Australian Council on Children and the Media

Doctor Strange

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Not recommended under 15 due to disturbing themes, violence and scary scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Doctor Strange
  • a review of Doctor Strange completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 November 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to disturbing themes, violence and scary scenes
Children aged 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Doctor Strange
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy themes and violence
Length 115 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The movie begins with Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a top-level neurosurgeon. His arrogance and overconfidence distance him from others.

After a car accident causes permanent and serious nerve damage to his hands, Stephen embarks on a quest to find a cure that will allow him to recommence his work in the medical field. Upon hearing about a strange cult of healers who may be able to assist him, Stephen crosses the world to visit Nepal. He is at first highly sceptical of their discussion of the mystic arts, but is gradually forced to re-evaluate his entire view of the world and reality itself. The leader of the group, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), then begins a process of mentoring Stephen and he quickly advances in his mystical skills.

Stephen’s progress is interrupted by the ongoing threat posed by a previous student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Kaecilius seeks eternal life and intends to summon a powerful creature from the Dark Dimension in order to achieve his desired outcome. Stephen finds himself thrown into a war he did not know existed, where he must utilise his newfound skills not only as a source of physical and psychological power for himself, but also in order to protect humanity.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Good versus evil; the supernatural; eternal life; romance and love

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is considerable violence within the film, including:

  • The film opens with a group of robed men using mystical threads to raise a man up in the air. His head is then cut off (shown in silhouette) and a scream is heard in addition to the sound of dripping blood. We find out later that he had stolen a book from the library, the punishment being execution.
  • There are many sequences of physical fighting and violence using hand-to-hand combat, as well as with weapons like swords and knives. Sound effects of clashing weapons and injuries/screams are heard, and wounds are occasionally shown (although very briefly).  
  • When driving dangerously, Stephen has a car accident. His car swipes the side of another, and is catapulted into the air and flipped upside down, his hands are crushed and he is seen with a bloodied face. He is later seen on a hospital bed with serious bruising and cuts to his face and his hands full of steel pins.
  • During an attempted mugging by three men, Stephen throws a punch and is knocked to the ground as the three men beat him. They are shown using their hands and feet to physically hurt him.
  • Kaecilius sends a large ball of magical fire through a sanctum entrance, causing part of the building to collapse and sending Stephen flying backwards.
  • Kaecilius conjures a mystical sword made of glass, and uses it to stab a man in the chest. No blood is shown, although the injury is seen.
  • Kaecilius manipulates the environment during a fight sequence and throws Stephen around, causing him to smack his face into a sheet of glass – some blood is shown.
  • The Cloak of Levitation flies off Stephen’s body at one point, and begins to suffocate an enemy by wrapping itself around his face.
  • The Ancient One is stabbed in the stomach by Kaecilius, after which she is thrown from the top of a building and  seen crashing to the ground. She is then rushed to hospital, where she is seen with injuries and blood on her face on a hospital bed.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Stephen performs brain surgery to remove a bullet from a patient – some blood is seen when the bullet is removed.
  • There are scenes where characters use magical powers to manipulate the world and environment around them at their will. Characters also forge weapons using magic.
  • The Ancient One pushes Stephen through the astral plane, causing him to fly through space. He screams in fear as he passes through colourful surrealist tunnels.
  • Hands begin growing on each of Stephen’s fingers, and hands start to grow out of the walls.
  • Scenes of dead bodies include a man impaled on a metal rod

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes described above and the deaths of several characters including the Ancient One.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes described above

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger teens may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Jaeger LeCoultre watches are repeatedly shown.
  • Mentions of musicians including Adele, Eminem, and Beyonce (with the lyrics ‘If you like it then you should have put a ring on it’ played at one point).
  • Reference to ‘Google Translate’.

Sexual references

There are mild sexual references, including:

  • Stephen asks Christine whether she is ‘sleeping with’ another colleague.
  • Christine tells Stephen at one point ‘We weren’t friends, we were barely lovers’.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is mild coarse language, including:

  • ‘arrogant ass’; ‘asshole’

In a nutshell

Doctor Strange is a Marvel superhero film that follows an acclaimed neurosurgeon as he sets out on a journey of healing, but ultimately ends up gaining a great deal more than he had initially bargained for. There is plenty in the film to discuss with older teens, but the film is definitely not recommended for children under 15. It is a dark film, dealing with the supernatural, with violence throughout and some disturbing scenes.

The film demonstrates Stephen’s gradually developing humility as he begins to recognise individuals with skills and knowledge greater than his own. As he opens his mind to possibilities he had previously never acknowledged, he finds not only great personal fulfilment and a sense of purpose, but also newfound connections with others.

The film highlights the importance of being prepared to fail, and to try new things despite strong fears of failure being present. It explores beliefs about death, and questions of whether eternal life would ultimately be a positive or destructive thing. The film also highlights the importance of understanding that all actions have consequences, and that if people do not abide by the ethical rules and standards that they themselves value, there may be a price to pay.

 

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