In the movie, Doctor Strange learns the mystic arts for entirely self-interested reasons, in order to effect healing of his hands and to be able to resume his surgical work.

As matters escalate, Strange finds himself fighting for his life against Kaecilius and his acolytes. However, he still fights out of self-preservation, and Mordo rebukes him.

MORDO: "These Zealots will snuff us all out and you can’t muster the strength to snuff them first?"

STRANGE: "What do you think I just did?"

MORDO: "You saved your own life! And then whined about it like a wounded dog!"

However, by the end of the film Strange appears to have repented of his selfishness and takes his place as Earth's protector. What caused Strange's character to develop in this way?

  • 9
    In a word, perspective
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 11:56
  • 1
    With great power comes great responsibility ~ Uncle Ben Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 12:17
  • @OrangeDog Doctor Strange killed a zealot. It was inevitable.
    – Brian
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 16:34
  • 4
    Personally, I'd say poor writing.
    – Davor
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 17:03
  • My first thought was "he didn't repent, he got bored". Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


Obviously, this is a hero origin story so it would be pretty pointless for Strange NOT to evolve into the hero of the tale.

However, essentially, he learns from The Ancient One that the universe does not revolve round him, he gains perspective and lets go of his previous selfishness.

There is a conversation...

AO: You have such a capacity for goodness. You always excelled, but not because you crave success,but because of your fear of failure.

SS: It's what made me a great doctor.

AO:It's precisely what kept you from greatness. Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.

SS: Which is?

AO:It's not about you.

Having learned that there is a wider universe around him and the fact that he is/could be a major player in it, "failing" takes on a much wider meaning than just being unable to perform surgery.

So he continues to excel, this time as a hero because the stakes are now so much higher.

Further, when the discuss Jonathan Pangborn (of the crippled legs)...

AO: He uses magic to walk. Constantly. He had a choice, to return to to his own life or to serve something greater than himself.

SS: So, I could have my hands back again? My old life?

AO: You could. And the world would be all the lesser for it.

Finally, he realises that he could still heal his hands but there is still more he could do...

SS: You said that losing my hands didn't have to be the end, that it could be a beginning.

AO: Yeah.

SS: Because there are other ways to save lives.

AO: A harder way.

SS: A weirder way.

  • I'm kinda confused by "He had a choice, to return to to his own life or to serve something greater than himself." Why does it sound like these are mutually exclusive?
    – WestaAlger
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 0:53
  • 1
    @JonathanPark they ARE mutually exclusive. He can either get just what he came for (a self-centered result, getting his old life back), or he can look beyond his own desires, see how his magical skills could benefit the world, and do something much more significant. He chose the self-centered option, and ignored what else he could have become.
    – Hellion
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 4:46
  • Oops. I meant to say him getting his hands back. Why can't he heal his hands AND still be sorcerer supreme?
    – WestaAlger
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 4:48
  • @JonathanPark Because he doesn't need healed hands to do magic, or be happy, or have a purpose, etc; he only needs them to go back to his old life. That was one of the lessons he learned when he griped to the AO about how he couldn't do the spells because of his wrecked hands: the AO then brought in a one-armed dude who performed the spell effortlessly. The body was irrelevant, it was about the mind (and spirit?). In some versions of the comic he keeps them unhealed as a reminder to stay humble, I think. Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 6:02
  • 1
    @JonathanPark Keep in mind that he couldn't heal his hands. He could artificially sustain them in a state that appears healthy (and indeed he does!), but not heal them permanently. It's not about choice between "healthy" and "sorcerer" - it's about "sorcerer" and "surgeon". In both cases, his hands would appear healthy, but as a sorcerer, he has a far greater capacity to help other people. The question is - do you walk away, with your "healed" hands, or stay with us and help?
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 9:06

I'd agree with Paulie_D, but I'd also add that, at the climax of the movie, Dr. Strange was (voluntarily) stuck in a time loop, for an unknown period of time, so you could also look at his change as happening in a Groundhog Day type of way, instead of, or in addition to, any changes that had happened before. You could argue that up until then, everything he did was still self-preservation, if you wanted to, but during the time loop, his outlook changed.

  • 1
    That would go against the movie conventions, though. We didn't actually see him change during the loops, so it should be assumed he didn't. But regardless, I think it was pretty obvious that the change was building up for most of the film, with pivotal moments of changed perspective in his talks with the Ancient One (especially the one in the hospital).
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 9:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .