Just how strange is Marvel willing to make its cinematic universe, and can audiences possibly handle it? Not as strange as you’d think – the rules of sorcery in the Marvel Universe are more straightforward than most might imagine.
Ever since Scott Derrickson announced he’d helm the forthcoming Doctor Strange film, people have been talking about the Master of Mystic Arts – of course, it helps that he was name-dropped in the last Captain America film.
Willpower is his greatest asset
Like Green Lantern, Doctor Strange’s powers are dependent on his mental fortitude, and thankfully, the Sorcerer Supreme has the fortitudiest of minds.
Essentially he has so honed his mental skills that even without the aid of mutant-borne telepathy or mystical enhancements, he is a master of mental manipulation and the resistance thereof. Now, this doesn’t mean he’s immune to mind control – the current storyline in the comics is centered around his recent failure to detect and resist a psychic possessor– but his conscious acuity is still nothing to sneeze at.
He has the best swag
Sure, Thor has his hammer and Cap has his shield, but Doctor Strange takes care of more items of incredible power than even Odin. Strange’s most well-known talismans are the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation, which (respectively) allow him to pierce the veil of the unknown and fly effortlessly. True, Strange can do both of those things using straight-up magic, but there’s a good reason he doesn’t (getting to that in a minute).
There’s also the Orb of Agamotto (essentially an insanely powerful crystal ball, although it seems to be in Odin’s possession for the MCU), the Darkhold book (an ancient tome of all that is evil – often stolen), the Wand of Watoomb (a helluva lot more potent than anything you’d find in Ollivander’s Wand Shop), and numerous others.
He borrows power at the cost of his soul
The main reason Strange doesn’t just throw magic around all willy-nilly is that it comes at a great price.
Comic readers are quick to note that Strange often calls out odd oaths and unusual euphemisms like “By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!” or “By the twelve moons of Munnopor!” – but more often than not, when he is calling out these otherworldly gods, it is because he is trying to curry their favor, and their favors don’t come cheap.
All of those spells Strange yells out, combined with careful hand movements, are actually deals he is striking with various beings. His most common benefactors are the (benevolent) Vishanti, a trio of abstract deities who bless those beings that honor them and their values, but he has been known to call upon darker entities from time to time.
As mentioned above, Strange recently gave up his greatest secrets when his own will proved insufficient to resist manipulation, so rather than go through that humiliation again, Strange stopped selling his soul piecemeal and gave up the rest of it for a chance at ultimate power (in the name of good, of course).
So can magic work in the the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Unreservedly, the answer is yes. With the impending Doctor Strange film, there is a ton of potential for Marvel to build its next great franchise, and plenty of arcane characters and objects to draw from.
All Marvel has to do now is say the magic words.