Doctor Strange is a unique beast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, at first glance it's another superhero origin story, but it also represents the franchise's first foray into the realms of magic and the occult. Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme; a master of the mystic arts, who travels to other dimensions and battles metaphysical threats. It's a lot of heady material, and is much different than the type of action seen in Marvel movies, but where does it come from? Is the Doctor Strange philosophy based on anything real?
Like all of Marvel's films, efforts were made to ensure that Doctor Strange at least had a modicum of scientific backing for its extraordinary details. Physicist Adam Frank of the University of Rochester was enlisted by Marvel as a consultant for the film, and he helped flesh out the world (or worlds) that Strange inhabits in the film. One of the main angles of the film's philosophy that Frank helped guide was its focus on consciousness. Everyone's life experience is something different because of differences in consciousness, and so this idea can then be extrapolated in something like Doctor Strange where the reality in which we live is merely what our consciousness perceives as reality, but not necessarily the only reality.
In addition to altered states of consciousness, Doctor Strange also deals with a multiverse. Although Frank does not believe in such theories, as he revealed at a recent Science of the Marvel Cinematic Universe event which I attended, there are plenty of other scientists who do. So how does the multiverse theory work? It's pretty heavy stuff. Basically, the idea is that space-time stretches out forever in a straight distance. This poses a problem, because there are a finite number of ways that particles can be arranged, according to space.com. So the universe has to start repeating itself, going on forever in countless variations of universes with every possible outcome. According to this theory, there hypothetically exists somewhere in the multiverse a version of me who's married to Kim Kardashian — and we're both centaurs.
Doctor Strange also deals with other planes of existence, specifically the astral plane, which is where the character visits when he leaves his physical body. In the movie, and in Marvel Comics, the plane represents another state of consciousness, but the astral plane also figures into a number of the world's religions. While there's no real scientific evidence for it, some claim the ability to project themselves onto the astral plane in order to have an out of body experience. A quick YouTube search will give you loads of videos attempting to explain to you how to do just that.
So the philosophy of Doctor Strange is indeed based on real life — or at least, theoretical real life — making it far more interesting than your average story about wizards.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy