From Thor to Dr. Strange: Grounding Mystical Elements with Sci-Fi in the MCU

Stan Lee has been called the “father of our modern mythology” by countless geeks who appreciate the man’s undeniable contribution to comic books as a medium, including the over 300 characters he’s created. And for those history nerds who are fans of ancient, religious and cultural mythology, you realize that Thor and many of his side characters were worshipped by some ancient people at some ancient time. Vikings, actually.


the original Mjolinir

This was alluded to in the Thor movies, by not only having Thor’s symbol appear in the ground when the Bi-Frost takes him away, but by having Lady Sif (his wife in the ancient legends) being a pivotal character, but not his love interest. (There was no Jane Foster in Norse mythology. Home wrecker!) It is mentioned that these beings from Asgard were worshipped by humans in ancient times and Dr. Selvig shows Jane some books about these myths. But any notion of these characters being actual gods in the religious sense is explained away by Thor’s little speech in the first movie about how technology and magic are one and the same. It’s kind of like Superman: The Movie, where Superman had a crystal (something that some might associate with mysticism) that held the consciousness of his dead father, but it was just advanced technology from an alien race, a Kryptonian flash drive. Loki’s attempt to elevate himself above mere mortals is dismissed (in Thor: Dark World) as arrogance by Odin who says flat out that “we are not gods!”

Seriously, we're not!
Seriously, we’re not!

In the MCU, Asgard is another quantifiable dimension whose inhabitants were worshipped in ancient times because of their long life and advanced technology that seems like magic to us (even today). This was done, largely, to ground these elements in a reality, so Thor could hang out with characters whose origins are rooted in science (gamma radiation, bionic suits etc.) in The Avengers. So, when I heard that they were going to make a Doctor Strange movie that is connected to the Avengers universe (Stephen Strange is referenced in Captain America: Winter Soldier), I wondered “why did they bother to slant all the Thor stuff towards science when they are going to introduce a sorcerer to this whole thing?” Isn’t that like a fairy godmother showing up during Wall-E to clean up all the garbage with her magic wand?

"Bibbity Bobbity Boo!"
“Bibbity Bobbity Boo!”

Well, part of it has to do with why Thor said science and magic are “one and the same” where he comes from, instead of “our tech is so advanced”. This was further elaborated in ‘Ant-Man’ when Hank Pym warned younger Ant-Man not to shrink too much, for fear he would slip into the Quantum Realm and be lost forever. In physics, ‘quantum’ is “a discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents”. Reportedly, this Quantum Realm is going to play heavily into the Doctor Strange movie, as what was a black hole to a shrinking man in a high-tech suit is something that Dr. Strange can master with his powers. And that Dr. Banner and Tony Stark can study, because radiation (not magic) is involved.

So, this is another example of Marvel grounding mythological motifs in science, even combining the two. What do you think? Do you think this is disrespectful to a character like Dr. Strange? Does it make him any less of a sorcerer or do you think it creates a richer, more believable world? Comment down below.


Chad Descoteaux
Chad Descoteaux
I am a 37-year-old science fiction geek who has loved writing ever since I was hit in the face with a canister of mutagen ooze fifteen years ago. I live in Rhode Island. I am married. I have Aspergers. I write science fiction Kindle e-books for Turtle Rocket Books (website below)...and articles about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Monkeys Fighting Robots.