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|“||We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them.||„|
|~ The Ancient One|
The Ancient One is the secondary tritagonist of the 2016 movie, Doctor Strange, and a minor character in Avengers: Endgame.
She was the Sorcerer Supreme and the leader of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, who mentored Doctor Strange in the use of magic following his accident. She was challenged by a former student, Kaecilius, who had become corrupted by the Dark Dimension and sought to bring Dormammu to Earth.
The Ancient One gathered her army of Masters of Mystic Arts, but it was soon discovered that she had been lying to her students all these years and had been drawing her own power from the Dark Dimension, mortifying Karl Mordo. During one final battle, the Ancient One was fatally wounded and despite the best efforts of Doctor Strange and Christine Palmer, she accepted her fate and died.
During the Avengers' time travel mission, Hulk/Bruce Banner met the Ancient One in 2012. Although the Ancient One was reluctant to give him the Time Stone, she did so once she learned that it was all part of Strange's plan to undo Thanos' snap.
She is portrayed by Tilda Swinton.
|“||I know that she is steadfast, but unpredictable; merciless, yet kind.||„|
|~ Karl Mordo|
While she enforced rules on the Masters of the Mystic Arts against breaking the laws of nature or using their power for god-like feats, such as manipulating time or becoming immune of death, she was willing to break her own rules to continue to personally ensure that they were followed and that the world was safe, though she never wanted to do so.
This lead her to draw power from the Dark Dimension to become immortal, an act which she herself forbade. Since Doctor Strange was similar to her in her breaking the laws of nature to save the world, she believed that he and Mordo, the latter of which was completely devoted to following her rules, would need to balance each other out in order for them to protect the world when she died.
Notes and Portrayal Criticism
Unlike her comic book counterpart whom happened to be male Tibetan sorcerer named Yao, Ancient One in the film is female. According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, in MCU franchise, Ancient One is actually a mantle than a specific individual, which means Tilda Swinton's Ancient One is the latest Sorcerer Supreme whom bear the said mantle. This however, not explored further in the film.
The casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One has been the subject of much controversy, with many accusing it of whitewashing. Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill explained that the motivation behind the casting was that the character in the comics is considered a racist caricature originating from Tibet, a country that has suffered much political unrest: "The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… If you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about." Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also stated that the character's race and gender were changed to avoid stereotyping: "The casting of The Ancient One was a major topic of conversation in the development and the creative process of the story. We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more. We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical storyline. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man?".