Just how long was Doctor Strange in the Dark Dimension? Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill has revealed it may have been a lot longer than anyone thought.
The climax of Doctor Strange was unlike any other Marvel movie to date. Rather than outfight the Dread Dormammu, Strange outthought him. He dove into Dormammu's realm, and used the power of the Time Stone to establish a time loop. Dormammu found himself trapped in time, killing Strange again and again, locked in an unending cycle - and increasingly frustrated by it. In the end, in order to escape Strange's trap, Dormammu was forced to abandon his conquest of this dimension.
It was a fascinating and effective end to the film, but now screenwriter Robert C. Cargill has added another dimension to it. Responding to a fan question on Twitter, Cargill explained that Strange was in the Dark Dimension for quite some time.
We left it intentionally vague with room to address it later - but it wasn't just a few minutes, I'll tell you that. He was there long enough to gain even more mastery over his powers. https://t.co/JMTkuGbYAu— C. Robert Cargill (@Massawyrm) April 10, 2018
It's a chilling twist, given each cycle ended in an increasingly violent death for Doctor Strange. The film made it clear that Strange remembered every single death. He already considered pain to be "an old friend," but some of those deaths were slow and agonizing. The suffering Strange chose to endure must have been tremendous; and yet, he chose to continue on with his plan, aware that he could continue losing forever - and so save his world.
Dormammu, for his part, was unused to the idea of "time." He considered time an "illusion," never having been subject to its passage before. Cargill's comment suggests that the monstrous being took quite a while to fully understand what was happening. When he did so, it's quite possible the cosmic entity chose to continue killing Strange for a few more cycles, purely out of spite.
But here's the fun twist; for all he knew he would lose every time, Strange continued to experiment with his powers. The "bargain" scenes actually showed that, with the sorcerer wielding protective shield-spells. But if he was there for a longer period of time, no doubt Strange tried some more creative ideas. According to Cargill, the result of this was that he gained "even more mastery over his powers." Strange had already proved to have an intuitive understanding of magic; what lessons did he learn while defending himself in the Dark Dimension? It's little wonder the Strange of Thor: Ragnarok seemed so more skilled in the use of magic. He had actually been practicing sorcery for a lot longer than viewers realized.
Many Marvel fans have complained that Doctor Strange learned the mystic arts far too quickly. While it's true Strange's apprenticeship was a lot shorter than expected, he may well have been working with magic for a long time by now. It's impossible to know how many times Strange went through the cycle, endlessly experimenting with magic in order to prolong his life. Was it hours? Days? Weeks? Or perhaps even years? C. Robert Cargill has explained that the scene is "intentionally vague," but that it may be addressed later. Meanwhile, how does the experience of living in another dimension for an unspecified period of time change a man? The only known parallel in the MCU is Janet Van Dyne, trapped in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. And it's as yet unknown how that experience affected her.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this, though, is that Strange continued to choose this. In spite of an untold number of agonizing deaths, he refused to flinch. For all he knew, Dormammu could have kept this up forever; but so long as Strange continued to live through the loop, the Earth would be safe. Every time the cycle began, Strange would have to make the decision again. And yet he did so, without even a hint of reluctance. Cargill's comment suggests Strange may well be one of the most self-sacrificial heroes in the MCU to date.
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- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019