Marvel’s Doctor Strange is well into its theatrical run, earning universally positive reviews and over half a billion dollars in less than three weeks. With most fans having already seen the second Marvel Studios production of 2016 by now and with no more Marvel TV Netflix series airing until next year, it’s time to look back on 2016 and specifically, where Doctor Strange leaves the Marvel Cinematic Universe months after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Some of what we’ll discuss are considered plot holes in the Doctor Strange movie (although we explore those in detail here) and some are certainly nitpicky but most points we touch upon however, are surface level plot elements that can be explored in future Marvel Cinematic Universe stories, especially in the inevitable Doctor Strange 2. With that in mind and without further ado, let’s delve into the nitty gritty details of what was introduced but left open or unexplained in Doctor Strange…
Here are 27 Unanswered Questions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Doctor Strange:
27. When Does Doctor Strange Take Place?
For the most part, the present day stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on television and on the big screen take place when they’re released chronologically. Doctor Strange doesn’t make it clear when its story beats begin and end which has led many to question just how long Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was in training at Kamar-Taj before he became a master since it seemed extremely fast.
While he car crash sequence seems to take place during the events of Captain America: Civil War since it was on that very phone call – which distracted the top neurosurgeon while driving – where a man got spinal injury in an armored suit (how is this not James Rhodes’ (Don Cheadle) Civil War injury?) Scott Derrickson said it isn’t. Outside of seeing Avengers tower in New York there are no clears point of reference of time for the rest of the film.
26. Is The London Sanctum Sanctorum Completely Destroyed?
When explaining to Stephen Strange the purpose of Kamar-Taj and The Ancient One’s army of sorcerers, Wong (Benedict Wong) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) reveal that there are three Sanctum Sanctorums connected to energy veins around the world and that these places protect Earth from extra-dimensional invaders. There’s one in New York (the classic one from the comics located at 177A Bleecker Street), one in Hong Kong, and one in London. Each houses a Master for protection alongside a plethora of magical artifacts.
Before the set piece sequence in New York (where Strange gets the Cloak of Levitation) and before the final act battle in Hong Kong, the London Sanctum Sanctorum is only shown briefly through a portal passageway to it from Kamar-Taj as it explodes from the inside out. It’s here where Kaecilius and his zealots launch their first assault on their quest to prepare Earth to join Dormammu in The Dark Dimension but it’s unclear just how much damage was done. Was the London Sanctum and its magical artifacts entirely destroyed? Will it be rebuilt? New York’s Sanctum was not destroyed yet Dormammu was still able to begin invading in Hong Kong so this remains unclear.
25. Is Doctor Strange Now The Leader of Kamar-Taj?
With The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) dead and Doctor Strange picking up the mantle of “Sorcerer Supreme” after his quick rise to the rank of Master and acquisition of the magical Cloak of Levitation artifact, does this mean Doctor Strange will be teaching others? In the mid-credits button scene with Thor, Doctor Strange is seemingly at work in the Sanctum Sanctorum, his residence in Marvel Comics, but in the MCU we know there are multiple Sanctums in addition to Kamar-Taj.
Since the library of spells and some powerful artifacts (i.e. The Eye of Agamotto) are located in Kamar-Taj where new sorcerers are trained, must Strange work here as well? With less masters and no Ancient One, is training new disciples and enforcing new guidelines for magic users the responsibility of Strange? After the events of this movie it’s clear now more than ever, that more sorcerers are needed to replenish their ranks and protect from future threats… despite what Mordo believes…
24. What Happened With All The Trainees?
With the trainees at Kamar-Taj, many of whom we see defending the Hong Kong Sanctum Sanctorum in the final act of Doctor Strange, now without the leadership of The Ancient One what happens to them now? They trained under The Ancient One, Wong, and Mordo but two of these three are now gone with the third protecting the library (or perhaps, the Hong Kong Sanctum).
With Stephen Strange himself attending to the New York Sanctum Sanctorum, his home in the comics, what happens to the sorcerers in training and who recruits newcomers? Does Strange now have an army of sorcerers? Is it Strange who will task them on missions when there are extra-dimensional threats? Will Strange, a rule-breaker in his own right, change the guidelines of The Ancient One and share the learnings from the forbidden books in the Kamar-Taj library?
23. Are There Other Masters Left or is it just Wong and Strange?
Drumm was killed by Kaecilius and his Zealots while defending the New York Sanctum Sanctorum; a master was killed in the explosion at the London Sanctumn; The Ancient One is no longer; and Mordo has abandoned the way of Kamar-Taj and is on his own quest so who’s left to teach the trainees? Are Master Hamir and Tina Minoru still in the picture and are they at Kamar-Taj?
22. Who is Agamotto?
The word “Agamotto” is a recognizable one to Marvel Comics readers and was namedropped several times throughout the movie, without any backstory given. We only know that he was the original Sorcerer Supreme, the first Ancient One. Presumably, it is Agamotto who brought the concepts og magic and mysticism to Earth but we don’t know how. We only know that it’s clear he was protecting our planet by establishing this magical order, the Sanctum Sanctorums and beginning the creation or collection of the artifacts and relics housed within Kamar-Taj and the three Sanctums.
We also know he created the Eye of Agamotto amulet which houses – and is powered by – an Infinity Stone which means it’s very possible Agamotto is exactly what he is in the comics: one of the three Vishanti – ancient, mystical beings who were there around the beginnings of Earth and who reside in other dimensions, supporting the Sorcerer Supreme.
Given that in the MCU, the Eye of Agamotto was connected to the Infinity Stones, specifically the Time Gem, he could be from the far future and/or elsewhere in the cosmos. From what’s given in this movie however, he’s a MacGuffin… responsible for other MacGuffins.
21. How Did Agamotto have An Infinity Stone?
The notable change to Doctor Strange’s origins and how it connects to the rest of the Marvel Universe for the movie is in how it – like many MCU movies before it – centers around an Infinity Stone. On one hand, this makes the universe feel smaller, on the other it gives more reason for the magic side of the MCU to quickly connect to the rest in setting up Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4. As we mentioned previously, in the comics Agamotto is an ancient, mystical, inter-dimensional being, but since in the movies he has or was the protector of an Infinity Stone (one from our reality), this changes things.
Since this stone is the Time Stone – as revealed by Wong by the end of the film – Agamotto’s origins must be related to time itself. He could be as old as time, from the beginnings of the universe and the Infinity Stones, from an era where the Infinity Gauntlet was used before, or could be from the future. The Time Stone is the most elusive of the six Infinity Stones as exemplified in the recent Avengers/New Avengers story lines leading up to 2015 Secret Wars written by Jonathan Hickman, where all the stones were “destroyed” except for the Time Stone which just moved elsewhere in the timeline.
20. Where Did The Magic Books Come From?
Kamar-Taj features a library of books that seems to include everything from tutorials on learning languages and history, to the basics and mastery of spells and conjuration. The most advanced of these books, some of them off-limits by rule of The Ancient One, seem to be other-worldly in origin. Where did the magic knowledge originate and who wrote these books? Are they all from Agamotto and other early sorcerers from the past or where some of the original and most powerful scriptures from other worlds or other dimensions?
19. Why Are So Many Infinity Stones on Earth?
The Tesseract (housing the Space Infinity Stone) was hidden on Earth years ago and a portal from London led Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) straight to the stone column where the Aether (the Reality Stone) was hidden nearly five thousand years earlier by Bor, the old King of Asgard and father of Odin. It’s not clear where exactly this location is but it could be deep within the Earth. Either way, the gateway to this place was conveniently directly from Earth.
Loki brought the Mind Stone to Earth via his Sceptre and now we know the Time Stone has been on Earth for thousands of years as well. The only stone that hasn’t been on Earth yet, as far as we know, is the purple Power Stone which was discovered on the planet Morag. This world is nothing but ruins and the burial place of the stone was hidden under oceans that recede every 300 years, which is perhaps a foreboding warning of what could happen to Earth if a stone of such power were here as well.
All that is left is the Soul Stone which could very well be on Earth as well should it show up in Black Panther but we’re hoping it’s elsewhere in the cosmos or Nine Realms and could show up in Thor: Ragnarok instead. Still, that would leave four of the six stones directly connected to Earth in recent years which begs the question of why?
Six singularities from the beginning of the universe, converted into six stones by the cosmic entities known as Entropy, Infinity, Death, and Eternity, are mostly found on our planet… why? What makes Earth special or important? More on this later…
18. Can Strange just Keep Changing The Timeline?
With the plot device of time-travel loosely introduced in Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios now has an extremely convenient plot device to alter the course of storytelling forever (well, two since there also exists infinite alternate realities). They can now, within canon, alter existing stories and retcon the franchise at will. Want to bring back Quicksilver? They can! Want to send Steve Rogers back to WWII to have that dance with Peggy Carter? Do it!
Want to meet the “original” Guardians of the Galaxy who in the comics are actually from a thousand years in the future? Marvel can do that too! They can go back and recast, change up, and update any of their stories so far with the only limit being their imaginations and budget. As for Doctor Strange himself, he can undo any problem and prevent any threat from happening by just grabbing the Eye of Agamotto from Kamar-Taj which may put into question some of the upcoming events in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
17. How Did The Ancient One Send Strange Through Other Dimensions?
Seemingly designed for use in the marketing materials, The Ancient One doesn’t waste much time in teasing the concept of other dimensions and realities to Stephen Strange. With a touch, she is able to knock out his Astral form and with another touch, is able to send him hurling through a series of dimensions.
To get nitpicky, this isn’t how travelling through dimensions or existing in astral form works in any other instance in the film. Is it just a vision then or are portals (as created by Kaecilius) and rifts through time and space (i.e. the rift in Hong Kong during the final act) not really needed to travel between dimensions?
16. What is Dormammu?
In Marvel Comics, Doramammu a.k.a. The Dread One a.k.a. The Lord of Chaos a.k.a. The Great Enigma a.k.a. The Eater of Souls a.k.a. Master of the Mindless Ones is just one of several mystical energy beings known as the Faltine. Whether that’s how his species began life in The Dark Dimension is unclear, and whether he can then exist in our reality is another question entirely to be addressed further down the line in the MCU.
The franchise has now introduced the idea of hell (see: Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), aliens, gods from other realms (Asgardians) and now beings of pure energy from other planes of existence. Is the MCU adapting all of these other-worldly traits and origin details from the comics when it comes to Dormammu?
15. What Does Dormammu Actually Want?
Dormammu and his Dark Dimension are explained as “timeless” in the movie with everything in that reality living forever. That makes it comparable to the Cancerverse from Marvel Comics where this is no death, where life has outgrown its own dimension in a gruesome and sick way. We’re told through exposition from Wong that Dormammu wants Earth “most of all” but it’s not explained why. What is his goal with Earth specifically (versus any other world in the galaxy in our dimension) and what does he gain from consuming it?
14. Why did Kaecilius Join Dormammu?
Kaecilius’ motivations aren’t fleshed out in Doctor Strange – a problem with most villains to date in the MCU – but he does get an emotional scene when explaining himself to Doctor Strange in the New York Sanctum Sanctorum while stuck in a magic contraption. Kaecilius wants to prevent death and create a scenario where everyone on Earth can be immortal but Strange questions the specifics of this, poking fun at what happened to Kaecilius’ face.
Did Kaecilius see an example of successful immortality of beings from other worlds in The Dark Dimension? What started him down this path? From what little was shown of The Dark Dimension in the film, there’s not much going on there that would cause Kaecilius and his Zealots to do what they did…
13. What Specific Threats Did Kamar-Taj and The Ancient One Protect Earth From Before?
In a classic case of ignoring the “show us, don’t tell us” rule of writing, audiences are told through exposition that the sorcerers of the world – of Kamar-Taj – train to protect the world from the non-physical threats they cannot see, from other dimensional antagonists. There is however, no example of this and outside of the zealots of the movie (who are Earthly) there is no invaders or enemies on our planet of a magical nature.
12. Why Doesn’t Mordo Cast Spells?
Karl Amadeus Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a Master of Kamar-Taj and one of the top followers of The Ancient One, helping recruit and train other potential sorcerers, and helping lead the fight against extra-dimensional threats to our world. Yet, while Mordo has not one but two relics at his side (The Staff of the Living Tribunal and Vaulting Boots of Valtorr), he performes almost zero magic in the film. He does not craft any portals and he does not summon any mystical weapons. He does nothing magical at all aside from using the boots to land from high falls in the mirror universe and in training Doctor Strange in one scene (where he also showcases the staff).
For a character described as the “strength” by The Ancient One, Mordo sure is functionally useless in battling Dormammu, Kaecilius and his Zealots, until he drains Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) of his magic in the post-credits button.
11. What Are Mordo’s Goals?
Mordo was dedicated to following the rules, protecting the natural order, and thereby protecting Earth from extra-dimensional threats (again: we never saw any example of this). His strict belief in doing what’s right in these respects, obeying and following The Ancient One, and not hesitating to destroy threats to our world is what makes him such an interesting character on paper, and potentially in the future but his goals remain unclear.
If he’s now attempting to protect Earth from the abuse of magic going forward by reducing the amount of sorcerers (more on this in a moment!) is he not subjecting our planet and our dimension to extra-dimensional threats by weakening our magical defenses? We’re already down one Sanctum! Or is he planning on single-handedly saving Earth from future incursions?
10. Is Absorbing Magic a Power?
In the post-credits scene, Mordo drains Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) of his magic, meaning he’s back to being paralyzed but this doesn’t quite fit with how magic is presented in the film. Can’t Pangborn just re-magic his broken body by again drawing energy from other dimensions? He already knows how. Or is there more to what Mordo did to Pangborn that’s not yet explained?
For this to be truly effective, Mordo perhaps should have killed Pangborn but that would make him cross the line into pure villain (as he is in the source material) and we feel like Marvel is trying to have their cake and eat it too by potentially making Mordo a long-term character like Loki, who’s redeemable.
9. Are There Parallel Universes With Doppelgangers?
When visiting the set of Doctor Strange at the beginning of 2016 and when it was revealed that the film would explore other dimensions and realities, we immediately had to ask about the most obvious plot device this introduces: doppelgangers. Marvel Comics just went through this with their Secret Wars event last year, where they concluded the stories by pulling different versions of certain characters from different realities.
Could there be another Spider-Man and another Captain America in the other realities? There has to be if there are “infinite” realities, right? Is this how Marvel can get around recasting characters, by replacing an actor with another version of said character? Could we see the Avengers fight… themselves? And could this be the ultimate outcome to the ongoing issue of Fox owning the film rights to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men? Maybe they just exist in another reality and Doctor Strange can bring them over when the business side of it makes sense.
8. Is Doctor Strange in Thor: Ragnarok?
Marvel Studios boss and producer Kevin Feige already revealed that Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) would next be seen in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War but it seems all but certain that Strange must show up in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok as well given the mid-credits sequence. During the events of Ragnarok – a story mostly set off-world – Thor and his adopted brother Loki come to Earth to find the All-Father and proper ruler of Asgard: Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).
And to do so they need Doctor Strange’s help. So, how much of a role does Strange play in Thor 3 and is their crossing paths laying the foundation for them coming together again the following year in Avengers 3?
7. Is Kaecilius Still Alive?
After Doctor Strange confronts and “bargains” with Dormammu inside The Dark Dimension, the mystical energy being agrees to recall Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his remaining zealots and leave Earth alone. We then see Strange return to Hong Kong and the three remaining enemies partly disintegrate while being sucked into the rift into The Dark Dimension.
Since however, this is a place that’s “timeless” and a place where there presumably is no death, Kaecilius arguably should be alive and – if it’s truly timeless – can return at any point in the MCU timeline. It’s then possible that similar to other villains like Ronan, Red Skull, Loki previously, Mads Mikkelsen could return… or is that too simple?
6. What is the Cloak of Levitation and Where Did It Come From?
Mordo explains the idea of magic artifacts to Doctor Strange while training him in martial arts combat at Kamar-Taj, saying that in order to harness the vast amounts of energy and magic, they infuse objects with it -hence creating magic boots, staffs, etc. Does that mean all magic artifacts found in Kamar-Taj and the three Sanctum Sanctorums were all created by Earth-born sorcerers pulling energy from other dimensions to craft items with different attributes?
If so, is that how the Cloak of Levitation was created? This particular object, unlike any other, has its own personality and ideas of sorts. Is it possible this is something else, from another world or dimension? What is it and how does it work that way?
5. Did Previous Ancient Ones Draw Energy From The Dark Dimension?
Kaecilius and Doctor Strange both learned quickly to question The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) for using books that she herself banned other sorcerers from practicing from. They knew she was drawing energy from The Dark Dimension for what she deemed as a necessary evil for the greater good in order to extend her life. This is how she lived for centuries when other sorcerers presumably live standard human lifetimes.
Was she a rule breaker in her own right for doing that or did her previous master before her teach her this? Were all Sorcerer Supremes following the same guidelines or doing what they can to live almost as immortals as well? What did Agamotto do and when did The Dark Dimension and its life-extending energy benefits first reveal themselves?
4. Is There A Connection Between The Darkhold and Kamar-Taj?
That all-powerful book featurde in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is clearly magic in nature and directly deals with extending life and manipulating other dimensions. It’s related to Ghost Rider entering the picture after all, seemingly a spirit from hell, which begs the question of why this book, known as The Darkhold (or “Book of Sins), isn’t under Kamar-Taj’s jurisdiction. This seems like one of those off-limits books Wong and The Ancient One would not allow other sorcerers to spellcast from, right?
Fitz-Simmons theorize these ghosts and souls potentially come from another dimension – why isn’t The Ancient One acting on this?
3. Has Kamar-Taj Interacted With The Nine Realms?
With Thor a public figure and given the mid-credits scene of Doctor Strange, the sorcerers and masters of Kamar-Taj know full well the Nine Realms exist, and likely know that history, yet they were not present during the events of Thor and Thor: The Dark World and did not react to Lady Sif coming two other times on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Yes this is nitpicky, but it comes down to roles and rules and what Kamar-Taj is really all about.
2. What’s so Special About Earth?
Odin and Asgard have protected Earth (which they refer to as ‘Midgard’) for millennia; Agamotto established the sorcerers society on Earth, the Sanctum Sanctorums, their books of learning, their magic artifacts and the mighty Infinity Stone-powered Eye of Agamotto; multiple Infinity Stones reside or have crossed paths with Earth; Dormammu wants to consume Earth more than any other world; Star-Lord’s dad came to Earth looking for love; and Loki wants to rule it… Why?
What makes Earth so important in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? It’s primitive compared to alien planets seen in Guardians of the Galaxy but there’s something about it still that could be explored when cosmic threats like Thanos attack our planet, or the next time Dormammu makes his way here.
1. Can Anyone Perform Magic?
When The Ancient One explains magic to Doctor Strange and hence, the audience, it’s almost another case of magic being a type of science we’ve yet to learn (Thor reference!). And by studying, something Stephen Strange excels at with his photographic memory and stubborn determination, he can just learn any or all of it. Even Pangborn, a normal guy who suffered a major physical injury was able to learn to overcome his injuries. Can anyone who’s dedicated or highly intelligent learn to create portals with sling rings or summon energies from other dimensions?
If that’s the case, what’s stopping Tony Stark from learning this quickly, or with self-devised shortcuts, and extending his life? Or is there something special about certain individuals like mutation (a la X-Men) or born with a different type of DNA (Inhumans) that make them sensitive to this?