'Doctor Strange' Has Been in the MCU Since 'Iron Man 2'

Marvel Studios

The Marvel Universe is getting stranger. Among the many Easter Eggs in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, set to release November 4 but previewed Monday night to audiences in New York, London, and Los Angeles, one nugget comes directly from 2010’s Iron Man 2. This Easter Egg not only recalls one of the more gruesome moments in the Jon Favreau film, it also reveals where in the MCU’s timeline Doctor Strange occurs.

While on the fateful joyride that critically injures arrogant doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Strange is on a call with his assistant, vetting potential new patients. Stephen’s a narcissist: He’s got an impeccable record of saving special victims and doesn’t want to ruin it. He likes a challenge, just nothing that could make him look bad. A few (nameless) patients are presented to Strange, one of them being a soldier whose spine was crushed while wearing “experimental armor.”

It’s certainly neither Tony Stark nor Rhodey. In Iron Man 2, a soldier testing Justin Hammer’s bootleg “Iron Man” suits gets his spine crushed — or rather, twisted. It’s a stand-out moment in the stand-out courtroom scene, where Tony Stark hacks his way out from the government demanding his surrender of the Iron Man suit.

Oddly enough, this isn’t the first mention of Justin Hammer this year. Stolen Hammer technology played a big role in Luke Cage.

Much of the MCU occurs in real time; in this year’s Captain America: Civil War, Vision mentions it’s been “eight years” since Stark became Iron Man. It’s basic math: Iron Man was released in summer 2008.

After Strange’s accident wrecks his hands, leaving him unable to continue his renowned surgical career, Stephen wanders the globe before winding up under the tutelage of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). When Strange is first thrust into the dimensional realms, he begs the Ancient One to teach him.

“How do I get from here to there?” he asks. She replies, “How did you become a doctor?” “Years of study and practice,” he says. She nods. That’s how. And it seems Strange takes somewhere between four and six years to become the Sorcerer Supreme.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a couple of supposed S.H.I.E.L.D. leaders (who are actually working for HYDRA), mention that they’re keeping tabs on Steven Strange, which means by 2014, in the MCU, Strange has learned enough from the Ancient One to become a blip on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar. All of those instances put Steven Strange’s showdown with Kaecilius in 2016, which will catch Doctor Strange up to the rest of the MCU.

Marvel’s Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4.

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