occult look powerful, appealing, and to seem like a positive thing to pursue. As Christians, we are called to heed Galatians 5:20 and run from all forms of witchcraft, sorcery, selfish ambition, factions, and strife. Put in a Galatians 5:20 frame, “Doctor Strange” is a film about being propelled by “selfish ambition” to discover the power of “witchcraft” and “sorcery” in order to participate in a spiritually based “faction” wrought with “strife.” I would highly recommend not bringing teens or those who are in the process of incubating young, still-forming, worldviews to the film.

The film is surprisingly low in sexuality, with just a mild cheek-kiss scene, one mention of the term “sleeping together,” and little nudity. There are many gruesome images surrounding Doctor Strange’s surgeries—his own and his patients’. He is seen with extensive injuries and metal pins in his strung-up bloodied hands. Also, there are several violent fight scenes with swordplay, a character being strung up by magical whips, fist fights, and bloody stabbings. In one scene, Doctor Strange is killed and revived in several different violent ways by a demonic warlord of another dimension. There is no smoking or drug use, but, by overturned wine bottles, it is inferred at one point that a character has been drinking. Due to the traumatic images, I would not personally recommend it for children. While faith Jesus Christ lifts your spirit by setting you free from the binding power of sin and giving you hope in Him, the “dark arts” secretly chain you to its rule with promises of hope and power that are propelled only by selfishness and pride and are truly rooted in the influence of evil. Though the dialog is flawlessly written, and the special effects are jaw-dropping, this very dividing, controversial film is not for everyone, and I encourage you to carefully consider before viewing it.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild—OMG (2), “h*ll” (1), “a**hole” (2), “a**” (1), s-words (2) / Sex/Nudity: Mild—passionate kiss, references to being lovers, shirtless man

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Amazing movie with a positive message with spectacular visual effects. Agree with Josiah Osborne (in the comment basically he said everything I wanted to say)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Cyril, age 29 (United Kingdom)
Positive—I was stunned, really, after seeing this movie with the very clear metaphors to the spiritual realm. The comments regarding the evil in the movie could very aptly be applied to Satan and just so surprisingly and succinctly. In fact, those metaphors were so strong, I was struck throughout the movie with how applicable they are to our lives as Christians.

Yes, there is magic, but I simply don’t see a difference in the types of magic that are and are not supposed to be acceptable to Christians. Many of the series we embrace are full of magic—“The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings” to name two of them (the same magic as in the Harry Potter series, which is often eschewed). Just like every other movie with magic, this one maintained a distinction between the good and the bad. As so many movies with magic do. There is evil, and there is good. Magic is a way for us to speak about the reality of our lives in a way that it isn’t so close to home it’s painful. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Doralyn, age 39 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This movie was very interesting philosophically. Dr. Strange is a successful neurosurgeon who is devastated by the loss of coordination in his hands. Instead of finding another way to use his education, such as teaching medical students or changing specialties, Dr. Strange will not give up the pride he has in being a neurosurgeon and instead looks for ways to restore his hands. It ends up bringing him to a place he’d never thought he’d be in Hong Kong where the Ancient One (A woman who has lived a long time) tells him that there is magic that can influence the world. Strange, being a materialist, does not believe her at first, but in this movie, there is magic and Strange eventually decides to study it, at first to regain control over his damaged nerves in his hands and later to try to defend the Earth from evil sorcerers who want to freeze time to stop death. The pros of this movie are that we see Dr. Strange turn from a man who just does things to build up his ego and pride to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself for others. The movie is also extremely artistically beautiful, the language and romance very restrained compared to other Marvel movies, and it has many humorous moments. The cons are the magic and mysticism that is in this movie. Although the Eastern Religious philosophy has been Westernized in this movie, it could make some people be more open to looking for spiritual answers in Eastern mysticism. Also, there are “intense” medical scenes and some characters are stabbed. This is a good movie if you like the superhero genre, feel firm enough in your Christianity to recognize how Christ would answer the questions posed in this movie, and like movies that are highly artistic. Personally, I really enjoyed it and would like to see it again eventually.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—E.H., age 25 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—First off, I think this is one of the better Marvel movies out there. I found it very entertaining, the acting astounding, writing flawless, and the special effects are beyond amazing! One might even say… STRANGE!!!… Now, yes. There is some magic in the film which will set A LOT of Christians off seeing it. But, to me, I saw it as more of “The Matrix” meets “Inception”. Escaping reality and bending cities, etc. I do hope many people DO see this film. If you look into it, there are surprisingly profound Christian messages in it! So, overall, go see it. Make up your own mind! But I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Josiah Osborne, age 17 (USA)
Positive—I went to see this movie with my Aunt, and we really did enjoyed it very much. The acting was awesome; I thought that movie has some good lessons in it, like not giving up when you’re down and not giving into evil. Also, I did not see any nudity or using God’s name in vain nor the f-word. But I don’t think that parents with small children should go and see this type of movie; it might Scare them.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Childofgod (USA)
Movie Critics

…a dangerous introduction to the occult… told with excellence in a compelling way… Before we think DOCTOR STRANGE is just a “harmless” movie that “won’t introduce kids into the occult,” a quick Internet search reveals that the DOCTOR STRANGE storyline involving the mystic arts has in fact and indeed affected people for the worse, not for the better. …
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…Benedict Cumberbatch is unpredictable and intriguing as the Marvel superhero in a brain-melting tale that reinvigorates the genre… Derrickson’s greatest achievement is incorporating so much cosmic guff into the story—astral planes, third eyes and mandalas abound—without ever seeming like a stoner’s motivational bedroom poster. …[4/5]
—Wendy Ide, The Guardian (UK)

…A vigorous start for another Marvel franchise. …
—Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

…boasts an underlying originality and freshness missing from the increasingly cookie-cutter comic-book realm of late…
—Peter Debruge, Variety

…a superhero story that exceeds our expectations… It also features humour… [3½/4]
—Chris Knight, National Post [Canada]

…Watching “Doctor Strange” is nothing short of having a hallucinogenic trip. It is visually stunning and makes excellent use of 3D, which feels less like a gimmick and more like a vital part of experiencing the film as it’s supposed to be. … [3/4]
—Shelbie Lynn Bostedt, RedEye Chicago

…For an effects-laden franchise launch it's light on its feet, pretty stylish, worth seeing in Imax 3-D (for once, the up-charge is worth it) and full of tasty, classy performers enlivening the dull bits. …Backed by the first good musical score (from Michael Giacchino) ever heard in a Marvel superhero film…
—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

…“Doctor Strange” doesn’t always make sense—but so what? It’s a mind-blowing special-effects extravaganza, and the most exciting comic-book flick since “Deadpool.” …[4/4]
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…“Doctor Strange” has one significant quality that most Marvel adaptations lack: A sense of humor about itself, which it wears as lightly as the most gossamer Cloak of Levitation. …
—Stephanie Zacharek, Time

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