Doctor Strange has always been a peculiar character, whether it’s on the big screen or in the comics—the world of magic is so often far removed from the typical grand superhero events that populate our strips and our adventures on screens big and small always pigeon Stephen into something more befitting of a supporting role rather than the lead. Back in the spotlight for Multiverse of Madness however, the man underneath the mantle is surprised at his status as an entire multiverse’s lynchpin.
“He’s quite a maverick, he’s quite an outsider—he doesn’t immediately strike you as a leader despite his prominence in the MCU at this moment,” Benedict Cumberbatch recently told press at a junket for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, pointing out the sudden unlikeliness that Stephen Strange—sans a Tony Stark or a Steve Rogers—has sort of de facto become the leading face of the generation of heroes that precedes the new one being forged in Marvel’s Phase 4. “That’s what makes him really interesting. And, uh, conflicted, I think as a hero. As, Sam [Raimi] alluded to, it’s the humanity that keeps people coming back for more-and I think we see in this film an iteration of somebody who we’ve seen be very omnipotent, very, creative and sort of omnipresent.”
Multiverse of Madness is Cumberbatch’s sixth cinematic appearance as Doctor Strange—seventh, if you count his appearance in the animated series What If?—but is only his second “solo” outing, even itself a loose term considering the amount of other Marvel characters appearing alongside him in this latest film. All those appearances have forged Strange into a figure that is less of his own hero, and more at strength supporting others, like he tried (emphasis on tried) to with Peter Parker in No Way Home, or his role in the Avengers duology. After being in that role however, Cumberbatch thinks it’s time to go back to diving into just what kind of man Strange has become by being thrust into this role.
“We haven’t really understood what the cost of that is, what it is that’s fueling that—both him as a person, but also within this mysterious realm of sorcery and magic,” Cumberbatch added. “[Multiverse of Madness] is about examining that and finding his flaws, his faults, his humanity, as well as his strengths, and renewing our understanding of him and deepening our understanding of him. As far as being a leader goes, I would say [this movie is] more of a self-examination, of holding up a mirror to him through this incredible narrative structure we have of a Multiverse of other selves, than it is examining what his potential is to lead.”
But even then, Cumberbatch is reluctant to cast Stephen Strange in that leading spotlight even now. “I will say this: he’s far better at being a collaborator, at working with others, at realizing he can’t always be the one to hold the knife and control all himself,” the actor concluded. “Those are pretty leaderlike qualities, I’d say… but he’s evolving. There’s that.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness his theaters on May 6.