Later this year, Benedict Cumberbatch will become Doctor Strange: one of the slightly more complicated superheroes in Marvel’s roster. In order to get a clearer idea of exactly who this figure is before the film hits UK screens on 28 October, here is just some of the good doctor’s backstory.
Before beginning his path to superhero stardom, Steven Strange was an amazing surgeon with one major downfall: his ego. His selfishness meant that he very often turned away desperate patients who could not afford to pay their medical bills. Strange had a gift for sure, but he put a very high price-tag on it.
However, on one fateful day a car accident means that Strange shatters his famous hands beyond all repair, developing an uncontrollable tremor that renders him unable to perform surgery. In his desperation to reverse the damage, he travels the world in search for a cure but to no avail. That is until his journey takes him to ‘The Ancient One’ high up in the Himalayas where he now seeks to restore his hands by means beyond medicine.
Upon Strange’s arrival, the Ancient One is the current ‘Sorcerer Supreme’. This effectively means that he is the strongest wielder of magical power in the universe. The title is awarded each century through a tournament conducted by an extra-dimensional mystical group known as the Vishanti and the Ancient One has held the role for over five centuries.
Seeing the cruelty in Steven’s soul, the Ancient One denies his initial request to restore his hands to their former glory but instead offers to take him on as a student, teaching him the ways of magic, hoping to bring out the goodness within Steven. The Ancient One’s aim first comes to fruition when Strange finds out that another of the Ancient One’s students, Baron Mordo, plans to kill their master.
The Ancient One was already aware of Mordo’s plans, but seeing Strange’s selflessness also serves to solidify his belief in the potential of Steven being able to complete his training. Strange soon becomes an adept magician, but he also gains a lifelong enemy in Mordo.
Furthermore, the reason why Strange was such a cruel and vile human being before his training ends up being the result of another plot by Mordo. The sorcerer had sent demons to plague Steven as a boy and although the Ancient One managed to defeat them and erase them from Strange’s memory, the events themselves left a lasting impact on his psyche. In true superhero fashion, he has been good all along.
As Steven continues his training, he adopts the title of ‘Doctor Strange’. He later becomes Sorcerer Supreme after a conflict with an extra-dimensional being known as Shuma-Gorath (which is basically a huge tentacle-monster with one big eye) which results in the physical death of the Ancient One (his soul still survives as he transcends and becomes one with the universe and an entity called Eternity). Strange’s adoption of this role is later affirmed by one of the aforementioned Vishanti tournaments.
Strange’s powers include flight, teleportation, telekinesis, astral projection, inter-dimensional travel, time manipulation and so on. Basically anything that you would think that the strongest sorcerer in the universe should be able to do. He uses the Book of the Vishanti and the Orb of Agamotto, while donning the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto.
The Book grants him knowledge of white magic, the Orb is a very powerful crystal ball giving him clairvoyance, the Cloak enables him to fly and the Eye is the most complex of all, being capable of emitting a powerful mystical light that can be used to fight the powers of darkness in a whole assortment of ways. Should Strange be unable to use his magic powers,he is an expert in several martial arts.
Doctor Strange is a weird yet wonderful character who will make for an exciting addition to the MCU. Hopefully the complex magical dimension of his story does not infringe upon the film’s reception among the general public.
Equally, I hope that it is not oversimplified too much out of fear of this. Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014 was also quite the leap of faith for the team over at Marvel and that turned out fantastically, so I have high hopes that the same will be said of Doctor Strange.