The Doctor Strange set reviews are rolling out today, and one of the more interesting tidbits so far is an interview with Marvel studio’s President Kevin Feige. One of the more puzzling things about the Doctor Strange movie is the timeline: when does this all take place relative to the rest of the MCU, and where have all these powerful sorcerers been while aliens are invading the planet and killer robots have nearly exterminated the human race? Feige has an answer to that, and it’s pretty steeped in the Doctor Strange comics:
There are people inhabiting the same world that are stopping buildings from falling down, robots from doing this, aliens from doing that – these people in this movie are stopping inter-dimensional forces from wiping out all of reality.
So although it doesn’t necessarily come up, we’ve always assumed that the sorcerers have bigger fish to fry when they hear there’s something in a city or there’s a bank being robbed. They’re not thinking about it. They’re thinking if we don’t keep vigilant our sense of reality will disappear, and there won’t be a bank to rob and there won’t be a city to be conquered.
The idea that the Sorcerer Supreme is the defender of our entire reality goes back a long way in the comics and is in many ways one of the most interesting things about Doctor Strange and his world. War might ravage the land, governments might fall, but the Sorcerer Supreme has to look at the much, much bigger picture. It can make him seem aloof, even callous that he doesn’t interfere in these sorts of disasters, injecting a certain amount of moral grayness into the Doctor Strange stories. It also raises the stakes immensely as Strange (and past Sorcerer Supremes) have to deal with an enormous burden that surpasses almost any other superhero. A recurring motif in such stories is that sometimes the Sorcerer Supreme may have to kill or allow to be killed an innocent in order to protect the greater universe.
Feige goes on to say:
I don’t think he does a lot of hanging out, necessarily. No, he usually gets involved when – as I said, he’s not going to intervene in the bodega crime down the street. But as things get bigger and as threats get bigger he can serve a very good purpose and can make his presence known.
Of course, sometimes a mugging goes down while Doctor Strange is at the pharmacy, and he just can’t resist. Still, Feige’s broader point is a good one. Strange in the comics usually exists on the periphery of the Marvel Universe, fighting threats that are unimaginable to heroes like The Avengers. He usually only shows up when another hero needs a quick consultation about some mystical phenomena or when things have gotten so bad that his intervention is a necessity. Obviously, his appearance in Infinity War will probably be one of those rare catastrophes where he has to step in, but it’s going to be interesting to see how or if he appears in other movies further down the line. Will Ant-Man stray too far into the Quantum Realm and Doctor Strange has to pull him out? Will the Guardians of the Galaxy find some dimensional tear in outer space and have to stop the be-tentacled Many-Angled Ones from flooding out of it? Will Thor swing by the Sanctum Sanctorum for some advice on defeating Loki’s magic? Time will tell how big it will be, but expect Doctor Strange to have a significant role in the MCU moving forward.