Doctor Strange is a 2016 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Scott Derrickson, who wrote it with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton. Doctor Strange is, by most, considered to be one of the best MCU movies, which is why we decided to explain when it actually takes place.
Doctor Strange is set in real time, meaning that it takes place in 2016. As per director Scott Derrickson, the movie starts at the beginning of 2016 (with some scenes going as far back as 2014) and ends in November of the same year.
In today’s article, you’re going to get a roundup of the chronology of Doctor Strange. First of all, you’re going to find out what happens in the movie so you can fit it into the larger timeline. After that, you’re going to find out when the movie’s actually set and how it fits into the current MCU timeline. Enjoy!
When is Doctor Strange set?
So, to properly determine the timeline of the Doctor Strange movie, we have to consider the facts at hand. First of all, we know that the movie is set in real time, meaning that it’s not a historical pic like the first Captain America movie or the recent Black Widow movie. Secondly, the movie seems to lead us into the present day, which was also confirmed by Derrickson. Finally, we have the above-quoted information from Derrickson himself, which explains a lot about the movie. So, what does this tell us?
We know that there are some scenes set in 2014, but the bulk of the movie – set in real time – takes place in 2016. It begins at the beginning of the year before continuing all the up to November 2016, which is when the movie actually ends. So, from what we can gather, the movie is set between January/February 2016 and November 2016.
Where does Doctor Strange fit in the MCU timeline?
As of 2021, Doctor Strange is the 19th movie (out of 24) in the MCU’s official cinematic chronology. Taking place in 2016, the movie is set right after 2018’s Black Panther movie and before 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, thus filling the narrative void between these two movies.
What happens in Doctor Strange?
In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his Zealots enter the secret compound of Kamar-Taj and murder its librarian, guardian of ancient and mystical texts. They steal a ritual from a forbidden book by the Ancient One, a sorceress who has lived for an unknown time and who has taught everyone in Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius, in the ways of the mystical arts. The Ancient One chases traitors around London, but Kaecillius escapes with the Pages and some of his followers.
Doctor Stephen Strange, a well-known neurosurgeon, loses the use of his hands in a terrible car accident, leaving them crushed to the forearm. Strange barely survives. His ex-lover and co-worker Christine Palmer tries to help him move on, but instead, the arrogant Strange wants to quickly heal his wounds. After months of trying experimental surgeries on his hands, and using all of his resources to no avail, Strange searches for Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who, mysteriously, was able to walk again.
Pangborn directs Strange to Kamar-Taj in Nepal, where he is taken in by another wizard named Karl Mordo. This takes him before The Ancient One and shows his power to Strange, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the mirror dimension; however, Strange acts skeptical and gets him expelled. Following this, Strange begs her to teach him, and she eventually agrees despite her arrogance, which she reminds him of Kaecillius. Strange begins tutelage of him under The Ancient One and Mordo, and learns from the ancient books in the library, which is now protected by Master Wong.
It is explained that the Earth is protected from other dimensions by a spell formed from three buildings called sanctuaries, which are located in New York City, London and Hong Kong. The task of the sorcerers is to protect the holy places, although Pangborn chose to renounce this responsibility in favor of channeling energy in order to walk again; Strange will have to decide between regaining the use of his hands and defending the world from this revelation.
Strange progresses rapidly over the course of several months, including secretly reading the forbidden texts and learning to bend time with the Mystical Eye of Agamotto. Mordo and Wong warn Strange against using such powers that can break the laws of nature, comparing his arrogant longing for power to that of Kaecillius, who believes that, after the death of their loved ones, each must live as long as the Ancient One. Kaecillius and his followers use the stolen pages to begin summoning the mighty Dormammu from the Dark Dimension, where time does not exist and everyone can live forever.
These destroy the Sanctum in London, and accidentally send Strange of Kamar-Taj to the Sanctum in New York. The fans kill the protector of the Sanctuary and then attack Strange, who holds them at bay with the mystical Cloak of Levitation, which somehow chose Strange as its owner, until Mordo and the Ancient One arrive. Strange and Mordo become disillusioned with their teacher after Kaecillius reveals to Strange that his long life comes from his own use of Dormammu’s power.
Kaecillius mortally wounds the Ancient One, and escapes to Hong Kong. Before dying, she tells Strange that he, too, will have to break the rules, to balance Mordo’s unbreakable nature. He then dies despite the best efforts of a bewildered Strange and Palmer. Strange and Mordo arrive in Hong Kong to find Wong dead and the Sanctum destroyed, with the Dark Dimension already engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to turn back time and save Wong, the Sanctum and the city, before creating an infinite time loop within the Dark Dimension that traps both himself and Dormammu in the same moment forever, despite Dormammu murdering him over and over again.
Dormammu ends up getting fed up with the time loop and agrees to leave Earth with his followers, only if Strange deactivates the time loop, so Strange accepts the deal and automatically deactivates the loop. Disgusted by Strange and his indifference to the consequences of defying nature, Mordo leaves, determined to abandon the life of a sorcerer. Strange returns the Eye of Agamotto to Kamar-Taj, who Wong reveals that it contains an Infinity Stone (the Time Stone), and then settles in the Sanctum of New York to continue his studies as the new Sorcerer Supreme.
How long was Doctor Strange in Kamar-Taj?
From what we know, and we found it out from Scott Derrickson himself, Stephen Strange spent about half a year in Kamar-Taj. The story begins at the beginning of 2016 and ends in November of the same year, meaning that Strange spent several months in Kamar-Taj, but it was never specified exactly how many months he trained there.
Derrickson explained the timeline of the movie like this:
“The movie leads up to the present day, you know, and if you watch the timeline of the movie, from the time when Strange is blown through the Sanctum in the middle of the movie, the rest of the movie runs in real time.”– Scott Derrickson