After seeing Avengers: Infinity War, one thing is clear: the secret ingredient the MCU needs to use for its continued long-term success is magic. For a while, it seemed as though there wouldn’t be any magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even the mythic realm of Asgard with their Norse gods, dark elves, giants, and otherworldly weaponry could be conveniently explained away.
"Your ancestors called it magic but you call it science," Thor told Jane Foster in his eponymous 2011 film. "I come from a land where they are one and the same."
But that’s a load of Giant-Man-sized B.S..
Editor's note: this post and video contain spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War
Magic is pervasive in the MCU, even if we don’t want to admit it. And now, with the ability to bend the laws of space, time, and reality itself, the Infinity Stones have shown us that not everything can be explained as science we don’t understand yet. There are immense cosmic powers at work, pulling in energies from other dimensions, and planes of existence. There’s an entire, orange-hued world where the souls are trapped inside of a pocket dimension, for crying out loud. Not even Kyle Hill can explain all of that. And believe me--he has tried.
While most of Doctor Strange’s character development apparently happened between his own movie and Infinity War, the Sorcerer Supreme was easily the MVP of the epic superhero slugfest. With a vast array of new spells at his disposal, Strange was perhaps the only hero to truly give Thanos and his lieutenants a run for their money.
While Tony Stark and Peter Quill had an ego-measuring contest, the Master of the Mystic Arts was busy using his magical powers to forecast 14 million possible outcomes and execute the only plan that could lead to a potential victory. His prophetic words and sacrifice of the Time Stone are part of a much larger plan that will only become clear when we finally see whatever the heck Avengers 4 is going to be called. Plus Strange’s Images of Ikonn spell in which he sprouted a bunch of arms then created a ton of shadow clones of himself is inarguably the coolest shot in the entire movie.
But it’s not just about looking cool. It’s about the narrative possibilities that magic opens to the MCU. We’ve seen the politics of Earth, we’ve gone on cosmic adventures, and we’ve borne witness to the jaw-dropping majesty of Wakanda. But Marvel has only scratched the surface of its mystical realm through Doctor Strange’s origin movie, Wakanda’s spiritual Djalia plane, and Scarlet Witch’s incredibly powerful hex magic--which was the only thing in the Avengers’ arsenal powerful enough to shatter the Mind Stone.
By embracing the weird, occult, magical side of Marvel Comics, the architects of the MCU can create genuine stakes for characters like Captain America and Iron Man who would be well and truly overpowered in nearly any other arena. Magic allows Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to go toe to toe with gods and demons, traversing between planes of existence, and facing powers that lesser minds cannot comprehend. After all, we can only take so many stories about superheroes fighting anonymous gray aliens or paint-by-numbers goons before we start to want something more.
But what do you think? Is magic the MCU’s secret weapon heading into Phase IV? Or should Marvel leave the spell-slinging to Harry Potter?
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