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Strange Mentors: The Ancient One

Written by Dara Berkey

With Doctor Strange coming to theaters this November, there are lots of characters who will grace the big screen from the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch playing titular character to Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo. Who is the Ancient One? The Ancient One is a master of the mystic arts. He trained Doctor Strange and helped him become the Sorcerer Supreme.

In Doctor Strange, the Ancient One is a Celtic mystic, played by Tilda Swinton. This choice caused some criticism of whitewashing. After all, in the comics, the Ancient One is traditionally male and Tibetan. However, Swinton is not playing a Tibetan, but a Celtic mystic. The Ancient One role is made androgynous to show that it is a mantle.  Therefore, there had been many Ancient Ones over the years.  Swinton’s Ancient One, from the Doctor Strange trailers, handpicked Steven Strange.  In addition, she fills the mentor role to the aspiring sorcerers.

The Ancient One means powerful magic. Just from the trailers, it’s obvious she can change reality or show another reality or something. She can knock someone’s soul out of their body. It’s all kinds of crazy.

Doctor Strange, on his healing journey of self-discovery or some such, will eventually meet the Ancient One. I don’t think that it will be a traditional meeting between future master and student. I suspect that the Ancient One in the movie will have one position on the use of mystic arts or magic and that will differ from the villain of the movie, Karl Mordo. The moral and magical debate will no doubt drag Doctor Strange into the middle of it.

I think that Swinton’s Ancient One will be a patient, but fair taskmaster. After all, Doctor Strange does become one of the most powerful mystics in the Marvel Universe, so it would stand to reason he would have very tough training. There’s some strange stuff in Doctor Strange’s history, but I don’t know how much of it that Marvel is going to water down for the average Joe.

The excitement for Doctor Strange is high, at least for me. I like the magical aspect of the Marvel and DC Universes. It’s the fantasy nerd in me. The Ancient One is going to be a good, strong character. There’s not much they can do to mess it up—because she is the mentor character to the main character. Mentors help shape the main character and who they become. So it’s super important that it’s done right.

What do you think? Will the Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton be a good character in the Doctor Strange movie? Or do you think that they went in the wrong direction for the character? Should they have hired a Tibetan actor to play the Ancient One to be more loyal to the comics? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Dara Berkey

Superhero nerd. History nerd. Favorite personal hero--Shazam/The Original Captain Marvel. Favorite female hero--Any of the Batgirls. Favorite male hero, other than Shazam--Any of the Robins.

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