Comics have some truly cracking catchphrases. “It’s clobberin’ time” and “great Caesar’s ghost” immediately spring to mind. However, the ever-iconic Spider-Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility” outdoes them all. Despite being over 40 years old, it arguably remains the best-known of all superhero quotes. That resilience probably has something to do with the fact it’s true; influence and ability can do a lot of good, but they also have the potential to be abused. This is a danger history makes very clear.
Bearing that in mind, it’s no wonder magicians are so secretive within the world of Doctor Strange. They’re some of the strongest players on the field. Namely, no manner of high-tech suit can match the ability to manipulate time or hurl your opponent into another dimension. Even thunder-god and painfully well-built Thor would struggle when combating a sorcerer who can travel across space at will. Consequently, it’s a talent that must be rigorously monitored and/or protected from those who’d abuse it. The film’s villain and its finale demonstrate just how devastating a wizard gone bad can get.
That’s my response to the question of where these magic-users were in prior movies. Besides being kept busy with mystical threats (up to and including demonic monsters Captain America simply isn’t equipped to handle) the risks of such an ability can’t be sniffed at. They also explain why those like Stephen Strange wouldn’t want it to become common knowledge. While every Tom, Dick and Harry would want to use it for petty gain, shady characters abusing magic is a scarier proposition. When criminals and generally nasty pieces of work can manipulate the weather or summon demons, I dread to think what’d be left of anyone caught in the middle. What could the average shmuck do against that? It’s David vs Goliath, except Goliath can summon weapons from thin air or fire portable bombs from their fingertips. As an example, political assassination would be a breeze when you can just warp into your victim’s office.
Accordingly, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One must have the last word on ‘strict’. We see this through her harsh entry requirements. There’s little indication of sorcerers operating outside her order either, so I’m guessing she’s got a monopoly on the market. Why is another matter, though. I can’t imagine hers is the only school of magic out there. Do they scoop up any would-be magicians before they can make a mess or stamp out rival organisations? It’s a question that’s never really answered, and the resulting speculation heightens her menace.
It opens a fascinating can of worms too. Because Merlin, wizards and classical monsters are part of Marvel’s comic canon, we’re left to wonder if they exist in the film universe as well. Were the Salem witches ‘real’, for instance? Is Bigfoot an actual thing? What about vampires and werewolves? The possibilities are endless, and that’s an exciting prospect for this series going forward. Considering how crowded the superhero market is right now, a fresh twist can only be a good thing.