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Scott Derrickson opens Doctor Strange with a beheading. I kid you not. I wish that was a joke, but in the opening scene of the fourteenth Marvel movie, the evil sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) enters the temple of The Ancient One, uses magical ties to bind a librarian, and for no reason whatsoever, removes the man's head. It's done off screen, and we see the man's shadow lose its dome, so it's not a bloody affair... but still, what an odd way to open a comic-book adaptation that, assumedly, should play to kids.
Even with that head-trimming opening, however, I'm guaranteeing that there is SO MUCH eye-popping material still to come in Doctor Strange that there's little to no chance the beheading will still be in your child's memory bank by the time the credits roll.
Every time a Marvel movie hits theaters, I get messages from fellow parents about whether or not their kids can go see it. And each time, I preface the explanation by saying, "If they have watched other Marvel movies prior to this one, they likely will be OK." Marvel Studios has found a winning formula, and they aren't going to deviate too far off of it. It's not like the DCEU, pushing the envelope for a movie like Suicide Squad (which was a VERY hard PG-13), or a movie like Logan which deliberately is pushing its comic-friendly Wolverine character into a blatantly R-rated drama. Those movies come with their own sets of warnings.
That being said, there are reasons why parents may want to think twice, gently, about whether the origin of Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme is appropriate for their kid, starting with the fact that Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant prick. He's mean to those around him, and particularly cruel to a fellow surgeon -- and former girlfriend -- Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Strange's arrogance and impatience also leads to coarse language. No F-bombs, but there are more "assholes" than I can recall in a Marvel movie, so if you are sensitive about language around your kids, know that, going in.
Language is an interesting notion with regards to a younger audience and Doctor Strange. And by that, I don't mean cursing, but rather the in-depth, twisty and head-spinning conversations the good doctor has with The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) about healing techniques, ancient religions, sorcery and spells, and magic, in general. Consider this exchange, one of many enlightened conversations with The Ancient One, to get a sense of how Doctor Strange may talk over your kid's head from time to time:
Still, as Strange embarks on his journey, he'll unlock doors to several other universes -- the multiverse -- which Scott Derrickson conjures using top of the line visual wizardry. These scenes likely will captivate your kids, showing them things they've never before seen in a Marvel movie. I mean, feast your eyes on this incredible Comic-Con trailer, to understand how Doctor Strange plays with the fabric of reality:
Will your kids follow it? Naturally, every kid is different, but I think the way the movie is paced -- balancing exposition with plenty of genuine laughs and jaw-dropping action -- they'll be able to follow more than enough of it to know who to cheer for, and usually why. Doctor Strange introduced magic into the MCU, and it's going to open the minds of several young viewers, much the same way that it opens the mind of this movie's protagonist.
I think that any kid age 10 and older can keep up with every spell being cast by Doctor Strange, and I also grade on a curve for kids who've stuck with the MCU up to this point (my eight-year-old son, for a personal example, is anxious to see it, and I'm bringing him this weekend, with no qualms). If you still have questions, hit me up in the comments, or email me at [email protected], and I'll answer whatever I can.