Doctor Strange not ready to be Avengers' boss, says Benedict Cumberbatch

Strange meets versions of himself that exist in other universes in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

SINGAPORE - If you had wanted Doctor Strange to step up to the father-figure role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is here to dash your hopes.

It is not going to happen because the sorcerer still has a lot of growing up to do, he says.

At an online press conference for the global press earlier this week, a moderator suggested that the new movie, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, might be setting up the master of the mystic arts to be an "elder statesman", a hero with the seniority and authority of Iron Man or Captain America.

Cumberbatch, 45, who plays Strange, thinks the character is happier being a pirate than working in the navy.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness opens in cinemas on May 4.

"Strange is a maverick, an outsider. He doesn't strike you immediately as a leader despite his prominence in the MCU at the moment," Cumberbatch says.

Marvel fans have been speculating about possible successors for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, who are Iron Man and Captain America respectively. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), the two de facto leaders of the Avengers are out of the picture.

Egotistical surgeon-turned-sorcerer Stephen Strange had an origin story in Doctor Strange (2016), later appearing in other Marvel movies, including Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).

In the Spider-Man film, Strange shows he lacks the emotional skills required of a next-generation leader, says Cumberbatch. The sorcerer had stepped in to help Tom Holland's Peter Parker/Spider-Man out of his multiverse-spanning mess. The plan worked, but not without causing turmoil.

"That was him trying to be an adult, trying to be a sort of guardian and getting it very wrong, to be honest. That was some poor parenting in that film - he got angry with Peter Parker, he tried to take the toy back and it all went wrong," Cumberbatch says.

Strange's impatience and irritability might rule him out as a daddy figure, but they make him compelling to watch.

"He's omnipotent and creative, but he's conflicted," the actor says. The new movie explores "what's fuelling him, both as a person and a being within this mysterious realm of sorcery".

Benedict Cumberbatch says Doctor Strange "still has a lot of growing up to do". PHOTO: REUTERS

Doctor Strange travels across alternate universes to battle a mysterious adversary. He is joined by America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and Wanda Maximoff, or the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), as well as fellow sorcerer Wong (Benedict Wong).

Strange meets versions of himself that exist in other universes, each with his own set of morals and motivations.

"He's meeting versions that are essentially him, but who have made different choices. It's fuel for self-therapy, really," says Cumberbatch, who believes everyone learns when he talks to himself in the third person.

As an actor, he gets to learn about Strange the character, while Strange learns about himself by talking to the Stranges from alternate universes.

Marvel fans familiar with the Disney+ series - Loki (2021) and WandaVision (2021) - and the recent Spider-Man films should be well-acquainted with the Multiverse and its importance in the current phase of the MCU.

Fittingly, one of the first Marvel characters to hint at its existence was The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who, in Doctor Strange, warned about the dangers lurking within its infinite reaches.

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Cumberbatch admits that while he understands the concept of parallel but different universes, he is vague about the specifics after the events of Endgame, Loki, WandaVision and No Way Home. These events mapped out its terrain and pointed to areas where future threats to mankind could arise.

"I didn't have a clue about the Multiverse until this project started. I had to unpick a little bit of the lexicon," he says.

But he thinks his ignorance might even be helpful. "Doctor Strange is a novice in this film. He's learning. He doesn't know much more than the audience. He's reacting to stuff in the moment," he says.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness opens in cinemas on May 4.

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