Disclaimer: This post contains minor spoilers for Marvel’s film Doctor Strange.
It’s easy to look at a big production company like Marvel Studios and assume they have a beat-by-beat understanding of the next handful of films. This is the studio, after all, that popularized the concept of a cinematic universe, and a good portion of its success hinges on those great moments when an event or object from one film plays into another several movies later. Like with television, it gives audiences an immense sense of satisfaction — like their faith in the story is in good hands.
On the other hand, however, the big concern is that this desire to give those moments comes at the expense of the individual storytellers brought in to make each movie. This would seem to hold especially true too the Infinity Stones — the MacGuffins introduced throughout many of the films thus far that will culminate in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War. Last year saw the introduction of the Time Stone, utilized by Doctor Strange to help save the world from impending doom.
One would think Marvel Studios would have mandated the introduction of said Infinity Stone to the story for Infinity War’s sake, right? Well, in an interview with Comicbook.com, Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, the filmmaker discussed the process of bringing the Time Stone into the equation, and as it turns out, it was something that came about organically — as in, not at Marvel’s request.
"Well, that was definitely something that emerged throughout the creative process all the way through production and even more into editorial. We didn't start out with the idea of time or even the time stone and move forward. It just continued to present itself as an important thematic notion.
“I knew from the first draft that Kaecilius's desire to not die, to live essentially forever, was paramount to the story, but that was to me more of a religious notion than the physics of time itself. As we got more into the multiverse, multiple dimensions and all of that, the idea of time being a separate dimension itself, and Dormammu existing beyond time just sort of filtered it's way into Strange's story."
And it wasn’t just in those critical plot elements that the concept of time came through.
"You get the watch and Christine saying, 'Time will tell how much I love you,' and the simple idea that if you're going to be so bold as to create a character who's confronting the question what is the meaning of my life, who am I in this vast multiverse ... He is confronting that question as a creature of time," the director said. "Our universe is only, what I believe, about 16 billion years old, which is a very finite number and that time is a very finite concept. Time itself is, by definition, not infinite. It begins and ends as do our lives."
As we know, based on how the film turned out, "Time became the obvious icing on the cake of the whole movie." It’s what set it apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and as a result, we were given a third act that differs from every Marvel film to date. Rather than culminating in the utter destruction of some place, the penultimate battle saw Strange and the rest battling in a city that was rebuilding itself as time reversed, and the finale centered around Strange’s resetting time a countless number of times to outsmart the likes of Dormammu.
The whole idea of making the Eye of Agamotto the Time Stone was such a post-script, in fact, that the scene where it’s explicitly revealed to be as such wasn’t even shot with the rest of the movie.
"The last scene with Wong was shot after principal photography, when we decided to put that on as kind of the final scene. It was only then that we were looking for a way to tie it into the MCU.”
Between Derrickson, James Gunn, and the Russo Brothers, it’s getting harder and harder to insist that the filmmakers are being constricted by the narrative of the MCU as a whole. So long as they continue this healthy blend of structure and creativity, who knows how long this world can continue to churn out great stories.
What did you think of the use of the Time Stone in Doctor Strange? Did it feel like a shoehorned plot device to you? Let us know in the comments down below!
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