Saturday, 15 April 2017

Doctor Strange-Magical Worlds, Marvelous Future

Kathmandu, Nepal. The hidden compound known as Kamar-Taj. An ancient place of serenity and wisdom. Three acolytes approach the library as the librarian replaces a sacred tome in its iron rack and chains. The knowledge of the ages is stored here. As the three approach they become many, magically producing bonds of fire to hold the librarian aloft, his screams of agony ringing out. An iron vessel is placed below his head. Removing his hood, the man that crouches before him is revealed as Kaecilius, the Sorcerer. Removing the two curved knives from their sheaths behind his back, he sweeps them up to behead the helpless keeper of books, his head falling into the urn with a hollow ring. 

Kaecilius takes a book down from the rack, selects a ritual and tears the pages from the book, leaving it to fall onto the flags. 

He goes to leave, but a voice stops him; female, yet oddly resonant. 'Master Kaecilius-that ritual will bring you only sorrow.' For a moment, the thief considers attacking The Ancient One, his hands on the hilts of his knives. There are better places to fight. At a run, he and his band leave through a portal that takes them instantaneously to Central London!. Passers-by look on in surprise at the oddly-clad group rushing through the streets. Suddenly, they come to a halt as a strange construct of mirrored qualities appears before them. 

The Ancient One steps out behind them, now trapped in the Mirror Dimension. With a gesture, She sets the buildings themselves into motion, arches revolving and columns spinning. Reality itself is skewed in this space. With a shout of 'Hypocrite!', the trapped Sorcerer shows his anger, but the Ancient One merely throws her arms into a symmetrical shape and turns everything within the Dimension on it's side, leaping effortlessly onto a wall and striding towards her quarry, who are sent sliding onto the new ground. 

She stands on the one unmoving piece now as the whole facade of the building ripples and undulates as if part of an insane machine, easily resisting attempts to lasso her and generating magical shields with which to resist the onslaught of Kaecilius's disciples. 

The fight is energetic as it is vicious, the building rolling up ominously, threatening to envelop the combatants.

Apparently trapped, Kaecilius drops to a ledge to generate a portal below and his devotees fall through to the next dimension, going from falling to running without any apparent ill-effects. He follows, leaving The Ancient One to turn away in triumph-for the time being. With a wave of her hand, she restores the buildings to our normality and generates her own portal through the Mirror Dimension, to the astonishment of onlookers in the 'Real World' beyond.

Benedict Cumberbatch is Dr. Stephen Strange.
Doctor Stephen Strange scrubs in, ready to dazzle. A youthful forty, the hints of grey at each temple only serve to accentuate his relatively unlined face. In front of an audience of starstruck interns, the famous surgeon operates, the theatre filled with the sound of Earth Wind and Fire's 'Shining Star', until, mischievously, he challenges Billy, one of the theatre staff to test him. 

Billy plays another tune, but almost instantly he gets it; Chuck Mangione's Feels so Good, 1977. Billy tries to say '78, but Strange is right as Wikipedia confirms to him. His fellow surgeon Christine Palmer-his former lover Christine Palmer catches his eye through the doors; he's needed elsewhere. Leaving a colleague to close up, Strange exits the theatre.

Christine hands Stephen a tablet; not good, gun shot wound, round lodged next to the medulla. Nick West's already called brain death, but it doesn't feel right. A quick dash finds Doctor West preparing to take the 'corpse' for organ harvest. Dr. Strange wants the patient prepped for an immediate suboccipital craniotomy. Which is worth about seventeen points at Scrabble. The composition of the round suggests lead antimony-a hardened round that hasn't deformed in the skull. The contents are so toxic the central nervous system has shut down, giving the appearance of brain death. Soon, he's operating, with Dr. Palmer assisting. She calls for image guidance, but there's no time. He goes in freehand, with the assertiveness and confidence bordering on arrogance of a Master Surgeon. Sure enough, as soon as the bullet is retrieved, the patient's heart bursts into spontaneous rhythm. The patient's anxious family embrace both doctors, Strange allowing a brief hug (Suggesting he hasn't entirely slipped out of his Sherlock character.) Afterwards, Christine tries to seduce Strange to become her on-call Neuro-Surgeon. He prefers cutting-edge neuro to her 'butcher's shop' in ER. She declines his invite to hear him speak at a Neurological Society dinner.

That evening, he dresses in tuxedo and tie. his trophy cabinet filled with his awards. From a drawer filled with automatic-watch winders, he selects a Jaeger le Coultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual. 

He roars off in his Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Spyder (I had to Google it, it's gone so fast...) and is soon sweeping along the coastal road (It's actually Northfleet in Kent, England.) Billy calls with various cases he feels Strange might care to take as he overtakes in the rain, driving fast. A female patient with a brain implant to control schizophrenia has been struck by lightning; that sounds interesting. Strange hasn't even finished asking for the images when Billy's sent them. 

Taking his eye off the road to look at the pictures on his phone, the inevitable; he clips a car he's overtaking. The Lamborghini spins off the road and bounces through a wall, flipping over a bank to turn end over end into the mud at the edge of a lake. Stephen Strange hangs upside down, his battered face already unrecognisable.

Hazily, Strange watches as he's wheeled into the Operating Theatre, as if in a pain-wracked dream. Much later, he awakes in a hospital bed, Christine assuring him it's going to be okay. 

Dr. Christine Palmer as portrayed by Rachel McAdams.

His arms hang from supports, a patchwork of steel rods through his hands. Every word an effort, he asks what they did. They took a while to find him, flew him in, but they missed the 'Golden Hour' for nerve damage. He's a Doctor-he knows what that means. She lists the injuries to his hands and it's clear his career is over. Anguished, he cries; 'Look at these fixators.' She assures him no-one could have done better. He could have done better. Oh! Bitter irony...

Slowly, time does it's work and Stephen's facial injuries heal. His hands, however, do not. The pins and fixators finally gone, Dr. Palmer unwraps the bandages to reveal the terrible scarring, Dr. West looking on awkwardly. His work to save his colleague has been remarkable, nonetheless, but the palsy in Strange's hands tells another story. Gently, Dr. West tells his patient to give his body time to heal. Ungraciously, Strange rebuffs him; 'You've... ruined me.'

From bad things can sometimes only go to worse. At a case conference, Strange appeals for radical technique to steady his hands and save his career. He goes in for surgery and then rehabilitation, his therapist patiently working with him to strengthen his ruined hands. Despite the man's perseverance and kindness, the arrogant Strange insults him, asking if he knows anyone to have come back from this kind of nerve damage. Oddly, he has, telling his lofty patient of a man who was paralysed following a factory accident. Against all the odds, this man recovered, walked past him on the street. Bullshit, calls Strange. It'll take time to pull the file, but if it proves his arrogant ass wrong? Worth it.

At home the hands that once saved lives struggle with washing themselves and everyday tasks such as shaving are beyond the former Surgeon. Former?; the last person on earth to realise this is the man concerned. He cannot even hold his pen properly as he tries to write something. Over his laptop he Skypes a leading surgeon, who informs him his suggestions will not work. In bitter frustration, he hurls the laptop and his papers off the table. Breezily, Christine Palmer lets herself into his apartment. The sight of Stephen and the strewn papers tells her of the latest setback. Clinging to straws, Strange tells her of a procedure in Tokyo... she tries to talk him down; he's always spent money as fast as he made it. Maybe it's time to stop. No, he argues; He's not getting better!. It's not medicine any more, she tells him; it's mania. This isn't the end, there are other things that can give his life meaning.

His voice coming as a slap in the face, the words harsh, he answers her. 'Like what? Like you?.' Hurt, Christine says 'This is the part where you apologise.' All he says is; 'This is the part where you leave.' She does, it breaks her heart and that's not enough, he spits all of his venom and pent-up frustration at her. She leaves her key, saying 'Goodbye Stephen.' As she walks out, we see what he was writing earlier;

Expensive apartments cost money. His place full of cardboard boxes and less full of piano, Strange opens a package from his therapist, a post-it attached. 'Told you so!.' The x-rays tell the story of the miraculous-a man who was indeed paralysed and who walked again. The name on the X-rays is Pangborn, J.

Ever seen a paralysed man play basketball?. You have now... and so has Stephen Strange, watching through the chain-link as Jonathan Pangborn shoots hoops with his buddies. Strange calls him over by listing his spinal injuries. His attention piqued, Pangborn comes over, recognising the famous Neuro-Surgeon. Former Neuro-Surgeon. Strange refused to see him when he came to his office, couldn't get past his assistant. Strange states he was untreatable. 'No glory for you in that, right?.' Strange wants to know, needs to know; 'You came back from a place there's no way back from.' Holding up his smashed hands, Strange wants to find his own way back. Taking pity on the wretched figure, Pangborn tells him. He'd given up on his own body. All he had was his mind, so he thought he should elevate it. He sat with Gurus and sacred women. Strangers carried him to mountain tops to see holy men. Finally, he found his teacher. His mind was elevated. His spirit deepened. Somehow, his body healed. There were deeper secrets to be learned there, but he lacked the strength to receive. He settled for his miracle, came back home. The place Stephen seeks is called
Kamar-Taj. The cost is high. How much?. He's not talking about money. Wishing strange luck, he returns to his game.

Kathmandu, Nepal. Just outside Nokandu. Sorry.* Multitudinous, polyglot, the streets teem with life amongst the ancient buildings, the vibrant thrum of the Asian way of life. Strange goes from person to person, asking after Kamar-Taj. 

He turns prayer wheels at the temple with the tourists, asks passing monks. Kamar-Taj?. Perhaps it was all a dream... but one man has noticed his interest, a hooded figure follows him as he goes on from Holy place to another. 

Finally, as is inevitable when wandering aimlessly in any city, he finds himself in the Wrong place with three Wrong people. The muggers want his Jaeger, but it's all he has left. He throws the first punch and instantly, white-hot pain shoots up his wrist from the damaged hand. The muggers beat him up, savagely, but the appearance of the man in the hood changes that. Two are on the floor in the time it takes to read the words and the third flees with Stephen's pack. 

His saviour hands him his watch, shattered and reveals his scarred face. He's looking for Kamar-Taj?.
*I'm really not.

The two walk through the crowds to Kamar-Taj, which turns out not to be the Great Temple, nor the shrine of the Holy Swami, but a nondescript double door set in an ordinary wall. Is he sure he's got the right place?, the others look more, Kamar-Tajey. Earnestly, Stephen's new friend tells him; 'I once stood in your place and I too was-disrespectful. So might I offer you some advice?. Forget everything that you think you know.' Opening the door, the man admits strange to the Sanctuary of the Teacher, The Ancient One. 

Still cynical, Stephen is drawn to the old man sitting reading. Two disciples appear to remove his coat and another gives him a cup into which a youngish-looking bald woman pours him tea. The 'Ancient One' leaves the room to Stephen's profession of thanks, to which the bald woman responds. This is the Ancient One!. Thanking Master's Mordo and Hamir as they leave-Mordo being, as we learn the name of Strange's saviour*-the Ancient One welcomes him as Mister Strange. Doctor, he insists. Not any more-she notes his seven procedures, citing them as proof. 

Tilda Swinton as 'The Ancient One.'

He asks if she healed Pangborn. 'In a way.' How?. He couldn't walk and she convinced him that he could. Her radiant calmness un-touched by his radiating cynicism, she explains when he attached severed nerves, it was the body that healed them. The cells. What if she told him his own body could be convinced to put back together cells in all sorts of ways?.
*And the name of an enemy from the comic-books, hinty-hint-hint.

Clearly mis-understanding what is taking place here, the selfish former-surgeon talks of cellular regeneration in medical terms. She talks of re-orienting the spirit to better heal the body. Fighting back his doubts, he asks where to start?. In response, she picks up a book, open at the familiar Buddhist illustration of the Qigong. He's seen this... in gift shops. Ignoring the bile, the serene woman opens the book at an acupuncture diagram. Then an MRI scan. He can't believe it, turning away in despair and frustrated anger. Each of those maps was drawn by someone who only saw in part, not the whole. Strange isn't listening; he spent his last dollar getting here, one-way ticket and she's talking to him about healing through belief. 

Unphased, she informs him he's a man who's spent his whole life looking at the World through a keyhole, trying to expand that keyhole. Now, when he hears that it can be widened, he rejects the possibility. Anger bubbling over, he paces towards her, telling her he doesn't believe in chakras or energy or the power of belief, there is no such thing as spirit. True to type, he insults her; 'You're just another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent Universe.' She thinks she sees through him, well she doesn't, he says, 'But I-see-through-you!.' He accentuates this by jabbing his finger into her chest.

Instantly, her hand sweeps across to grasp his wrist, turning it to lock it and planting her other palm on his chest. With a burst of some arcane energy, Strange's spirit itself is blasted from his body to float, bewildered and helpless, behind the body that now hangs unconscious in Mordo's arms. In spirit form, Strange turns his hands over to find them steady and whole. Admittedly transparent-but steady and whole nonetheless. With a gesture, The Ancient One returns his spirit to his body. Awestruck, he demands to know what she did. She pushed his Astral Form out of his Physical Form. Amusingly, he wonders what was in that tea?. It's just tea-with a little honey. For a moment, he entered the Astral Dimension. A place where the soul exists apart from the body. Angered and frightened, he asks why she is doing this to him. To show him just how much he doesn't know. Telling him to open his eye, she places a thumb on his forehead and in a flash, his consciousness is altered.

His body seems to soar upwards, bursting through the roof and into the sky, higher. Impossibly higher!. Spinning helplessly, Strange screams in terror as he hurtles from our atmosphere and into space itself. Freaked out of his mind, he jabbers out this isn't real, as if the words can somehow anchor him to reality. 

A butterfly appears and he reaches out to it, at which point he is projected into space, falling-flying through a multicoloured tunnel to a different dimension. The words 'His heart rate is getting dangerously high' sound from nowhere. Mordo's voice. As suddenly as he left, he's back, hurtling into a chair. Examining him with amused detachment, The Ancient One thinks Strange looks alright to her, but the room-and her pull away from him with something approaching elasticity, snapping back to blast him into another freefall through a neon nightmare of kaleidoscoping colours and sensations. Her voice comes to him as if close by. You think you know how the World works?. You think that this material Universe is all there is?. 

Strange's astral form is suspended over a throbbing vibration of black matter, an illuminated shaft at its centre. As he falls through, his form fragments and re-coalesces, The Ancient One asking 'What is real?.' He falls up into another land of smoke and fire, from what is revealed to be but one of many portals. 'What Mysteries lie beyond the reach of your senses?.' Falling on through this madness, Strange hears her voice, calmness itself. 'At the root of existence-mind and matter meet.' Strange enters a place where dark matter is coiled around him, hands sprouting from each branch to grasp the terrified man. His hand before him seems to sprout tiny hands from each digit, each digit of those hands the host for yet smaller hands of their own, a fractal nightmare that challenges and dazzles his senses. The hands multiply, enveloping him even as they become transparent and at once he is a miniature of himself, falling into his own wide eye, powerless to prevent himself as he flies down yet another tunnel of light. Puzzled, he finds himself journeying through a dimension of mirrored crystals, 'Worlds without end-some benevolent and life-giving...'  

the dimension changes abruptly to a darker reality, another plane of consciousness and existence. '...others filled with malice and hunger.' As he plummets towards an ominously dark planetoid, The Ancient One continues. 'Dark places, where powers older than time lie.' The planetoid opens, revealing a bizarre nightmare, a giant face in the maelstrom, lined and folded, with a bright malevolence for eyes. 'Ravenous-and waiting.' Strange's scream folds back on itself and his being seems to multiply, as if in an insane loop of timeless fear. Then... floating. Only floating.

Stephen Strange's Astral Form floats through an impossible nebula of colour. 'Who are you, in this vast Multiverse... Mister Strange?.' The Multiverse blurs into rods of light and Strange's ethereal form is sent babbling incoherently from one aspect to the next, dropping like a stone through the vortex to come down to earth with a jarring crash, sprawled on the floor of the Sanctuary of the Teacher, at her feet. Quietly, with just a trace of pique, she asks the shattered human before her; 'Have you seen that before, in a gift shop?.' Hands shaking for more than one reason, he looks up and asks her 'Teach me!.' As if she were looking through him rather than at him, her answer comes. 'No.'

Strange is thrown bodily out onto the street in a heap. Scrambling to his feet, he bangs at the door, pleading with them to let him in.

With her disciples standing around the pedestal, The Ancient One turns a weird device on its top, two bronze discs rotating opposite each other at the touch of her hands, occult symbols etched deep into their surface. Above this sits a strange device, a stylised bronze eye and above them all hangs a dark globe representing Planet Earth, continents ablaze with light. Dismissed with her thanks, the assembled Masters each leave through one of three different doors. At Master Mordo's approach, without looking down from the fascinating sphere above, she states he thinks her wrong to cast Strange out. Five hours later and he's still on the doorstep, replies Mordo. There's a strength to him. Stubbornness, ambition and arrogance-she's seen it all before. Astutely, Mordo senses her reluctance comes from her failure with Kaecilius. 'I cannot lead another gifted student to power, only to lose him to the darkness.' Staunchly, he reminds her she didn't lose him. He sought the power to defeat his enemies-she gave him the power to defeat his demons. Intensely, with the wisdom (And foresight?) of her years she informs him we never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them. Conciliatory before his Teacher, Mordo reminds her Kaecilius still has the stolen pages. If he can decipher them he could bring ruin upon us all. This seems to shake the Ancient One, the first sign her serene state can be interrupted. Master Mordo argues perhaps Kamar-Taj could use a man like Strange.

Even now, Stephen Strange pounds helplessly on the door, desperate for admission to what lies beyond. Exhausted, he slumps down. No-where else to go. Abruptly, the door opens and he falls back inside. Showing him to his chamber, Mordo instructs him to bathe and rest, meditate-if he can. The Ancient One will send for him. The master leaves, handing him a piece of paper with a single word inscribed; Shamballa. 

Clearly the first lesson-a mantra!. No-just the wi-fi password.* Alone in his monk's cell, Strange takes out his broken watch, reading the inscription on the back before placing it on the window-sill.
*The first of a few  humorous moments that add a playful touch to the film.

So beginneth the lesson; 'The language of the mystic arts is as old as civilisation. The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language 'Spells', but if the word offends the morals and modern sensibilities he can substitute 'Program.' The source code that shapes reality. Kneeling before The Ancient One, clad in the sky-blue garb of the novice, Strange watches as she forms a magical sigil formed of purest energy right there in the air between them. They harness the energy from the Multiverse to cast spells-(the form enlarges, changes to become more intricate-spinning orbs of incandescent filigree)-to make shields, weapons... to make-magic. 

She sends the eerie construct floating and pulsating towards him, to vanish in a shower of sparks. Entranced, Strange doubts himself. Even if his fingers could do such things, his hands would just be waving in the air. Indicating his Teacher, he asks how does he get from here to there?. Question is answered with question; how did he get to re-attach severed nerves?. Study and practice. Years of it. Smiling, she nods.

Out in the courtyard other students are practicing the martial arts or discussing the arcane. Strange walks into the library. There, Wong, the new Librarian greets him. Just Wong?, like Adele?. Wong's face may as well be cast from stone; the joke hasn't reached him. 

Benedict Wong plays, well, Wong...

The impassive curator checks in the Book of the Invisible Sun, Astronomia-Nova, Codex Imperium, the Key of Solomon... he finished all these books?. Yep. Wong takes Strange through to another section of the Library, one for Masters only. At his discretion, others may use it. Here the books of knowledge hang in their familiar iron racks and Wong unchains one tome for Strange. This is Maxim's Primer-how's his sanskrit?. Strange has Google Translate... Wong hands him a book on Classical Sanskrit. Strange pauses, noticing a separate rack of bejewelled books. This is the Ancient One's private collection; off-limits. Wong tells him those books are too advanced for anyone, but the Sorcerer Supreme. 

Taking down one such book, Strange un-locks the clasp and opens it. It has pages missing. That's the Book of Cagliostro. The study of Time. One of the rituals was stolen by a former Master, the zealot Kaecilius. Just before he strung up the former Librarian and decapitated him. 

Earnestly, Wong faces Strange and informs him as he is the new guardian of these books, should any volume be stolen again, he'd know it-and Strange would be dead before he ever left the compound. He takes the Book of Cagliostro back. What if it's just overdue?, the apprentice jokes. Any late fees, maiming he should know about?. Impassive, Wong hands him his books. Strange thanks the Librarian for the horrifying story, the books and the threat on his life. He leaves Wong to replace the Book of Cagliostro.

Mads Mikkelsen is Kaecilius. Photo Copyright Empire Magazine.
In a cathedral of some sort* Kaecilius and his devotees perform a ritual using the stolen pages of the Book of Cagliostro. The sigil branded into their foreheads is soon matched by an onimous counterpart. Forming a sigil matching that in the book (And his head), the rogue Sorcerer tells his followers soon they will receive the power to destroy 'the one who betrayed us.'

Hissing as if burning the very air, the sigil rotates between them as they begin an arcane chant, their eyes surrounded by a shimmer of purple, the skin beyond parched and cracked as if dried by some ancient and terrible sun. The sigil on his head glowing, he has the power to change reality, projecting it down into the floor to send the tiles sliding away into a new shape, that of an unholy mandala. The link with the Dark Dimension is opened and Dormammu** is awakened, the source of Kaecilius' uncanny powers. The Sorcerer sets the very fabric of the cathedral rippling, rotating and sliding with his new-found powers. Nature itself has been transcended.
*Actually the Exeter College Chapel of Oxford University.
**The ungodly face that Strange experienced in his Astral Awakening.

Master Mordo as portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor.  

Wong calls out the moves in the courtyard as the students, Strange among them, go through their moves in the manner of the Japanese kata or the taolu of China. Every student produces a sigil on command. Every student except one. Strange fails to produce anything. Next comes the sling ring; mastery of these allows sorcerers to travel throughout the Multiverse. All a student need to is focus, visualise, see the destination in their mind. With the rings on their left hand, the students hold the palm facing the direction they wish to generate a gateway and swirl the fingers of the other hand widdershins-fashion. The sparking, catherine-wheel-esque portals appear before each student. His hands shaking, unable to concentrate the energy properly, Strange can do more than muster a few sparks in the air.

Patiently, Mordo strolls among his pupils as they begin to master the technique, pausing in amusement at Strange's effort. As if she had been watching somehow, The Ancient One enters the yard and asks for a word with Strange, who holds his hands up in frustrated defeat. It's not about his hands, she tells him, asking Master Hamir to demonstrate. This is the man Strange originally mistook for the Ancient One and when he reveals the loss of his left hand, Strange is humbled by the Master's perfect production of a mandala sigil.

Thanking Master Hamir, the Ancient One tells Strange he cannot beat a river into submission-you have to surrender to it's current, use it's power as your own. Control by surrendering control?-that makes no sense to him, but not everything does, she admits. His intellect has taken him far, but no further-he must surrender. Silence his ego to allow his power to rise. Opening a portal, she bids him to follow. Once through the scintillating opening, he finds himself on the upper slopes of an instantly familiar mountain. Everest. Beautiful, but freezing. The intense cold isn't moderated by the flurries of hard snow whipping into them. Only Strange, however, seems to notice the temperature. The Ancient One informs him at this temperature a human can survive thirteen minutes before suffering loss of function... but he'll likely go into shock before the first two. So saying, she walks back through the portal, which closes behind her leaving Strange stranded. Actually, he's halfway up Everest, so let's make that STRANDED. Picture a fifty-foot high neon sign reading 'STRANDED' and blinking on and off. You get it.

Back in the courtyard, The Ancient One stands motionless. Master Mordo walks up to her to ask how is the new recruit?. With more than a hint of anxiety, she replies 'We shall see. Any second now...' Saying 'Oh no, not again', Mordo reaches for his sling ring, but she stops him intervening. On Sagarmāthā's exposed flank, a desperate Strange tries to form a portal, but all that forms are a few, desultory sparks. Aware that he will shortly die on this magnificent tomb, he lets himself go, surrenders himself to the forces around him and tried to attenuate mind and body to them. Back in the courtyard, the two Sorcerers wait in tense silence-The Ancient One's hands playing nervously with a fan behind her back. The portal opens and Strange, half-dead with exposure, drops to the tiles.

That night Strange shaves the beard he has grown, his shaking hands doing their best to control the clippers. He goes for a sparse goatee. The next morning sees him clad in the burgundy of the intermediate apprentice. Wong greets him in the library, asking what he wants. Books on Astral projection. When Wong states he's not ready for that, Strange replies 'Try me, Beyonce.' Wong's face remains stone. Surely he's heard of Beyonce?. (Perhaps fame is related to talent in Nepal). His attempt at humour flopping dismally, Strange asks if Wong ever laughs, then asks for the book again, getting an emphatic 'No.' as answer.

That evening, the sun is setting across Kathmandu. Wong sits immersed in an ancient text, listening to Beyonce on his headphones. A mini-portal opens behind him, a hand reaching out to pluck a book from the shelf. Wong turns to see nothing amiss. A brief pause, then the same from the opposite shelf, again the custodian turns too late. 

The payoff is, while his back's turned, hands appear from another portal and steal the book he was reading. That night, Strange sleeps the peace of the innocent, whilst his Astral self sits reading and absorbing knowledge...

Some time has passed. The Ancient One addresses Strange in the room where he first begged her for knowledge. Now he questions every lesson, preferring to teach himself. Clad in the blue garb that shows his progression, the rebellious student tells her she told him to open his eye, now he should blindly accept rules that make no sense. Unphased, she replies; 'Like the rule against conjuring a gateway in the library?.' Taken aback Wong informed on him, Strange listens as The Ancient One informs him he's progressing with his sorcery skills; he needs a safe place to practice his spells. With this, she creates such a space, a coruscading wall of mirrors that Strange follows her through to stand inside the Mirror Dimension. Ever present, yet undetected, the real world is not affected by what happens here. They use the Mirror Dimension to train, to surveil-sometimes to contain threats. Best not to get stuck in there without his sling ring. Irked, strange asks what she means by 'threats' at which she sets the structure of the building into motion, much as she did in the Mirror Dimension in London. Strange is amazed, his mouth open in awe as she explains learning of an infinite Multiverse includes learning of infinite dangers, if she told him everything else he has yet to learn he'd run from here in terror.

Later The Ancient One supervises a pair of students in their martial arts, giving Strange the opportunity to ask Mordo just how ancient is the Ancient One?. No-one knows the age of the Sorcerer Supreme-only that she is Celtic and never talks of her past. Strange is taken aback; he follows her, but doesn't know?. Only that she is steadfast, but unpredictable. Merciless yet kind. She made me what I am. As Mordo drops into an attack form, Strange assumes the defensive. As they circle each other, Mordo instructs him to trust his teacher-and not to lose his way. Like Kaecilius?. They spar, Strange wanting to more more of this renegade. Holding his pupil in a headlock, Mordo explains when Kaecilius came to them, he'd lost everyone he'd loved. A grieving, broken man. A brilliant student, but he was proud, headstrong-rejected the Ancient One and her teaching. Strange breaks the hold with a sharp elbow and appreciative of the move, Mordo continues. Kaecilius left Kamar-Taj. His disciples followed like sheep, seduced by false doctrines. Strange asks what the stolen forbidden ritual does, but Mordo picks up a stick and explains it is a relic. Some magic being too powerful to sustain, objects are sometimes imbued with it. This is the Staff of the Living Tribunal. At a pull, the stick lengthens, segments now glowing with magical energy. Swiping the floor with it makes Strange jump back from the power it contains, the sacred stick flexing as it sweeps around.

Mordo explains there are many relics; the Wand of Watoomb, The Vaulting Boots of Valtorr-which he happens to be wearing... so when, asks Strange, does he get one?. He's ready, when the relic decides so, says the Master. For now-conjure a weapon. Strange does as he is bid, producing a rope of pure energy. 

At once, Mordo attacks with the Staff, shouting at him to fight like his life depended on it. Effortlessly, the Master knocks away the puny rod, jumping into the air as if on invisible steps to jump around his student and punch him to the ground. Because-says Mordo-one day, it may...

That night, alone in his chamber, Strange takes the broken Jaeger and his notepad to the table, wondering if he can find the strength to e-mail Christine. Some things are beyond him still. Through the pouring rain, he runs to the library, taking down the incomplete Book of Cagliostro again. 

The Book of Cagliostro. $9.99 from all good bookshops.

Absent-mindedly, he takes a bite from Wong's apple which the Librarian had left uneaten. His attention focuses on a drawing of an eye. Looking up, he sees that eye in its place on the pedestal. As there's no sign of Wong, he takes the eye, hanging it around his neck. 

This is the Eye of Agamotto and by the correct gestures, Strange causes it to open, a brilliant green light issuing forth from the Eye. Now Strange is able to open an energy disc of unique powers, mystic bracelets of emerald brilliance appearing on his right wrist and forearm.

By turning the disc clockwise, he makes the apple disappear bite by bite, manipulating the effect of time itself on the fruit. By turning it widdershins, he can reverse time and produces a whole apple. He does it a second time, realising this might work... for the Book.

Opening the Book of Cagliostro at the missing pages, Strange successfully restores the book and learns of Dormammu and the Dark Dimension. Eternal life. As a series of mirrorred shafts appears before him, a voice calls out for him to stop. 

Enraged, Master Mordo tells him tampering with continuum probabilities is forbidden!. Defensively, Strange says he was just doing what it said in the book. An angry Wong asks him what the book said of the dangers of performing that ritual. Awkwardly, Strange doesn't know-he hadn't got to that part yet. Temporal manipulations can create branches in time, reveals Mordo. Unstable dimensional openings. Spatial paradoxes!. Time-Loops!. Does he want to re-live the same moment over and over-or never have existed at all?. 

Embarrassed, Strange mumbles they really should put the warnings before the spells... but Wong is insistent; his curiosity could have had lethal effect. He wasn't manipulating the space-time continuum, he was breaking it. Taking the book, the Librarian turns to tell him they do not tamper with natural law. They defend it. Mordo is curious; how did Strange do it?. Where did he acquire the litany of spells to even understand it?. Strange reveals he has a photographic memory-that's how he got his M.D. and P.H.D. at the same time. What he did takes more than a good memory, the Master insists; he was born for the Mystic arts. Yet my hands still shake, replies Strange. For now, yes says Wong. They aren't prophets, adds Mordo-they cannot foresee if he will recover. Irritably, Stephen asks when will they start telling him what they are then?. Exchanging glances, Wong and Mordo take strange to the pedestal.

The Librarian explains while the Avengers safeguard the World from physical harm, they safeguard it from Mystical threats. So saying, he turns the rings to animate the globe above. The Ancient One is but the latest in a long line of Sorcerer Supremes. This lineage goes back to the founder of the Mystic Arts, Agamotto himself. Agamotto built three Sanctums in places of power where great cities now stand.

Wong indicates the doorways leading to these Sanctums; Hong Kong, New York and London. The representations of three magical shields appears on the globe as it spins, each combines to protect the planet; the Sorcerers protect the Sanctums. From what? Asks Strange, doubtfully. Other dimensional beings that threaten our universe. Like Dormammu?. Mordo demands to know where he learned the name. From the Book of Cagliostro, why?. Turning the discs to extinguish the symbols above, Wong explains Dormammu dwells in the Dark Dimension, beyond time. He is the Cosmic Conqueror, Destroyer of Worlds. The globe ripples and a view of the Dark Dimension appears across its surface. Dormammu is a being of infinite power and endless hunger, on a quest to invade every universe. He hungers for Earth most of all. This news, unsurprisingly, takes Strange aback. He realises the missing pages contain are vital-they contain the ritual to summon Dormammu and draw infinite power from the Dark Dimension. Thats it; Strange is out. He came here to heal his hands, not fight in some mystical war.

Suddenly, a bell tolls insistently. London... the doorway opens and a sorcerer runs through, falling dead, a shard of what could almost be a nebulous glass protruding from the dead man's back. From the London Sanctum, Kaecilius emerges to send a fiery blast of occult power through the open portal, blasting Strange clear across the space where he finds himself in the New York Sanctum, the portal closed behind him. Dazed, he stumbles into the hall of an early-twentieth Century house-a large one, all marble and wood inlaid floors and expensive lighting. Staggering outside, he is stunned to find himself indeed in New York. 177A Bleecker Street to be exact. 

Looking up, the four-storeyed facade is elegant and imposing, with more than a touch of the Baroque. The symbol set into the oculus leaves no doubt this is a Sorcerer's Sanctum. Returning inside, Strange calls out, but no-one else is at home. He finds a strange trio of glazed doors, each leading-impossibly to different places; a forest, a rocky coast and a desolate wilderness, snow falling. An illuminated dial sits next to each door. Opening the middle, the fresh sea air rushes in. Turning the dial, however, changes the land beyond to desert in an instant.

Wandering through an upper floor, Strange comes across a large chamber filled with glass display cases of ancient artifacts. He pauses before one particular case, the oddness of the object within immediately apparent. 

This is a cloak, with a high wizard's collar, of unique properties. Known as the Cloak of Levitation, the maroon garment is indeed floating gracefully inside its glass prison. It almost seems as if the cloak was... waiting for Strange somehow. A familiar sound from below; Strange ducks aside and watches from cover as a single Haitian Sorcerer from Kamar-Taj stands bravely before an opening portal downstairs in the lobby, the architecture of the Sanctum itself rotating ominously. Dark Magic. Abruptly, Kaecilius and two of his followers step inside. Addressing the Sanctum Guardian as Daniel, Kaecilius stretches out his hands to form a shard of opaque energy such as the one he used to kill the Guardian of the London Sanctum.  

One of his disciples attacks and Daniel fights for his life as Strange watches helplessly from his vantage point. When Daniel is wounded to the leg, Strange leaps into the fray-his selfish concerns unequal to the impulse to protect a brave man. His intervention comes too late, as Kaecilius rams the shard through the Guardian's body. Looking up at the Sorcerer on the top of the stairs, the renegade asks him how long he has been at Kamar-Taj and there's an unexpected moment of levity when Kaecilius mistakes his name for 'Doctor' and Stephen replies 'It's Strange.' 'Maybe' concedes the apostate. Adding 'Who am I to judge?.' he again stabs the wounded Daniel. Angered, Strange conjures a weapon as Kaecilius' devotees run along the walls up to him and attack. He beats them off with his weapon and vaults over a railing to snare a vase with it, slinging it into one of them. Stop sniggering about the 'beats them off bit' and catch up!...

Taking aim, Kaecilius hefts his shard and hurls it at Strange, who just manages to deflect the deadly spear. Out of his depth, Strange makes a run for the mystical doorways, but the traitorous Sorcerer casts a spell to make the hall elongate away as in a child's nightmare, the floor tiles sliding and slipping beneath his feet-Strange is going nowhere. Turning, he generates two shields, only for one to falter and fade away. 

Twisting reality further, Kaecilius is now striding towards his intended victim along the ceiling, while his two cohorts take a wall each. Grappling with them, Strange is blasted backwards through midair when his next shield meets the full force of a practitioner of the Dark Arts, the blow sending him reeling to the floor. The female attacks next, but Strange knocks her back with a powerful swing of his weapon. Oh behave!; his lasso then... Now Kaecilius bends the fabric of reality once more, twisting the hallway along its axis to send Strange crashing and tumbling to the floor and walls as they change places. Desperate, Strange's attempt to flee gets nowwhere as the floor tilts sharply upwards, leaving him dangling precariously from what is now a vertical shaft. Taking aim, he drops to send the female proselyte tumbling into the Desert beyond the doorway, clinging to the doorframe to prevent himself following. 

He reaches for the switch to change the portal and leave her stranded in another continent, but her male counterpart attacks, preventing Strange from turning the switch with a display of acrobatic brute force. The girl runs up the sand dune for the doorway suspended in mid-air, but Strange gets a hand to the dial and turns it, banishing her to the dunes. One down... throwing the male over his shoulder into a rainforest, Strange repeats the trick to banish him. One to go...

Savagely, Kaecilius attacks with shard daggers, but Strange breaks free and again runs for it, deflecting deadly blows with another lasso before picking up a metal vessel, the Brazier of Bom'Galiath glowing with the weird fire inside. His triumphant 'Ha!' is premature, as Kaecilius realises he doesn't know how to use the relic. The fight goes on, lasso against shards and the superior power of a Master of the Dark Dimension. Again and again, Doctor Strange is kicked through display cabinets, ending with the one containing the maroon cloak. Going in for the kill, the Dark Master is foiled when the Cloak of Levitation blocks his blow!. This happens again, but the murderous assault continues unabated until with a final mighty dropkick Strange is sent toppling over the railings to break his neck.

Except, the Cloak of Levitation saves him, flashing over the railings to fasten itself about his neck in a heartbeat. Rising in thin air, Strange makes the forms to produce a lasso to snare his attacker's occult blade, the ensuing tug of war being won by Kaecilius, who collects a Sorcerer in the face by way of reward. Now the weird cape drags Strange back, when he spies an axe mounted on the wall, it stops him from going to it. Repeated attempts to gain the axe are met with frustration as the cape pulls him back, finally seeming to point at an unusual contraption on the wall behind him. Taking the watsit down from the wall, Strange hurls it at his pursuer, at which it wraps itself around him to form a magical hog-tie arrangement that leaves the Sorcerer powerless. (Apparently, this device is known as the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, though bears no resemblance to the comic book version.)

Kaecilius is mumbling something, some form of arcane incantation. Strange removes the mask element to be told he cannot stop what is coming, the Many becoming the Few becoming the One. Strange clears up the 'Mister Doctor' misapprehension then his prisoner explains as a scientist he knows the nature of decay; all things age, all things die. In the end our sun burns out, the Universe grows cold and perishes.* The Dark Dimension, however, is a place beyond time. Patience; expired. Strange goes to put the gag back on, but the Dark Master explains this world doesn't have to die-it could take its place among so many others as part of the One, the great and beautiful One. We can all live forever.** What is there to gain?. Life, eternal life-people think in terms of good and evil when Time is the enemy of us all. Time kills everything. And the people he killed?. Tiny, momentary specks within an indifferent Universe. (This really isn't a 'people' person.) Hearing his own words used back at him comes as a shock to Strange. Time enslaves us, he continues, death an insult. Earnestly, he addresses Strange directly; 'Doctor. We don't seek to rule this World, we seek to save it, to hand it over to the Dormammu who is the intent of all evolution-the 'Why?' of all existence.' Shaken, Strange asserts the Sorcerer Supreme defends all existence, but his captive has insight, asking what brought him to Kamar-Taj?. We see Stephen's hand shaking, reminder of his original true motive. Was it enlightenment or power?; no, he came to be healed, as did they all. Kamar-Taj, Kaecilius explains, is a place that collects broken things, they all go there with the promise of healing, the Ancient One gives parlour tricks instead. The real magic she keeps for herself. Has he ever wondered about her longevity?. Stephen Strange recalls the rituals from the Book of Cagliostro. Kaecilius discloses it gives the power to overthrow her, to tear her Sanctums down and allow Dormammu to enter. What she hoards, he claims, Dormammu gives freely; life everlasting. He's not the destroyer of Worlds, but the saviour of Worlds.
*For an explanation of Heat Death of the Universe, I can heartily recommend this Youtube video... Depressed me no end;
**I'm in.

Strange shakes his head, doubts wracking him and the seeds of confusion sprouting bitter fruit within his mind. No, look at your face, he tells the renegade; Dormammu made him a murderer... just how good can his kingdom be?. Kaecilius gives a sneering laugh. Angered, Strange asks if he finds that funny. No, he was laughing because he'd noticed Strange has lost his sling ring. Turning, Strange finds he has indeed lost it, the shard slamming into his chest with devastating force. The disciple who he had dispatched to the rain forest has returned through a portal and now throws the mortally wounded Sorcerer down the stairs. Bleeding profusely, Strange crawls along the floor as the thuggish henchman forms another shard and strikes-only to be checked by the cape at the last second. The weird garment wraps itself around his head and proceeds to knock him down, smashing him against the floor. His sling ring slides across the parquet towards Strange who, with his last vestige of strength just manages to open a portal into a janitor's cupboard on the ICU floor at his old hospital. Staggering into the hallway, he yells out for Dr. Palmer. Handily, Christine is at the nearby Nurses' Station. On the verge of collapse, Strange tells her he needs a Theatre now, just her. 

On the table, Stephen crashes and Christine shocks him. The charge blasts his Astral form clear from his body and he watches as she prepares a chest drain. She's going in a tad low, so helpfully, he projects into the room to advise her, scaring the shit out of the poor woman. Petrified, she asks what she's seeing. He explains; his Astral body. 'Are you dead?.' 'No, Christine, but I am dying...' Inserting his ethereal fingers into his own corporeal chest, he illuminates the right spot for the drain and she uses it. Unfamiliar with such a wound, she asks what he was stabbed with, but he doesn't know.

Meanwhile back at the Sanctum, dopey has worked out he can't escape the cloak, so enters his Astral body and goes looking for Doctor Strange, through the portal...

Looking up Strange's Astral spots the apostle's and he warns Christine he'll have to vanish now. Just keep him alive, is all he asks. Launching into the thug, Strange's Astral delivers a mighty roundhouse kick, but this is a strong adversary and he soon has Strange on the back foot with powerful blows. Grabbing Strange's Astral by the throat, he hurls it across the Theatre, causing the lamp to wobble.

Now on the table occupied by Strange's comatose body, the two struggle, the henchman punching Stephen's Astral violently, the kidney dish on the table shaking with the energy generated. Rolling off the table, the pair almost take Christine with them, the Doctor just retaining her grasp on the vital drain. The spiritual combatants hurtle down through the floor and out of a vending machine, just after Dr.Nick West has bought some crisps (Potato Chips for you American types) and the supernal shockwave knocks several more packs loose, Dr.West getting a free pack into the bargain. Back into the theatre now, the assailant delivers a stunning blow with his ghost-like fist and then finishes it off with a jumping spinning kick to the face. Knocked out in both states, Strange's heart gives up the ghost and his body flatlines. 

Grabbing the crash trolley, Christine charges the paddles and as the electricity courses through his body, Strange's Astral awakens and the disciple is blasted from him in an explosion of cosmic energy. She calls to Stephen, jumps again as his Astral re-appears to tell her to hit him again, this time up the voltage. 'But your heart's beating...' Just do it!. Despite the absurdity of all this, Dr. Palmer does just that and this time the resultant shockwave sends a shower of sparks around the room, destroys the adherent's Astral form and his body dies back on the Sanctum floor. She gets yet another shock when Stephen gasps back into life.

As she sutures his wound, she asks Stephen, after all this time, he just shows up, flying out of his body?. He missed her too... he wrote e-mails, but she never responded. Sincere as never before, he tells her he is sorry for being a complete asshole. He treated her so horribly and she deserved so much more. She mistakes this honesty for shock, but he laughs this off, telling her of his adventures in Kathmandu. Kathmandu?, like the Bob Seger song?. Yeah, 1975, Beautiful Loser Side A... he tells her of Kamar-Taj and The Ancient One and The Tin Man and all the others... She thinks this all sounds like a cult, but he insists otherwise. Also, he insists on walking; he's late for a cult meeting. She wants the truth, so he tells her a powerful sorcerer gave himself over to an ancient entity, able to bend the very laws of physics, he tried very hard to kill him and he left him chained up in the Village and the quickest way back is through a dimensional portal in the mop closet. Oddly, she has some trouble with this. 

When he opens the closet door and she sees him step through she probably has more trouble with it, but at least knows he's telling the truth. Or, she's insane. Closing the portal behind him, he leaves her alone in the closet. A mop falls and her nerves take another bashing.

Back in the Sanctum, Doctor Strange takes a moment to check the disciple is indeed dead. This is the first time he has taken life and a sombre moment. 

Donning his Cloak of Levitation, he ascends the stairs to find the restraints unoccupied and Kaecilius gone. A voice shouts his name and he whirls to find, with relief, Master Mordo. The Master is also relieved to find his pupil okay; a relative term, given the circumstances. He is amazed to see the cloak of Levitation has chosen him. Nor is Mordo the only visitor, as The Ancient One has accompanied Master Mordo to New Yoik. 

She comments the Cape being fickle, it is no minor thing for him to be clad in it. Stephen tells her of Kaecilius' ability to fold matter outside of the mirror dimension and she is appalled. He informs her of the casualties and in turn, she tells him the London Sanctuary has fallen, leaving only New York and Hong Kong to guard Earth. She offers to make Strange the Guardian of the New York Sanctum, raising him to Master, a decision that causes Mordo some consternation.

'No. It is Doctor Strange not Master Strange.' Stephen tells her of his oath to do no harm-and a man lies dead. He became a Doctor to save lives, not take them. As ever, The Ancient One has insight above all others, enlightening Strange that he became a doctor to save one life above all others; his own. Still seeing through him is she?. 'I see what I've always seen; your over-inflated ego.' further, she tells him he wants to return to a delusion that he can control everything, even death, which no-one can. 'Not even Dormammu?' Counters Strange. It's our fear of death that gives him life, she responds. Confronting her directly, he accuses her of manipulating death herself using the spells he saw in the Book of Cagliostro. With eyes as cold as the tomb, The Ancient One advises him to measure his next words very carefully. 'Because you may not like them?.' 'Because you may not know of what you speak...' Mordo wants to know what Strange is talking about. Her long life-the source of her immortality. She uses the power of the Dark Dimension to achieve it. Clinging to his faith, Mordo says it isn't true, but Stephen has seen the missing rituals, worked them out. Rather than defend this charge, The Ancient One states the zealots will return. He will need re-inforcements. With this, she departs, leaving Mordo to defend her from Strange's accusations.

Now Mordo confronts Strange, accuses him of cowardice, of refusing to fight unless to save his own life. Strange has no idea of the things he's done, he tells him. Also, he would have snuffed out his enemies in an instant. Even if there's another way... There is no other way... 'You lack imagination' charges Strange. 'No, you Stephen lack the spine.' Before Strange can rebut this, if he even could, their ears tell them Kaecilius is back, with more followers. Master Mordo says 'We have to end this-now!.' and vaults the railing, followed by Doctor Strange.

Leaping down on the Vaulting Boots, Mordor enters the fray, shouting at Strange to descend from mid-air to join him. 

Too late, it would seem as Kaecilius slams a palm down on the floor setting a spell of incredible power into the air. The effects of the blast suddenly hit the Mirror Dimension that Strange has conjured. Exulting in his power, Strange reminds the invader he can't affect the real World in there. 'Who's laughing now?-asshole...' Stoically, Kaecilius replies; 'I am.' at which he sets matter folding and reality-at last in the mirrored realm-into the grotesque. Seeing this, Mordo breaks free from the two thugs holding him as Strange floats down to swipe Kaecilius' sling ring and run out of the door into the street, followed by his fellow Master. Once outside, they can see the whole facade of the building in occult motion inside the dimension. Telling Mordo he's got the rogue's sling ring he says 'They can't escape, right?.' The answer is not encouraging; Mordo shouts 'Run!.' They do just that.

By invoking the Mirror Dimension, Doctor Strange has made a terrible mistake. Kaecilius is able to follow him and Master Mordo within it, altering the fabric of the city within. At a road junction, the strange effects of the Mirror Dimension become mind-bendingly apparent, like one of those 'Impossible Patio' illusions come to life, or a photo by Eric Johansson*. As Strange watches, bewildered, Mordo catches up, explains that their connection to the Dark Dimension makes them more powerful in the Mirror Dimension. They still can't affect reality, but they can certainly kill them. This wasn't clever, this was suicide!. Mordo leads the pair in renewed flight as Kaecilius chases and his two followers, well... follow. As if to underline Mordo's statement, the murderous Sorcerer moves two cars aside with a wave of his hand. (As this is the Mirror Dimension, this gives his trio space to run between, however, in the Real World the cars merely went on their way, noticing nothing and experiencing nothing unusual. As Mordo said, the Mirror Dimension is merely Kaecilius' murderous playground.)
*Go-Ogle them.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Co. on location.

Charging along the pavement, Strange opens a portal ahead to escape this bizarre death-trap, but his deadly pursuer merely reaches out a hand and sets the city twisting, buildings falling one by one until the whole is on its side and the fugitive pair are sent crashing into a Crosstown bus. 

Milords, Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you Sir. Stan Lee...
Inside, we see a rather familiar elderly gent laughing his way through Huxley's The Doors of Perception. Ladies, Gentlemen, lets take a moment to savour True Genius before we delve back into the action. (All together; Excelsior!; now, let's go!.) Using his Cloak, Strange lifts off to run along a skyscraper, Mordo using the Vaulting Boots to achieve the same effect, the boots cushioning the fall that would otherwise prove injurious. Again, Strange conjures a portal ahead, but Kaecilius is in his element, setting the fabric of the building into a waving sea of motion that flips the two and makes concentration impossible; the portal dissolves. Now the building is split and impossibly twisted to make the fleeing Sorcerers fall into mid-air, as one by one the buildings of Manhattan fold in on themselves.

It is only now that the full madness of the Mirror Dimension is released; multiple versions of the city hang above and aside each other in a surrealist's nightmare. Still in free-fall, Strange and Mordo land on the side of a building, their relics saving them from certain death. At the edge of the skyscraper Breathlessly, Strange says 'This was a mistake'. Mordo's look is priceless, but then the building tilts and they are sent dropping into a dizzying abyss of kaleidoscopic insanity, to crash down onto a catwalk. Even there, there is no purchase to be found, as it merely slides apart to swallow Stephen and separate him from his companion for Kaecilius to attack. The zealots split up, the adherents chasing after Strange. 

The female leaps, grabbing at his cloak, but some cloaks don't want to be grabbed and she is thrown off. The chase goes on, along impossibly shifting and twisting walkways; a landscape MC Escher might have dreamed of. One moment Strange is stumbling along outside, the next he's falling through a subway car only to emerge into mid-air high above a street, suddenly landing on the street as half a taxi cab drives past. Now Kaecilius pursues Strange, each on one side of a walkway, the two clashing at the end. Grabbing Stranges throat and his sling ring back, Kaecilius produces another of his shards and stabs down towards his victim.

The walkway splits, sliding Strange back out of immediate danger. Kaecilius looks back to see, amongst other things, a disciple struggling with Mordo... and everything expanding at once. In a moment, everyone is isolated on their own little piece of floating reality. And then The Ancient One makes her appearance. A tiled floor forms beneath the group of combatants, one of those marvellous old subway mozaics. At the sight of the sigil formed on her forehead, Master Mordo has to finally accept the truth; The Ancient One does, indeed draw her power from the Dark Dimension. 

Hearing his words, her face shows sorrow and pain, but this is not the time for either; returning her attention to Kaecilius the two circle each other around the perimeter of the new space she has created. 

He came to her lost, broken, trusting her to be his teacher and she fed him lies. 'I tried to protect you.' 'From the Truth?.' 'From yourself.' She tells him Dormammu deceives him-his new protege has no idea of what the creature truly is. His eternal life is not paradise, she adds, but torment. Her former pupil calls her a liar and, with his acolytes, attacks.

The Ancient One spins away from the initial blow, followed by a joint attack which she fends off with energy shields. Audaciously, the zealot slams the floor, setting it rippling around her, but The Ancient One's response is instant and forceful as she shows him how. Kaecilius watches from the edge of the circle as his minions attack. Grabbing his sling ring, he sees his followers struggling to defeat the Sorcerer Supreme, her energy and vital magic the stronger.

Generating shards, Kaecilius stabs through the back of his own disciple to spear the Ancient One then kick her through the portal he's opened behind her, sending her from the Mirror Dimension to the Real World. Instantly, Strange and Mordo leap/fly through to follow just before the portal disintegrates.

The Ancient One is falling, a long and terrible fall down the side of an office building that ends when she smashes through a canopy and hits the pavement in a spray of granular glass, New Yorkers screaming and shouting in shock at the terrible sight. Strange dashes to his stricken teacher, Mordo looking on in horror. They rush her into hospital, where poor Christine is needed once more. She has a stunned myocardia, neurogenic. Rolling her into theatre, everyone scrubs in and preps for surgery. Picking up a scalpel, Strange realises his days of surgery are indeed past and he calls Dr. Nick. Handing him the scalpel, he tells him to relieve pressure on the brain. The Ancient One crashes and Christine calls for the crash cart. Seeing the heart monitor flicker, Strange's guess is proved right as he throws himself from his corporeal body and, in Astral Form sees The Ancient One has indeed done the same, her spirit flying from the theatre as Time itself slows to a crawl, virtually at a standstill. Strange's Astral finds hers standing on the balcony overlooking the river, a helicopter seemingly frozen, hangs in mid-air between beats of its blades. Strange tells The Ancient One to return to her body, she's dying; Time, she replies, is relative; his body hasn't even hit the floor yet.

Beautiful; that's the only way to describe a lightning strike in extreme slow motion. The one that blossoms in the sky over the river, a fall of snow caught in mid-air. The Ancient One tells Strange she's spent so many years peering through time to this exact moment-but she can never see past it. She has prevented countless terrible futures, after each one there's always another. All leading here-but never further. So she thinks this is where she dies?. Rather than answer, she asks if he wonders what she sees in his future. He tries to say no, but her smile instantly washes that away. Yes. She never saw his future, only its possibilities. 'You have such a capacity for goodness-you always excelled, but not because you craved success-but because of your fear of failure.' 'It's what made me a great doctor.' 'It's precisely what kept you from greatness...' The Sorcerer Supreme offers an enlightenment; arrogance and fear prevent him learning the simplest and greatest lesson of all. Stephen wants to know more, at which her Astral turns to his and tells him emphatically; 'It's not about you....'

She reminds him of Jonathan Pangborn, stating she did not heal him, but that he channels dimensional energy directly into his body. He uses magic to walk. He had a choice-to return to his own life, or to serve something greater than himself. Like the delayed crack of thunder that accompanied this revelation, Strange realises in a flash that he could have his hands back. He could-and the World would be all the lesser for it. She hated drawing power from the Dark Dimension, but as he himself knows sometimes rules must be broken. Strange doubts Mordo will see it that way. She says Mordo's soul is rigid and immovable-forged by the fires of his youth. He needs Strange's flexibility as Strange needs his strength. Only together can they hope to stop Dormammu. 'I'm not ready.' 'No-one ever is... we don't get to choose our time.' With that, she takes Strange's hand-in the Astral sense. 'Death is what gives life meaning-to know your days are numbered. Your time is short... you'd think after all this time I'd be ready...' Another ripple of lightning scintillates across the sky. She has stretched this moment out into thousands-and all to watch the snow. As she tells him this, Strange realises The Ancient One has gone. On the table in theatre, her body lies, lifeless and dead. 

Strange washes his hands and, ignoring the oddness of a floating cape behind him, Christine joins him. Placing his hand on hers, he stands silent. She asks if he is okay, tells him she doesn't understand what is happening. He knows, but has to go away now. 

Taking her head in his hands, he reminds her of her words, that she told him losing his hands didn't have to be the end, but could be a beginning... 'Yeah-because there are other ways of saving lives.' 'A harder way.' 'A weirder way.' The perfect moment for either a kiss or the Tannoy to call her. Yep; the latter. He doesn't want her to go, but she kisses him on the cheek and does just that, his eyes closed against the pain and so she can't see the tears. Turning to the mirror, the cape wraps itself around his shoulders and he straightens the collar. Amusingly, the cape then tries to wipe away with tears-much to his annoyance.

Hong Kong. A Nissan 'Z' drives along and, impossibly, a sparking vortex opens up; Kaecilius and two of his fellow zealots march out of a desert into the neon-busy street and towards an impressive building with a familiar oculus; the Hong Kong Sanctum is under siege. 

Inside, at the head of a cohort of Kamar-Taj students of varying degree, Wong instructs them to choose their weapons wisely.  

He selects for himself the Wand of Watoomb and prepares to defend the Sanctum. Boldly, he tells the students 'No-one sets foot in this Sanctum. No-one.'

Going outside, Wong finds the street busy as ever, business as usual. The throngs of people are going about their lives as on any other day-except Kaecilius and his two female apostles. 

Telling him he is on the wrong side of history, the renegade Sorcerer and his accomplices produce shards and Wong prepares to fight. And to die. 

In the ruins of Kamar-Taj, Mordo stands, disconsolate, disillusioned amongst the rubble. Arriving by portal, Stephen Strange informs him of the death of The Ancient One. 'You were right' says Mordo, 'She wasn't who I thought she was.'  

Wearily, Strange explains 'She was complicated.' Complicated... Mordo despairs; the Dark dimension is volatile, dangerous-what if it overtook her?. She told them it was forbidden, while using it to steal centuries of life. Strange insists she did what she thought was right, but Mordo asserts her misuse of power led the zealots to Kamar-Taj. 

Here they are in the consequence of her deception. A World on fire... urgently, Stephen tries to persuade Mordo to act; London has fallen-the New York Sanctum attacked twice. They are going for Hong Kong next. He reminds the crestfallen Master that he told him to fight like his life depended on it because one day it might-today is that day. 'I cannot defeat them alone.' When Strange opens a portal, Mordo jumps into it without hesitation; the born warrior.

The scene they find on arrival in Hong Kong is apocalyptic; the Sanctum has already fallen-a broiling mass of dark energy in its place. From the epicentre of the Sanctum the Dark Dimension is spreading out, tendrils of dark matter looming over the city, enveloping all before it. 

Looking up, Mordo tells Strange Dormammu is coming. Nothing can stop him. 'Not necessarily...' Opening the Eye of Agamotto, Stephen prepares to alter time. 

Seeing this, Kaecilius charges towards him, but too late. Turning the emerald disc, Strange stops time in its tracks and halting the zealot's shard inches from his body. 

Its a lot harder on this scale than controlling the decay of an apple-turning time back with an immense effort of will, he reverses events, sending everything backwards-pausing briefly to release Master Mordo from its effects. With Mordo and himself unaffected by the constantly reversing chronology around them, they run to the Sanctum, but Kaecilius uses his powers to free himself and his fellow dark sorcerers and attacks again. 

Surrounded by chaos in reverse, Strange and Kaecilius grapple, dodging cars speeding in reverse and people fleeing away from an event that is now in the future, objects flying back from the blast waves emanating from the Sanctum. Mordo fights with the females, one taking a manhole cover to the head. She falls into the water that has spilled from the fish-tanks in a restaurant window, is pulled back with the water into the tanks and then trapped as the glass restores itself. Mordo watches in fascinated horror as a corpse slides back along the ground and flies into the windscreen of a car just after it hits a post and drives off back in time. All along the street, fallen masonry restores itself to complete the buildings it fell from. Using his Staff of the Living Tribunal, Mordo hitches a ride on some rising bamboo scaffolding, to continue the fray with one of the female apostles. Leaping out, she grabs bamboo and is pulled high above, Mordo using the Staff to lasso her ankle and send her round to slam into a wall. The building's reforming glass seals her inside a room that forms around her. 

All around, the Dark Dimension is receding, but the fight is far from won. Seeing Strange grappling with Kaecilius, Master Mordo drops down to street level.

Kaecilius has the strength of the fanatic and the power to overcome the strongest of opponents. In a whirl of billowing dust and debris, Stephen is blind to the attack that comes from the murk. His Cape, however, is not and blocks the shard's lethal blows. Knocking him back with a mighty blow, Strange emerges from the diminishing dust cloud and they trade blows, ending when Mordo arrives and uses the Staff to throw Kaecilius hard against a wall just as the tiles that adorned it re-affix themselves, trapping the Dark Sorcerer behind them, only his hand remaining free. More debris rises and they spot Wong lying dead, impaled on a jagged spike of steel. Strange rushes to him and as the Librarian comes back to life, quickly uses the Eye of Agamotto to free him from the time reversal spell. Seeing Wong's astonished look, Strange can't resist a jibe about breaking the laws of nature. To his credit, Wong urges him not to stop now... the Sanctum is nearly restored-Strange knows when it's complete they'll attack again. Running towards the Sanctum, the trio are stopped by Kaecilius, re-emerged from his temporary confinement to slam his palm down on the road and send it rippling. Strange is knocked cold, the spell of the Eye of Agamotto fading away. At once, time slows away to infinity, stopped in the moment the spell lost effect. 

The only ones unaffected are the combatants and Mordo struggles to his feet urging Strange to get up-get up and fight. Wong stands ready for the inevitable. Again. Transfixed by the ichorous iridescence of the Dark Dimension, Kaecilius and his followers advance towards it, spellbound. 'Isn't it beautiful? A World beyond time... beyond Death...' Something in his words sparks a memory and Strange has a flash of inspiration. 'Beyond time...' He flies up into the Dark Dimension, ignoring Mordo's shout for him to stay. Strange has something more in mind than mere combat.

The Dark Dimension is like nothing Strange has ever known or even imagined. Polyp-like structures hang suspended in space, connected by roots like some malignantly radiant seaweed on an insane scale. Everywhere, colour; electric purples, splashes of blues and vermilion, a Dali landscape in heliotrope, a placeless place of constant motion and no place for living creatures. Such as the insignificant one floating through it all in his cloak. Back in Hong Kong, Mordo watches in defeat; Kaecilius commenting that Strange has gone-surrendered to the power of Dormammu. Surrender, however, is not on Strange's mind as he lands on an eerily glowing spheroid and opens the Eye of Agamotto.

All at once, the gigantic form of Dormammu is looming in front of him. This is the face he glimpsed all those centuries ago at Kamar-Taj when The Ancient One freed his consciousness from Earthly bounds for the very first time. If Hell had a face, this is it; eyes of neon violet fire glare down on him, the lined, rippling and cragged face split in a malevolent sneer of triumph and hate.

His voice quaking ever-so-slightly, Strange jumps to the nearest sphere and tells Dormammu he has come to bargain. The face thrusts itself towards the tiny figure standing before it. 'YOU'VE COME TO DIE. YOUR WORLD IS NOW MY WORLD. I EAT ALL WORLDS.' With this greeting, Dormammu sends bolts of energy flashing down on Strange, who generates two Mandala Shields to deflect the attack, then Dormammu's mouth opens and a shaft of pure energy blasts Strange. Cowering behind his shield, Strange holds on as long as he can, before his atoms are scattered and he disintegrates into nothingness.

The End?.

With Strange dead Dormammu is free to continue his conque... what the?... time reverses over the last minute or so and Strange again jumps down to the nearest sphere and tells Dormammu he has come to bargain... Dormammu starts with the 'YOU'VE COME TO DIE. YOUR WORLD IS NOW MY WORLD' bit again, then gets a serious attack of Deja-Vu* 'WHAT IS THIS? ILLUSION?' Strange assures him it's no illusion.'GOOD' Says the Spiteful One and impales Strange on two rods of carbon. Down comes Strange and what do you know?-he wants to bargain. Dormammu is, by now, beginning to freak out. It's all relative, I suppose...
*I went into a restaurant called 'Deja-Vu' once. The Head Waiter said 'Don't I know you?'. I'm here all week-try the rib-steak...

Strange explains; 'Just as you gave Kaecilius powers from your dimension I've brought a little power from mine.' Holding up his arm, Strange informs the malevolent presence 'This is Time. Endless-looped Time.' 'YOU-DARE!' Enraged, Dormammu raises a colossal fist and prepares to smash it down on Strange, who mutters 'Oh f...' and is squished. 'Dormammu, I've come to bargain...' 'YOU CANNOT DO THIS FOREVER.' 'Actually I can. This is how things are now; you and me, trapped in this moment-endlessly.' Dormammu tells Strange he will spend eternity dying. 'Yes, but everyone on Earth will live.' 'BUT YOU WILL SUFFER.' Considering this, Strange responds 'Pain's an old friend.' Zap. 'Dormammu, I've come to bargain...' Impaled. 'Dormammu...' crushed by a spheroid. 'Dormammu...' Impaled. Smothered. Blasted. 'YOU WILL NEVER WIN...' Wearily, Stephen looks up from the ground. 'No, but I can lose... again-and again-and again... and again, for ever. And that makes you my prisoner.' Impaled. 'NO! MAKE-THIS-STOP!. SET ME FREE!' 'No. I've come to bargain.' 'WHAT DO YOU WANT?' Floating in front of the leviathan, Strange lays it out. 'Take your zealots from the Earth. End your assault on my World-never come back. Do it-and I'll break the loop.'

Hong Kong, frozen in Time. Mordo struggles to his feet urging Strange to get up-get up and fight. Wong stands ready for the inevitable. Again. Transfixed by the ichorous iridescence of the Dark Dimension, Kaecilius and his followers advance towards it, spellbound. 'Isn't it beautiful? A World beyond time... beyond Death...' Strange floats down to land behind him, Superman style. Mordo and Wong gape at the impossibility of this and Kaecilius turns to face his foe. 'What have you done?.' 'I made a bargain.' Suddenly, the zealots notice their skins turning to ash. 'What is this?.' A nonchalant and oddly carefree Strange tells him; 'Well, it's what you've always wanted. Eternal life as part of The One.' As Mordo and Wong join him, he smiles, shakes his head. 'You're not gonna like it.' 

The zealot's bodies change, beginning to disintegrate, pieces flying off towards the Dark Dimension overhead, their heads glowing with a hideous un-natural intensity. Turned into charred remnants, their bodies soar towards their terrible destiny. Looking on, Strange can't resist a final comment on their fate. 'You know, you really shoulda stolen the whole book because the warnings... the warnings come after the spells.' A shock awaits him, though, when Wong starts laughing uncontrollably. Finally, he finds one of Stephen's jokes funny!. 

Strange forms a time disc and finishes restoring the Sanctum and banishing the Dark Dimension from Earth. Forever. Spontaneously, life returns to the streets around them as if it had never happened. It never had. Wong comments 'We did it.' But Mordo is far from content; 'Yes, we did it. By also violating the Natural Law.' Strange takes a different view. 'Look around you; it's over.' But his former Teacher is appalled. 'You still think there will be no consequences, Strange?. No price to pay?.' Some might call dying multiple times paying a price, but not Mordo; 'We broke our rules, just like her. The bill comes due-always. A reckoning.' As Strange realises he has come to the end of the road with Mordo, the latter states he will follow this path no longer... and turns his back on his friends, walking away.

Kathmandu. The sanctuary of Kamar-Taj restored. Doctor Stephen Strange walks to the plinth to return the Eye, but pauses, his palsied hands a reminder of the life he could yet regain. Every man stands at life's crossroads sometimes, but the Cloak of Levitation is perhaps a better judge of it's new Master than he realises-removing itself to hang behind him-with the merest hint of a shove-as gentle reminder of why he came. He returns the Eye of Agamotto to its rightful place atop the pedestal. A wise choice, comments Wong, walking in to the chamber. 'You'll wear the Eye of Agamotto-once you've mastered its powers...' Walking around to the pedestal, the curator adds a chilling postscript; 'Until then, best not to walk the streets wearing an Infinity Stone.' A what?. 'You might have a gift for the mystic arts, but you still have much to learn.'  

Shaking his massive head, Wong turns his gaze upwards to the revolving globe, adding that news of The Ancient One's death will spread rapidly throughout the Multiverse-that there's no Sorcerer Supreme to defend it. We'll be ready.' he asserts. With a firm nod, Strange agrees; 'We'll be ready.'

Wong opens the doorway to the New York Sanctum and Strange, be-cloaked again, follows. 

Walking up to stand by the oculus, Strange takes his broken Jaeger le Coultre and straps it on his wrist. 

Filming the final scene.

A broken watch for a broken hand. His choice is made. Doctor Stephen Strange the Surgeon is no more, but Doctor Strange will be keeping watch over the Sanctum and the Earth. 

The end credits roll, but as you must have heard, the treats don't end there... after we sit through a series of shifting mandalas and names of varying familiarity, we see another scene;

In the Sanctum, Doctor Strange has a guest; Thor. 'So Earth has wizards now?.' 'Tea?.' Thor doesn't drink tea. 'So what do you drink?.' The Norse God smiles, shaking his head; 'Not tea.' The smile fades somewhat when Strange turns his cup into a large stein of beer. Strange informs Thor of his watch-list, a list of beings from other realms and worlds that might pose a threat to Earth; his brother Loki has made the list.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor; object of my Wife's desire and general beefcake.

Draining his glass, Thor thinks this a worthy inclusion, doing something of a double take as the glass refills itself. 'So, why bring him here to New York?.' 'It's a bit of a long story-family drama, that kind of thing, but we're looking for my father.' That's cool with Strange-so if they are re-united they'll all just return to Asgard together?. 'Oh yes, promptly.' 'Great-allow me to help you...'

This mouth-watering hint well and truly dropped, the credits continue, but there's even more!; this movie keeps on giving, doesn't it?.

In a FINAL final end scene, after a stupendous amount of names have risen and rolled away, Master Mordo visits Jonathan Pangborn in his workshop. 'They carried you into Kamar-Taj on a stretcher. Look at you now, Pangborn.'

 Nervously, Pangborn responds; 'Mordo. So what can I do for you, man?.' 'I've been away for many months now and I've had a revelation. The true purpose of a sorcerer is to twist things out of their proper shape...' Pangborn grasps a crow-bar, a forlorn hope. '...Stealing power, perverting nature.' The two men face each other. 'Like you.' Pangborn tells his old teacher he's stolen nothing; this is his power. 'Power-has a purpose' replies Mordo, easily dodging Jonathan's blows to reach towards his body and pull out the magical power sustaining it. 

At once, Pangborn is a paraplegic again, helpless on the floor. Why is Mordo doing this?. 'Because I see at last what's wrong with the World...' Squatting down to face the crippled man, the light of fanaticism in his eyes, Mordo concludes; '...Too many Sorcerers.'

Doctor Strange Will Return.

The Cast.
Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange is, by and large, flawless. His American accent wavers somewhat, but it's a creditable attempt nonetheless. He plays the part with humour, energy and real presence; his casting is, in short near perfect. 

An unlikable, selfish man, Strange cares more for his reputation than his patient's lives and only changes after a fairly mind-bendingly psychadelic series of experiences to realise that he is not the centre of the Universe. The character progresses and develops wonderfully for a Marvel production and the whole thing was clearly done with care for the franchise and the character. Clearly, the Cumberbatch character was developed with an eye for longevity as it is more than the usual 2D Marvel comic book translation-this feels more like a FILM character than something from the pens of Lee and Ditko (And, let's be clear; I WORSHIP these men as Gods above all men-however, film requires more developed characterisation.)

Mads Mikkelsen was always going to be a safe bet as Kaecilius. Apparently originally considered for the titular role and then that of Master Mordo, Mikkelsen's character is not the standard 'baddie' you might expect. His character sees the way forward in a very different way and only his ruthlessness and fanaticism set him apart from the protagonist. A stand-out role. Chiwetel Ejiofor's character Master Mordo bears more than an echo of his role in the wonderful Serenity (2005), an intense, focused and driven man who sees only black and white, never shades of grey. 
Rachel McAdams stunned in a daring and clever dress; Clever?; the design is reminiscent of an Escher print, Escher being the inspiration for the crazy Mirror Dimension scenes.

Rachel McAdams is good as Dr. Christine Palmer, but is pretty much the standard love interest with a twist, the twist being she and Strange aren't lovers anymore. Tilda Swinton makes an effective Ancient One, dispensing wisdom and magical teachings with a stillness and inner grace suggestive of the pebble radiating ripples in a pond. Benedict Wong plays Wong with a quiet stoicism and immovability that gives the role a memorable aspect; nicely cast, Wong's stone face lends itself well to the humour in the film.

For the Obsessives among you, here's a link to the Easter Eggs seen in Doctor Strange...

Both the Key of Solomon and the Astronomia-Nova mentioned by Wong are real books; respectively a 14th Century Grimoire and Johannes Kepler's Astronomical work on the motion of planetary bodies. The Book of cagliostro is named for Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an Italian Alchemist.

The scene where The Ancient One crashes to the pavement in New York was actually filmed in London.

177a Bleecker Street is the apartment building where Marvel writer Roy Thomas lived at the time he wrote Doctor Strange (No.182). More than one other Bullpen Alumni shared the address.

When Strange crashes his Lamborghini, the track you hear is Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive. After his accident, Strange sits at his desk trying to write; look closely-that's a Syd Barrett t-shirt, from his debut solo album The Madcaps Laugh (1968), Not only does the comic book Doctor Strange appear on the cover of Floyd's 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets, but Benedict Cumberbatch sang 'Comfortably Numb' on stage with David Gilmour in 2016 at the Albert Hall, London. A Floyd track on the soundtrack of More (1969) mentions Doctor Strange by name.

Eagle-Eyed viewers among you will spot the Avengers Building in Manhattan among the skycrapers. This is only one of the hints dropped in the film, so don't be surprised if Doctor Strange ends up joining the team in a future release.

Scott Derrickson, Writer of such films as the brilliant Deliver us from Evil (2014) Sinister (2012) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) used his own money to make a video to pitch his bid to direct Doctor Strange to Marvel Studios.

Scott Derrickson in discussion with star Cumberbatch.
In case you were wondering why a Caucasian woman played a part written for a Male Tibetan monk, it was, partly our old friend Political Correctness. Derrickson felt casting an Asian in an Asian role would be perceived as exploitation. Go figure.

Derrickson is apparently considering using the Dream Demon 'Nightmare' and his world the Dream Dimension in the sequel.

The scene where the Cloak of Levitation seems to try to wipe Strange's tears away was originally thought up by Benedict Cumberbatch. The part where he pulls the collar up is a direct reference to the same action in Sherlock (2010-) where he does this as a symbol that the Game is On.

Among the elements taken directly from Doctor Strange comics are; Stephen Strange writing his name repeatedly with his damaged hands, Strange's attempt to use an Axe as a weapon, the Operating Theatre spirit fight, Strange wearing yellow gloves in the end-title Thor sequence, Mordo's insistence 'The bill comes due' and the Cloak of Levitation displaying intelligence. 
The comic that started it all.
Rachel McAdams played Irene Adler in the Robert Downey Jnr Sherlock Holmes movies (2009, 2011), Benedict Cumberbatch, of course is famous for his role in Sherlock (2010-) Mads Mikkelsen's brother Lars played a villain in Sherlock and also voiced the Stephen Strange character in the Danish version of the animated movie (2007). Other Marvel/Sherlock Holmes convergences include Jeremy Brett (Granada TV's Holmes from 1984-1994) in a TV movie The Incredible Hulk: Of Guilt, Models and Murder (1978) Magneto himself, Sir. Ian McKellen played Holmes in Mr. Holmes (2015) and Martin Freeman, Watson in Sherlock who made an appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Dormammu is played by... Benedict Cumberbatch.

Strange refers to Pangborn's spinal injury as 'Between C7 and C8'. There is no C8 vertebrae in humans. Perhaps the reference is to the nerve 'C8' instead though.

Some wonderful artwork used as Promotional posters for the film.

When Strange steals the books from Wong in the library, neither hand has a sling ring on. How did he generate the portals?.
When Strange has his hands immobilised with the fixators, they are removed at one point and then re-attached before surgery. This is an error as they would only be in place until the bones healed, not then re-attached. Also, Dr. Palmer wears nail polish; surgeons have to have short, natural nails due to cross-contamination issues. Aseptic protocols are repeatedly breached in the film, such as when Strange scrubs in then attaches his own mask. Further, when Strange is shocked with the defibrilator, it wouldn't have done anything for him as he's in what's known as asystole cardiac arrest. Asystolic rhythm is non-shockable. Apparently, the shock numbers on the de-fibrilator are also out of sequence. 

Rumours Benedict Cumberbatch walked into a comic book shop, in costume to buy a Doctor Strange comic are true; 

The round Strange extracts from the patient's brain is clearly a rifle round and would be unlikely to lodge in the skull. Also, a copper-jacketed round isn't cast, such as one containing antimony, which he mentions.

Cumberbatch, McAdams and Swinton at a premiere.
Some continuity errors are evident in the laptop-hurling scene in Strange's apartment, plus the blood on Strange's later facial injuries comes and goes a few times; most of the continuity errors are, however, fairly minor so let's not bother ourselves with insignificant specks in an indifferent internet...

Concept Art for Dormammu.

Animation showing two differing approaches; A group of Dormmamu (Dormammi?) VS a Single Entity.
Above, below; the range of Concept Art produced for Doctor Strange shows the sheer quality of the production. Marvel wanted to make sure they got this one right...

All of which brings us to the usual; you know, the bit where I award the film a rating; well, I'm going to break a habit of a Blog-time and let YOU, the reader rate the film. That's right; either you've seen it at the flicks or I-max or wherever or you need to buy a Blu-ray/DVD or whichever-then tell ME what you thought of the film. Ratings out of ten please and a short message informing me why you awarded it your rating. I look forward to your thoughts... Excelsior!.

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