STACK caught up with a jet-lagged Benedict Cumberbatch at San Diego Comic-Con this year to talk Sherlock. But when it quickly became apparent there wasn’t a lot he could reveal about the secrecy-shrouded fourth season, the conversation turned to Doctor Strange.

Making his comic book movie debut as the eponymous neurosurgeon who is drawn into the world of the mystic arts, the actor has nothing but praise for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Marvel is an extraordinary family to be a part of,” he says. “They do things just brilliantly and they never stop trying to get better and better with every film. It can be anything from the level of detail of the costume, to line changes or entire scenes being rewritten or reshot… they’re so bold, and look at where it gets them. It’s extraordinary.”

When it came to playing a Marvel hero unlike any other, Cumberbatch remained pragmatic. “If you go into the film to fulfil expectations, you’re going to fall flat on your face. You have to manage them somehow. It’s an iconic role, like Sherlock, so there’s a certain amount of ‘this is how it has to be’, but also being able to interpret it and make it your own. It’s a wonderful character and the origin story is kick-ass. The amount of arc I had to play in that film, it’s a dream project.”

Cumberbatch adds that the character, although originating in the 1970s, is very much a hero for our time. “What works with Strange is we’re living in an era that’s defined by technology – a binary, logical universe. People are becoming isolated by very strong creative beliefs, and if anything, the message of the film is to free yourself to alternatives. Believe that there are answers that are not about what you think, but what others think as well. It’s about belonging rather than excluding.

“There’s a strong philosophy behind the film. It’s not just, ‘oh here’s a character from the ‘70s, here’s some eastern mysticism banging up against western science. It runs much deeper than that.”