Doctor Strange was a massive success for Marvel, not just due to its box office earning or great critical reception – or even its recent Oscar nomination – but also for how seamlessly in introduced a proper magical/supernatural element to the up-to-now very sci-fi Marvel Cinematic Universe. And not only did it set up these magical aspects, but it also introduced a big part of the overarching “Infinity War” story that all the movies have been building to since the first Avengers movie.
I am of course referring to the Time Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones that have formed the majority of the McGuffins in previous Marvel movies, and which galactic despot Thanos has been quietly assembling to grant himself the power to rewrite reality itself. For most of Doctor Strange though, you never hear the Time Stone mentioned. Or at least not by that name. The Eye of Agamotto is a magical artifact that has been a part of the Sorcerer Supreme’s repertoire in the comics for decades, and thus we saw Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange also wielding this famous amulet in the movie.
Right at the end of the film though, when Strange returns the Eye to sorcerer custodian Wong, the latter reveals to him that the jewel inside the Eye is actually known as the Time Stone. And that totally wasn’t in the script. At least not at first, according to what director Scott Derrickson told ComicBook.com:
The last scene with Wong was shot after principal photography, when we decided to put that on as kind of the final scene. It was only then that we were looking for a way to tie it into the MCU.
That is a rather odd 11th hour addition, seeing as how the Infinity Stones are such huge aspect of the direction the MCU has been heading into for years. As Derrickson went on to explain though, the idea of using the Time Stone only came much later.
Well, that was definitely something that emerged throughout the creative process all the way through production and even more into editorial. We didn’t start out with the idea of time or even the time stone and move forward. It just continued to present itself as an important thematic notion.
Derrickson continued, explaining how actual points in the script from C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaihts actually kept feeding this focus on time.
I knew from the first draft that Kaecilius’s desire to not die, to live essentially forever, was paramount to the story, but that was to me more of a religious notion than the physics of time itself. As we got more into the multiverse, multiple dimensions and all of that, the idea of time being a separate dimension itself, and Dormammu existing beyond time just sort of filtered its way into Strange’s story.
You get the watch and Christine saying, ‘Time will tell how much I love you,’ and the simple idea that if you’re going to be so bold as to create a character who’s confronting the question what is the meaning of my life, who am I in this vast multiverse … He is confronting that question as a creature of time. Our universe is only, what I believe, about 16 billion years old, which is a very finite number and that time is a very finite concept. Time itself is, by definition, not infinite. It begins and ends as do our lives.
Of course not only did that focus on time allow for the addition an Infinity Stone into the story, but it also provided the filmmaker with the tools to create some of the most memorable action sequences seen in films in recent years, as Strange and co manipulated time to their own ends.
Time became the obvious icing on the cake of the whole movie. [The ability to rewind time and] the idea of beating Dormammu by introducing time into a timeless dimension.”
That “icing” earned Doctor Strange a chance to win themselves a golden statue at the Oscars so I think that’s a job well done. Benedict Cumberbatch will next be seen in Thor: Ragnarok in November, and then again in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War when all this Infinity Stones business finally comes to a head.