Why ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Owes Everything to ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Benedict Cumberbatch has been playing Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2016. But the character’s ascension to the head of the MCU pack started much later. So as fans rally around the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, let’s take a look back at how Avengers: Infinity War gave the would-be Sorcerer Supreme a much-needed level-up way back in 2018.

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ star Benedict Cumberbatch wears a suit and poses in front of the film’s logo
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ star Benedict Cumberbatch | Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan

‘Doctor Strange’ introduced audiences to the hero

Every superhero is only as good as their origin stories. After all, heroes like Superman, Batman, and Marvel’s own Spider-Man have such mythical, well-known origins that just about everyone is ready to move on. And the tale of how Doctor Strange embraced magic is similarly steeped in tragedy. A brilliant surgeon who loses the use of his hands in a horrific car accident, Strange initially turns to the mystic arts as a means to heal himself.

In the process, he finds a whole new purpose. And 2016’s Doctor Strange had the difficult task of bringing Cumberbatch’s Strange from an arrogant success story to a desperate man and all the way around to a skilled sorcerer in less than two hours. Mainstream audiences were not familiar with the superhero character. Although his origin story has shades of Tony Stark, the movie succeeds at establishing who Strange is and why we should care.

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But ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ made him a leader

Doctor Strange is so concerned with making a formal introduction that the character doesn’t quite set himself apart from the dozens of heroes populating the MCU. 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War fixes that almost immediately. As the human who not only has in-depth knowledge of the Infinity Stones but, in fact, carries one on him, Strange is instantly put in a position of authority. He even asserts his dominance over Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) early on.

The rest of the film only doubles down on Strange’s importance. When he uses the Time Stone to see more than 14 million possible futures, he becomes the lynchpin that ultimately decides whether Earth’s Mightiest Heroes defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Endgame. He sacrifices his life to ensure Tony Stark is able to make the ultimate sacrifice when the time comes. In the process, Doctor Strange becomes the deciding factor in saving the universe.

Will Doctor Strange step up to lead the Avengers?

After Spider-Man: No Way Home though, it appears Doctor Strange has inherited Tony Stark’s tendency to create his own problems. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sees him face the consequences for how he’s tampered with reality itself. And going forward, some fans are wondering how the character fits into the future.

Doctor Strange is clearly among the most powerful MCU heroes. And Cumberbatch has proven his ability to fill the void left by so many of the MCU’s inaugural roster of heroes. But it remains to be seen whether a new line-up of Avengers will indeed step forward and, if so, whether Strange will be a part of it as the rest of Phase 4 shakes out.

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