How does the magic system in the MCU work? How are sorcerers like Doctor Strange different from witches like Wanda? We ask these and more
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently about to be 15 years old and has produced about 40 projects till now. It has satisfactorily delivered the character arcs of heroes like Iron Man and Captain America, while also creating an ever expanding world. However, not every character has received the same level of detail. And the biggest example of this is Doctor Strange and the overall magic system.
The MCU’s magic system has made us ask six questions that have always been on our minds:
We know that the Sorcerer Supreme has the highest authority in the Sanctum. But we don’t know what are the extent of his powers or his duties. Doctor Strange rebels against Wong and the latter doesn’t really pushback against him much. In fact, even Wong does whatever he wants without facing any issues. For example, he broke Abomination out of his prison.
Continuing from the above point, everything we have seen in the MCU regarding its magic system seems to hint at the fact that the Sorcerers don’t have any rules. And neither do they have anybody to answer to. Because it looks like they can change reality, or aspects of it, without answering to anyone.
However, it won’t be fair to place the blame only on the MCU. Even in the comics, there’s no such universal organization that oversees magic users. Every world has a Sorcerer Supreme who has one major responsibility- to ensure that no magical catastrophe destroys their world.
And they can also imprison any magic user who isn’t using their powers for good. As for who is above them, that’s debatable since the higher powers of the universe aren’t interested in individual worlds. So there’s no magical corps to oversee it all. However, if someone does step out of line, then the Living Tribunal intervenes. But we have seen none of this in the MCU till now.
In the first Doctor Strange movie, we learnt that Stephen had spent all of his money and savings looking for cures. And he had spent whatever he had left looking for the magical cure that led him to Nepal.
But since then he has been living quite a luxurious life. And it doesn’t look like he has gone back to his medical practise. So the question is, does he just conjure everything he needs using magic? Even money?
We have seen the sorcerers train at Kamar Taj, but what else do they do there? Also, is it a communal living situation? Where do they get the money to run such a large establishment? Does Doctor Strange conjure up money whenever the residents there are in need of it?
Not to mention the fact that there are other Sanctums as well. So do Strange and Wong contribute money there too? And do the other sorcerers ever intermingle with people from the real world? All these are questions that the MCU hasn’t delved in depth of.
We don’t know how sorcerers differ from witches, but it’s clear that there are some differences. For example, witches can use telekinesis and can fly, but sorcerers cannot. At least, they can’t do so without any magical enchantment, like Strange’s cape.
Also, it looks like sorcerer magic is learned from books, but witchcraft requires being more in turn with the natural forces and one’s self. But apart from this, we don’t know much about what differentiates the two. And also why there are sanctums as opposed to covens?
Overall, the MCU has a soft magic system as opposed to a hard magic system. The latter means that magic rules of the fictional world are clearly defined and followed. But in the MCU, the power levels of the sorcerers and witches are always fluctuating.
And whatever powers or spells they use are just to service the plot. This makes the MCU magic system uninteresting and weak. And if it’s not fleshed out further, it can cause problems for the MCU.