Although this month marks two full years since we Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character already accomplished quite a bit. Following his origin story, he briefly appeared a year later in Thor: Ragnarok to aid the God of Thunder, and then he returned months after that for Avengers: Infinity War, where he was one of the more important Marvel heroes. It's a big deal to be able to participate in a movie as grand in scale as Infinity War, but Cumberbatch regrets that he didn't check out how audiences reacted to it. As the actor explained:
It's a shame Benedict Cumberbatch didn't sneak into a theater to get a sense of how regular moviegoers felt about Avengers: Infinity War, but it sounds like he just didn't have the time to do it. Between going on vacation (sorry, holiday) after that press tour and then working on another project, he probably just wanted a break from the Marvel of it all. Who can blame him? Alas, Infinity War was definitely a movie where listening to people's collective reactions in a theater was a blast, and now that time has come and gone, with the movie now available on home media.
Benedict Cumberbatch added in his interview with Uproxx that while he didn't sneak in to witness Avengers: Infinity War reactions, his costars Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) did. Ruffalo even FaceTimed Cumberbatch from the theater after the movie was over, and Cumberbatch got to see the friends of Ruffalo's children freak out over the ending. Cumberbatch also noted that his wife was in shock about how Infinity War wrapped up, particularly with Doctor Strange disappearing, requiring the actor to tell her that Strange is "gone." Yes, but for how long?
There had been some twisty endings in the MCU pre-2018, but Avengers: Infinity War's definitely takes the proverbial cake. Granted, we knew going into the movie that this was going to be the biggest event of the franchise yet, but to see many of its heroes, alongside half of all life in the universe, turn to dust before our eyes, was surprising. Ok, so maybe some hardcore comic book fans were predicting that would happen, but for the average moviegoer unfamiliar with The Infinity Gauntlet tale or Thanos in general, it was a shock.
Sadly, Doctor Strange was among those who disappeared once Thanos snapped his Infinity Stones-powered fingers to achieve what he saw as true balance throughout the universe. However, don't think that's the last we've seen of Strange. Even if we didn't know that Doctor Strange 2 is among several MCU projects in development, Cumberbatch is confirmed to be reprising the surgeon-turned-sorcerer in Avengers 4, and judging by some of his dialogue in Avengers: Infinity War, he had already laid plans in motion for the surviving heroes to someday emerge victorious.
In case you need a refresher, while Doctor Strange was on Titan with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Drax and Mantis in Avengers: Infinity War, he used the Time Stone to look at 14,000,605 alternate futures and learn all the possible outcomes of the upcoming battle with Thanos. In all of those futures, there was only one where the heroes won. That's quite unfortunate, but it nonetheless means that Strange knew what needed to be done to ensure that one bright future eventually came to pass.
Keeping that in mind, Doctor Strange later surrendered the Time Stone to Thanos in exchange for the Mad Titan sparing Iron Man's life. This is despite the fact that earlier in the movie, Strange told Tony Stark that he wouldn't hesitate to let Thanos kill him or Spider-Man if it meant keeping that Time Stone safe. So clearly something Strange saw in his Time Stone vision caused him to change his mind.
This was further indicated when right before he turned to dust at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange told Iron Man that "there was no other way." It would seem that whatever Strange saw made him realize that in order for Thanos to ultimately be defeated, he needed to play the long game, let the Mad Titan obtain all six Infinity Stones and carry out his genocide, even though that meant Strange would be disintegrated.
As for how this will all be fixed in Avengers 4, that's hard to say, although one of the prevailing theories is that time travel will be involved. Regardless, most, if not all, of the heroes who were snapped away at the end of Avengers: Infinity War will be back by the time Avengers 4 has concluded. And, as mentioned earlier, Doctor Strange 2 is in the works as a Phase 4 entry, so even after Phase 3 concludes next year, the Master of the Mystic Arts has a bright future ahead of him.
We'll finally have our questions answered when Avengers 4 is released in theaters on May 3, 2019. In the meantime, stay tuned to CinemaBlend for continuing coverage, and look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what else the MCU has in development, as well as our 2019 release schedule to see what non-Marvel movies are arriving next year.
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Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.