Why The Time Manipulation In Doctor Strange Isn't Really Time Travel

Doctor Strange

In Doctor Strange, the titular hero (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) uses his new found magic skills in many different ways, but certainly one of the most interesting is how he learns to control time. It proves to be a very important element in the movie narratively and thematically, and is a key factor in some of the most climatic sequences. If, however, this all makes you start to wonder how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may want to slow your roll. This is because writer/director Scott Derrickson has made it clear that what's featured in his film is not time travel, but instead merely time manipulation.

I know this because it was a subject that I discussed with the filmmaker during Doctor Strange's Los Angeles press day late last month. Having already asked him about mapping the history of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I queried if Derrickson's work on the movie led him to establish the rules of time travel in the franchise -- but he quickly shut that thinking down. Said the director,

Well, we don't time travel in the movie. He reverses time, and time resets. But there's only ever one timeline, and so it's a movement of that timeline back and then forward, and then there's the subject of time loops and things like that. So it's never 'time travel,' and we never had to struggle with the rules of time travel because it never happens!

Given that the Time Stone will soon become an incredibly important part of the Marvel franchise, it's entirely possible that we will see time travel be used as a narrative device in the Cinematic Universe soon... but it's not a part of Doctor Strange. We certainly do see the eponymous sorcerer using time to his advantage, and changing things that once were (don't want to get into spoilers here), but apparently Scott Derrickson didn't see this as strict time travel. Of course, whenever this weird sci-fi concept does enter the MCU, you can be sure that we will once again be asking filmmakers how it all works, and will report back!

You can watch Scott Derrickson discuss the subject of time manipulation in Doctor Strange with me in the video interview below:

How would you like to see Marvel handle time travel in the future of their movies? Do you think the singular timeline is the way to go, a la Back To The Future? What about multiple timelines a la Terminator? Or what about something else entirely? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and check out Doctor Strange in theaters on November 4th.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.