From the blog Superconnectivity
by Charlie Esser for the Nuff Said Podcast
Warning: spoilers for nearly all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) lay here after. Read with caution if you have yet to see any of it and don’t want to be spoiled.
With Scarlet Witch and Dr. Strange making their film debuts is magic finally coming to the science based MCU, or have we all just been so blinded by the science to notice that the magic has always been there?
While the first MCU movie was 2008’s Ironman it was followed very quickly by the Incredible Hulk that did tie back to Ang Lee’s Hulk even if officially that movie isn’t canonical. The Incredible Hulk confirms that Banner’s work was tied to operation rebirth, making better soldiers as opposed to just better weapons, and that is where magic first enters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While both the Hulk and Captain America have their official ties to serums and rays both vita and gamma, which are the trappings of science, the behavior of these is much more akin to magic.
When we consider the Hulk you have the rapid creation and elimination of mass, which first pushes the characters to magic. When Tony Stark needs more energy, it has to come from some newly created stable heavy elements, or at least the more efficient breaking or bonding of atoms in his arc reactor. Where the extra Hulk comes from or where it goes afterwards is never quite explained (feel free to offer more scientific theories below if “Hulks are Magic” is an unacceptable perspective for you). Steve Rogers’ full body reconfiguration likewise stretches the zero sum equation of thermo dynamics, but more to the point relies on the moral quality of the subjects mind going into the experiment beyond the tortured science of embiggening.
The Hulks mind we know is a rage filled parody of Banner’s, it is controlled by meditation, and as was said in The Avengers always being Angry. While one can dismiss this as mere expository short hand for the science of adrenaline triggering the change, it can also be seen as the first inkling that magic is very much a part of the MCU. With Steve Rogers, we are told by Dr. Erskine how the formula will take what is good and make it better, and the moral component of this is clearly Dr. Erskine’s central concern here. The Skull’s metamorphosis again exemplifies the mystical quality of the science at play.
In the Avengers Loki wields a staff with a glowing blue stone, that some have speculated is the Mind Infinity stone (the space and power stones being the Tesseract and the Aether) however, even if it is not the mind gem its powers are quite clear. It gives the wielder the power to control people’s minds, but it also had the effect on Dr. Svelig of expanding his mind, as he said speaking to him about the secrets of the Universe. This greater understanding of the Universe is what both allows him to use the Tesseract to open a portal and to later understand how the nine realms of Thor: The Dark World are tied together. Now you can say this is science not magic, but again, as we progress further and further down this rabbit hole, the difference is becoming smaller and smaller.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we again see Loki’s staff. In the hands of Hydra and it is revealed to be the item that has awakened the latent muta…I mean, created the miracles that will be Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The staff we know unlocks the powers of the mind, meaning that the powers of both Quick Silver and Scarlet Witch must derive from their mind. If the mind can be argued to be the origin of all super powers, then I ask” what is magic except the powers of the mind played out on the Universe as a whole?”
When Stephen Strange is name checked in CA:TWS we aren’t give a reason but we can assume it is because of his work as a scientist, and not his work as a sorcerer. If Dr. Strange were already Sorcerer Supreme, the name given to Captain America, likely wouldn’t have any meaning as at this time as they have not yet met in that capacity. However, if as a Neurosurgeon Strange was finding the link between the mind and superpowers, this would make him a threat to Hydra, who no doubt would want a monopoly on this. This idea would also explain why, when a Dr. Strange movie arrives, a Neurosurgeon might come to be the master of the mystic arts, ahead of someone like Baron Mordo who had spent his lifetime studying the mystic arts. At this point we are into pure speculation on my part, but if magic is the use of ritual and meditation to alter one’s mind in such a way as to access energies outside oneself and connect to the greater universe then understanding the mind as a scientist, opens the door for the understanding of magic in the MCU.
It is speculation on how Marvel Studios might connect these two worlds, but to me, the connection seems clear. They begin by tying power to emotions like Rage, and Strength to virtue much as any old myth or legend might. They expand on our understanding of what science and reality is, but exposing the existence of other worlds and people who state unequivocally that Science and Magic are the same thing for them. And finally they take ancient objects of power, whose mechanism are a mystery even to those other worldly masters of arcane science and drop them on the primitive beings of earth. You can say that Magic is coming to the MCU, but the connections seem clear to me. Magic is already there, and has been growing since mankind and Tony Stark first left the cave in search of something beyond themselves.
It’s all connected.