Why does Doctor Strange not bind Thanos in a time loop in the same way as he did with Dormammu in the Doctor Strange movie?

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    Doctor Strange knows the contents of the only future in which Thanos is defeated, so surely he knows whether that tactic works or not. Apparently not. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 14:03
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    This title is showing up in the network sidebar and is causing spoilers.
    – Ketura
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 22:13
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    @Chad I believe that there is only one "time" stone, and the one in Thanos' gauntlet was taken from Strange. So Strange had it first, before Thanos got it. Therefore, Strange could have caught him in the loop prior to Thanos taking the stone from him. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 22:34
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    @EricLippert Yes, but why Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:18
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    Because you never use the same trick twice in movies? Commented May 2, 2018 at 13:00

4 Answers 4


Because Dormammu doesn't exist in time, but Thanos does.

In Dr. Strange, it was stated that Dormammu belongs to the Dark Dimension and existed outside of time.

Wong: Dormammu dwells in the Dark Dimension. Beyond time.


Generally, when you reverse time, you reverse everything including the memory of the person existing inside the time. Since Dormammu doesn't exist in the time, his memory does not get reset, therefore he gets tired of seeing repeated thing for many times and is defeated.

Since Thanos exists inside the time, his memory will be reset, therefore the time loop won't make him tired and fall like it did to Dormammu. Thanos will do what he is supposed to do every time and Dr. Strange will only reset his memory after the end of each loop.

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    Interesting answer. +1. The power of the time stone seems to be more of "selecting" an object first and then changing its state across time (note how in Doctor Strange (2016) Stephen changes the state of the apple, the book of Cagliostro and in the final fight he "selected" everything (both on earth and in the dark dimension). He could have looped everything else except Thanos to tire him out easily. And it's not like he cannot handpick individuals to go out of the spell (Wong and Mordo were broken out during the final fight by him).
    – Rohinb97
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 10:48
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    So it's kind of like a global vs local variable in a loop. If it's declared outside the loop, it keeps on going (Dormammu), if it's inside the loop it keeps resetting (Thanos). Eventually, the global variable will run out of numbers (presumably).
    – John Bell
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 15:11
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    Additionally, because Dormammu was beyond time, being trapped in a single moment for eternity might actually be somewhat frightening for him since it's a new experience. For Thanos, if he was able to remember the looping, he'd probably realize that it was merely a contest of wills and he would simply wait it out until Strange lost patience.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 15:32
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    @DavidStarkey That's because she isn't "rewound", nor is Thanos. Only Vision is. Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 5:20
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    @DavidStarkey Yes, but that would give Thanos an infinite number of chances to seize the Eye (or just kill Strange) and break the loop. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 21:02

Strange planned to lose.

Spoilers ahead...!

It seems odd to me that he just handed over the time stone without a fight to save Tony. Especially after the speech he gave about how he'd let Tony or Peter die if it came down to saving them or protecting the stone. He was definitely willing to "trade lives". When asked why he offers "We're in the endgame now." Then later when he dies he explains "It was the only way".

We're led to assume that when viewing possible futures that Strange was only looking as far ahead as the upcoming battle with Thanos but given what he said after they lost it seems likely that was looking further ahead. Strange saw a future wherein in order to win in the long term they had to lose in the short term. Dr Strange threw the fight because he saw Avengers 4.

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    This should be the accepted answer. The other may be true, but this is the only one that's actually backed up by the movie. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:16
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    This was my first thought too. The only path to victory that Dr. Strange saw was the one that leads to Thanos getting all the stones and destroying 1/2 the universe. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:35
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    This is the more correct answer.
    – Kosmos
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 19:23
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    We actually don't know whether he traded the stone because Tony is an integral part of that foreseen future in which they win, or because the finger snap is essential to that same future (Thanos resting/not on his guard, gauntlet looks quasi-destroyed) - it could be both. Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:21

Everyone here is correct (ie the only winning future was the one where they lost that fight) but there is a more obvious reason why any time loop future is a loss one (assuming he would be able to loop Thanos as he did Dormammu in the first place).

Because Thanos knows what the stones are, and it will go for that instead of killing Strange. In a position where Strange creates a time loop, he has to use the stone to do it (ie, not be hiding it). Then Thanos has a target. Instead of killing him over and over again and resetting the loop as Dormammu did, Thanos understands the power of the time stone and that Strange just gave him an infinite number of attempts to try and get it. Eventually he will succeed in wresting the stone off strange/breaking the protective spell (if only finding the solution through brute force search), in which case he can end the loop with the stone in his possession.

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    I think this is kind of included in Donald's answer, in that he saw the loop would not work (because he would eventually lose the stone). As one of the many possible futures that never worked. Which is why he didnt attempt anything but surrender.
    – IAmGroot
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 20:47

Strange didn't attempt a time loop because, just as others stated, he knew it was hopeless. He had searched through millions of different outcomes, and the only one with victory, was to surrender the stone and let Thanos think he won (i.e. the smug look of satisfaction on his face at the end of the film when he's sitting at his house).

Strange knew what was going to transpire, even if it meant his death (temporary??). He knew what Fury was going to do before he faded away, he knew that attempting a time loop would give Thanos infinite number of times to gain the stone. As result, he resolved himself to surrender, and told Tony "This was the only way". It's a life lesson that sometimes, the only way to win the war, is to allow the enemy a strategic victory by strategic retreat/sacrifice. He knew ultimately, they'd win the war.

Makes me excited for Infinity War Part 2!!!! :D

  • 5
    That's the meaning of "endgame". In chess, endgame is when the main forces of at least one side have been compromised, and the final attacks are going to be brought on. Often, a sacrifice has to be made in order to get a definitive advantage (like letting your queen be captured if this means capturing the only remaining major piece of your opponent). IMO, this is exactly what Strange's "this is the endgame" line refers to.
    – Simone
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 7:42

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