You know, every time I dig a little bit deeper into science with my pea-sized brain, I hit a wall,” says Benedict Cumberbatch, musing on life’s big questions. He is sporting a manicured goatee and has an amulet strapped to his chest. “I have a sense of wonder at what is beyond our understanding,” he goes on. “There is wonder in logic, and, whether on the macro or micro scale, it just gets bizarre, extraordinary and unfathomable. And we have only five senses to understand and appreciate it, whether it’s theoretical physics or microbiology or circadian rhythms. It’s incredible.”
Cumberbatch’s thoughts on the intersection between science and faith are being delivered in a draughty sound studio just off the A308. A scar on his cheek and salt-and-pepper flanks in his hair, he is in character as Doctor Strange, the next superhero protagonist from Marvel Studios. Eerily enough, Strange’s story, the latest to emerge from the Marvel’s multi-dimensional cinematic universe – those dimensions being film, T-shirt, lunchbox – is about space and time and religion and mysticism. It also features Tilda Swinton as an ageless kung fu monk.
It’s fair to say that this new hero is not the most famous name in Marvel’s roster of characters. Then again, he’s a bit out there. “I wasn’t familiar with Doctor Strange as a child, not at all,” says Cumberbatch. “So it’s been a fast catch-up. But like all comics in their origination, they’re very much tied into the era that they were born in, and so, you know, this one came about in an era of psychedelics and experimental drugs.”