I saw Doctor Strange fairly close to opening weekend and was intrigued by much of what I saw there, especially the artifacts and the Cloak of Levitation. (It has some powerful agentive aspects, and given that that is the topic of my new book, I thought it would be fruitful to examine.)
But, awwww, that’s too bad. Doctor Strange deals in magic, not techn—Whatever.
Technology is just a black box in all but the hardest of sci-fi. Magic in this film performs much of the same role as technology in sci-fi, i.e., it’s the thing that allows characters to do cool stuff. Most importantly, the magic obeys rules, and has (mostly, as we’ll see) consistent inputs and outputs. And when you’re reviewing the interfaces, the actual technological/mystical underpinning doesn’t really matter anyway. As long as it’s consistent and rule-based, we can review it. So. Let’s review it.
Release Date: 04 November 2016 (USA)
As usual, beware all the spoilers.
Doctor Steven Strange is at the peak of his career as the world’s finest and most arrogant surgeon when an automobile accident destroys his hands. Medical science is unable to help, so he follows leads of a mystical cure to a place called Kamar-taj, in the mountains of Nepal near Kathmandu. There he is accepted as a student to the Masters of the Mystic Arts, studying under a powerful sorcerer known as the Ancient One. His eidetic memory makes him a fast study of their mystical awareness, combat training, astral projection, gesture-based spells, teleportation Sling Rings, unique powerful magical artifacts, and library of ancient tomes.
Strange’s hunger for mastery leads him to use a powerful forbidden artifact, the Eye of Agamoto, to repair a forbidden tome, the Book of Cagliostro, and study its lost pages. He learns of Dormammu, a great evil bent on drawing the Earth into his Dark Dimension, and of Kaecilius, a former student who is using the stolen pages to supplicate Dormammu, draw upon his dark power, wage war on the Masters of the Mystic Arts, sacrifice the Earth, and gain revenge on the Ancient One.
Flush with Dark Dimension power, Kaecilius and his zealots blast the London Sanctum Sanctorum, one of three such anchors of a mystical defense shield protecting the Earth. In the chaos of the attack, Strange stumbles through a portal to find himself in the New York Sanctum just as Kaecilius attacks it. In the Sanctum, an artifact called the Cloak of Levitation chooses Strange as its new master. It helps Strange survive the attack, but only just barely. The Cloak holds one of the zealots at bay while Strange teleports to his old hospital, where he astrally manages his own resuscitation.
Returning to the Sanctum, Strange regroups with the Ancient One, accusing her of drawing power from the Dark Dimension, but before that can be resolved, the next wave of attack begins. To save the Sanctum, Strange traps everyone in a trippy mirror dimension, where they fight, and the Ancient One takes a mortal wound. Strange escapes the mirror dimension to take her to his hospital, but is unable to save her.
Strange travels to the Hong Kong Sanctum, only to find that it is too late. The Sanctum is destroyed and a portal to the Dark Dimension has opened in the sky above it. Strange uses the Eye of Agamoto to set time in reverse, but Kaecilius and his zealots break from the reversing time stream to enjoin the sorcerers in more combat. Overwhelmed, Strange flies into the Dark Dimension to confront Dormammu directly. Using the Eye, Strange imprisons Dormammu in a time loop, agreeing to stop the loop only if he ends his assault on the Earth, never to return. Dormammu, maddened by the entrapment, agrees, taking his zealots with him, and the Earth is saved.
Strange returns home to restore the Hong Kong Sanctum and take his place as the new Sorcerer Supreme.