How Tilda Swinton Feels About The Ancient One’s Controversial Actions In Doctor Strange

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange. If you have not yet seen the film and don't wish to know any details about it, please save this page and click away to another one of our wonderful articles!

At the end of the day, a good chunk of the plot in Doctor Strange centers around a particularly controversial decision made by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). While she spent decades, if not centuries, telling her students/followers not to mess with the powers of the Dark Dimension and the dread Dormammu, she herself was using energy from the timeless realm to basically become immortal. It's this decision that not only leads Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his fellow zealots to revolt, but it also has a big hand in Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) leaving Kamar-Taj. Looking at the scenario from The Ancient One's perspective, it's definitely a complicated matter -- but according to Tilda Swinton, there is very good reason why the morality question within it is left open-ended.

I asked the Oscar-winning actress about this spoiler-y topic late last month when she participated in the Doctor Strange press day in Los Angeles. After discussing how The Ancient One's behavior in the movie is meant to mirror the attitude of the titular hero, I asked how she personally felt about the divisive choices that The Ancient One makes in the movie. She responded in great detail, noting that an important thing to remember within the whole situation is that The Ancient One is ultimately still a human character. Said Swinton,

Well, what I do know, it's fascinating that. And of course we talk, and we're still talking about that. And keeping that unexplained or properly examined in this film has been a conscious decision -- both in the making of it and in the cutting of it. And I still think that's the right decision, because it is questionable.But then she is human, and this is a story about humans. It's not actually about superheroes. It's about humans with superpowers and sorcerers who deal with magic. And the powers that the Ancient One is teaching, even though Stephen Strange has a particular facility for this magic, she's teaching a whole bunch of people, and they're all human people! And they are powers, by the way, that we can all learn too, that we can exercise in our own lives.

Continuing, Tilda Swinton noted that she thinks we have still not yet seen the full consequences of The Ancient One's decision to channel energy from The Dark Dimension, and that it's something that she's personally excited to see come into play as the franchise continues:

The morality, the question of her morality, and her complicatedness, which is what both Mordo and Strange talk about at the end of the film, I think is really, really fascinating, and of course I want to see how that's going to play out. But then it's mortal complicatedness because she is a human!

Much like the battle between Captain America and Iron Man that we saw play out in Captain America: Civil War, this is a morality question that comic book fans will surely find themselves debating for years to come. On the one hand, there is the argument that The Ancient One is definitely a force for good in our universe, and that her ability to save millions of lives came as an extension of her long lifespan. On the other hand, however, using the powers of the Dark Dimension herself while forbidding others from doing the same is the definition of selfish -- even if she does believe at heart that no other living sorcerer has the capacity to control it the way she has.

You can watch Tilda Swinton talk about The Ancient One's controversial decision in the video below:

Do you think The Ancient One was justified in her use of the Dark Dimension and keeping it from others; or do you find yourself siding with Kaecilius and see her as a hypocrite? Hit the comments section below, and be sure to stay tuned for more from our interviews with the cast and filmmakers behind Doctor Strange!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.