Doctor Strange

Movie: Directed by Scott Derrickson.

Inciting Event: Brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange spectacularly crashes his sports car and mangles his hands, obliterating his ability to surgically operate.

In many stories, the drama of such a moment (and the clear delineation of a “normal before” and an “adventurous after”) would be a fine First Plot Point. So why isn’t this the First Plot Point here? Because Stephen’s conflict with his mangled hands is not the main conflict. It is merely the setup that will lead him to the main conflict.

First Plot Point: Desperate to find a cure, Stephen travels to Kathmandu, where he encounters a strange magical order led by the Ancient One. Here, he completely exits his logical Normal World and fully enters an entirely new understanding of the world and a “multi-verse.” Still intent on fixing his hands, he begins training in the use of magic.

First Pinch Point: Despite his brilliance, Stephen proves himself a less than adept student. The Ancient One gives him a little push by stranding him on Mt. Everest, forcing him to finally use his sling ring to open a portal back to Kathmandu.

In this section, we also see a scene with the antagonist Kaecilius, who opens up the Dark dimension in his pursuit of the “oneness” that will supposedly grant humanity immortality.

Midpoint: Just after discovering how to control time (and being forbidden to ever do it again), Stephen ends up in the London Sanctum after Kaecilius attacks. He meets the legendary Kaecilius for the first time, hears and is tempted by Kaecilius’s plans and motives, but ultimately rejects them and fights Kaecilius and his minions for survival.

Second Pinch Point: While battling one of Kaecilius’s men, Stephen is stabbed. He staggers through a portal, back to his New York hospital. While his erstwhile girlfriend Christine operates on him, he pulls his “astral form” form his body and continues to battle, finally killing the minion.

Third Plot Point: In another full-on battle with Kaecilius, Stephen attempts to trap him in the mirror dimension, which only heightens Kaecilius’s power. The Ancient One arrives to save them all, only to reveal that she too is drawing power from the dark dimension. She is mortally wounded and despite Stephen and Christine’s best efforts to save her, she dies.

Climax: Stephen, Mordu, and Wong do battle to protect the Hong Kong Sanctum. Stephen uses what he knows about stopping and turning back time to force the lord of the dark dimension, Dormammu, into relinquishing Earth.

Climactic Moment: As a part of Stephen’s deal with Dormammu, Kaecilius and his zealots become “one” with immortality, forever trapped in the dark dimension.

Resolution: Stephen determines to help defend Earth against the cosmic threats. The Ancient One’s greatest pupil, Mordo, feeling betrayed by events, decides to destroy all sorcerers.

Comments: This a movie with a solid structure and a very nice character arc. However, it lacks much in the way of the relational conflict necessary to create true heart or emotional stakes, which is borne out by the fact that the only minor character who reappears at anything approaching regular intervals within the main structural beats is the Ancient One.

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