Doctor Strange keeps the wonderful tradition of Marvel superhero movies; action, humor, compelling story line and characters, excellent effects and deeper themes to chew on.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Caution: Contains spoilers.
Things to consider
I usually wonder why Marvel movies are required to have the rating PG-13. This time, I agreed with it. This movie was a lot darker than other Marvel stories. There were some scarier elements, a brief torture scene complete with beheading that couldn’t really be seen, violence that actually showed a bloody result, some mild language (they used the word a**hole a few times), and a couple of surgery scenes. Sensitive kids might take issue with it. The bad guy’s headquarters was a Christian church (it looked like St. Chapelle to me) and I never think that cinematic choices like that are accidental. The Ancient One, it turned out, was drawing from the dark power (evil) to stay alive long enough to be called the Ancient One. This presented an issue for her followers, and it was discussed among them. I felt that the discussion hit on the danger that it put them in—the cost of it would come back to them. CNS recommends this movie only for older teens due to the consistent theme of occult and New Age principles in this movie, so take that into consideration. I always believe that stuff like this is a great springboard for conversation and an opportunity to illustrate the difference between what is being presented and what we believe. That being said, I really enjoyed the movie. I totally recommend it.
Doctor Stephen Strange is a self-absorbed, cold, genius of a neurosurgeon. He is at the top of his field, and considers himself (perhaps rightfully so) the best. The combination of his genius, boredom, and fear of failure makes him choosy about which patients he’s willing to see—he only takes cases that will challenge him, make others look bad, or advance his reputation.
He was on his way—driving way too fast and quite recklessly—to an event where he was going to be offered several cases, most of which he considered beneath him. He wasn’t paying attention to the dark, rainy, windy mountain road and wound up driving off a cliff, injuring himself most horrendously. The worst of it was the nerve damage done to his hands. He would never be able to perform surgery again. He tries every medical avenue allowable to try and fix the problem, but nothing worked. He hears of a guy who was never supposed to walk again (and whose case he had refused to take on), who was somehow walking. He seeks him out to find out how he did it. The guy tells him about a spiritual healer. Skeptical, but completely desperate, Dr. Strange checks it out.
As a man of science, he has a hard time swallowing the whole “spirit realm” business, and even says, “There’s no such thing as spirit.” But eventually he is convinced. He excels at everything he’s taught, and it becomes clear that he’s super gifted. He is told of the villain, Kaecilius (which, if you ever studied Latin, will throw you off throughout the whole movie), who was a student-gone-bad of “The Ancient One.” The Ancient One is the Master who leads the other Masters who protect the three Sanctorums which are protecting the Earth from an alien evil who claims to offer eternal life…but, we all know where that’s going to go. Kaecilius ditched her and leagued himself and his followers with Dormammu, Master of the Dark. My kids thought they were saying “Jo Mama” the whole time (I’ll take the blame for that one). He looked like a combo of Groot and the Eye of Sauron.
Doctor Strange did not seek healing to become a hero, so he wants nothing to do with this whole saving-the-planet thing. As with all reluctant heroes, he finds himself thrown into a sticky situation and responds heroically. The spiritual healing that he experiences opens him to his heroism, and his heroic response aids his healing. A relic called the “cloak of levitation” chooses him (kind of like a Harry Potter wand) and becomes his…assistant? sidekick? Well, this fine piece of clothing saves his life and helps him fight evil.
There are a few lessons Doctor Strange needs to learn (we could all use them, actually): it’s not all about him , there’s more to him than the thing by which he defines himself, and that the spirit is stronger than the body. He is healed through his experience with the spiritual—physically (although his hands are never fixed completely) and emotionally. He learns to look beyond the limitations he put on himself that prevented him from having any meaningful relationships, to surrender to what is bigger than him and silence his ego. His true nature was to be compassionate and giving, and when he is thrown into a situation where he must defend others in danger, he rises to it. He becomes more fully alive by living for others and ditching his fear.
That’s enough to go on.
As with all Marvel movies, do not leave when the credits come on. Wait for it. You will not be disappointed. 😀
Some Themes for Discussion
- Before his accident, Doctor Strange was unhappy, bored and emotionally unavailable. These stemmed from his narrow definition of himself. He was a surgeon; afraid to risk anything meaningful and afraid to fail. He found that he was much more than what he saw. How do you define yourself? Do you create unnatural limits for yourself? The Gospel of Luke tells us that, “nothing will be impossible for God.” How can you invite God to remove your limiting attitudes from you?
- When Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo first arrived at the Kamar-taj, Strange mocked it a bit. Mordo replied, “I stood where you are. I, too, was disrespectful. Forget everything you think you know.” We can sometimes be that way with our faith. Do you ever find yourself judging other people’s spirituality or pieties? Do you ever fall into the trap of thinking that the way you “do” your Christian faith is the only right way? Do you think you could learn to appreciate your faith more by understanding the way others live their faith?
- When Doctor Strange had shown that he was capable of saving the world, The Ancient One was preparing to die. She wanted to leave the safety of the planet in his hands. He said, “I’m not ready.” She responded, “No one ever is. You don’t get to choose your time.” Sometimes our circumstances require of us things that we’re capable of, but afraid to try. How can you be more trusting and more brave about stepping up when you are needed?
- As Doctor Strange faced Dormammu in an attempt to reverse the overthrow of earth, he placed the both of them in a time-loop. Strange would approach and say, “I come to bargain.” Dormammu would say, “You have come to die” and kill him. Reset. It happened over and over until Dormammu got really fed up. He said to Strange, “You cannot win.” Strange responded, “No, but I can lose over and over forever. That makes you my prisoner.” Doctor Strange was willing to literally die to himself repeatedly in order to save the world. What are you willing to lose in order to save or help others? What are you willing to die to in order to live in other ways?
- When Baron Mordo found out that the Ancient One had been messing with the dark energy he left. What do you think you would do in his situation? They did just save the world…Good definitely came out of it…but, Mordo felt that the price of this sin would come back to them. Would you leave the group because of the sin of the leader?