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A beginner’s guide to ‘Doctor Strange’

Benedict Cumberbatch learns about the mystical arts in “Doctor Strange.”
Benedict Cumberbatch learns about the mystical arts in “Doctor Strange.” Courtesy photo

You might not know much about “Doctor Strange.” Sure, the Marvel comic book created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963 has its diehard fans, but many know nothing about it. So why would it would get its own movie adaptation?

Well, “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” weren’t exactly household names, either, but both of those big-screen Marvel adaptations became massive commercial and critical hits.

Early word on “Doctor Strange” is just as promising, and it looks poised to be another highly successful entry in the Marvel Comics Universe.

But if you think “sorcerer supreme” sounds like a pizza (it’s not), here is a beginner’s guide to “Doctor Strange.”

The story

We follow world-famous neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who discovers powerful magic in a mysterious place known as Kamar-Taj – the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying Earth’s reality.

Main characters

▪ Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – A successful but arrogant surgeon until a tragic accident costs him his hands and career. While searching for a way to restore his lost talents, he travels the world and meets the Ancient One, who teaches him the ways of the Mystic Arts.

▪ The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) – A wise and enigmatic teacher who has safeguarded secrets of the mystic arts for a very long time.

▪ Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) – An apprentice of the Ancient One, also studying the mystic arts. He’s complex and intense and could turn out to be Strange’s friend, rival or bitter enemy.

▪ Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) – A highly skilled trauma surgeon, colleague and friend to Strange – until the devastating accident that cripples his hands starts to take a toll on their relationship.

▪ Wong (Benedict Wong) – The keeper of a vast library of mystical tomes and guardian of the Ancient One’s private collection. He’s also tasked with keeping sacred incantations from falling into the wrong hands.

▪ Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) – A former student of the Ancient One who turned his back on her teachings when he believed certain knowledge was being kept from him. He forms a group called the Zealots with the intention of defeating her.

Key terms

▪ Master of the Mystic Arts and/or Sorcerer Supreme – What Strange is also known as. Could the doc also have a bit of a superiority complex?

▪ Cloak of Levitation – The red cape that Strange wears. Not to be confused with the “cloak of invisibility” used by Harry Potter, another guy who knows his way around magic.

▪ Kamar-Taj – A tiny hidden land in the Himalayan Mountains and home of the Ancient One.

▪ Sanctum Sanctorum – Strange’s Greenwich Village home at 177A Bleeker St. in New York City (it’s not a real address).

▪ Eye of Agamotto – The amulet that Strange wears on his chest.

▪ “By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth” – An incantation used by Strange. Not sure what a “hoggoth” is, but it sounds like a foamy beer.

Fun facts about the film

▪ It was shot in London, New York, Kathmandu, Nepal and Hong Kong.

▪ Ditko’s comic book art influenced the look of the film. Twenty-one sets were built for the shoot. The largest was the Kamar-Taj courtyard and street, which measured 160 by 80 feet. The Hong Kong street set was built on a service road at Longcross Studios in London and was 570 feet long.

▪ The silhouette of Strange’s Cloak of Levitation is very important in the Marvel comic book world, and the creation of the cloak was the biggest undertaking for costume designer Alexandra Byrne and her team. Up to 100 people worked in the costume department across prep and shoot.

▪ Strange’s car in the film is a Lamborghini. Six of them were required for filming.

▪ In the comics, the Ancient One is a man. In the film, it’s played by a woman (Swinton).

Source: Marvel Studios

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