One of the things that has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe work as well as it has is that it embraces all of the craziness that comes with comics. The aliens, the people with crazy superpowers, the idea that a guy could get angry and turn into a big green monster from gamma radiation instead of getting cancer, it seemed like they were willing to go all the way with one exception.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't want to admit that 'magic' exists.
This has been hand waved away so far with Thor and the idea that the Norse Gods were aliens that were perceived as gods. However, 2016 appeared to be the year that Marvel was finally going to accept that magic was a thing. Ghost Rider made his debut on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and with him brought the supernatural and the concept of demons and Hell into the MCU. Doctor Strange seemed like the most obvious addition of magic into the MCU. However, according to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. producers Jed Whedon and Jeffrey Bell in an interview with IGN, we have that all wrong; those characters aren't magic but more science.
"The Marvel rule is that magic is science we don't understand," Whedon explained. "But when we are trapped between [dimensions] in [Episode 7], we're in the quantum energy fields between dimensions. The Ghost Rider very clearly says, 'That's where I came from. I know where you're being dragged down and I don't want to go back.' One of the things that it allows us, and Doctor Strange allowed us, to do is to have something you would call a 'hell demon' on our show because we're opening holes between worlds and between universes. Any time there's something that on another show would be a wave of the wand magic thing, we can chalk it up to, oh, it's from another dimension. There's another set of physics rules in that world and so it's allowed us to put it all under the science umbrella. The word 'dimensions' is sort of covering a lot of ground there."
This explanation refers back to Jane Foster quoting Arthur C Clarke that "magic's just science that we don't understand yet." This would be fine in the real world but the MCU isn't the real world and the idea that to make all of this relatable it has to all link back to science is silly. The fact that Doctor Strange had to explain the spells like 'computer code' and the sparks of energy were just drawing on the powers of the multiverse instead of just calling it magic was one of the most jarring parts of the movie.
"In [Guardians of the Galaxy], if some of these aliens showed up, they might look like a hell demon. It might be named Larry in his world and there might be a lot of other guys with flaming heads going, 'Good morning, Larry,' 'Good morning Frank,' and it would be normal," Bell said.
The fact that these two seem entirely serious about ham-fisted explanation for the unexplained happening would be hilarious if it wasn't kind of sad. it all comes down to different dimensions because the idea of parallel universes and such are grounded in science in the real world. That being said the MCU is not the real world and part of the reason why it's fun is because it doesn't look like it's trying to be.
Bell pointed out the villain Hive from season three as an example in an exchange that reads a lot like two people desperately trying to explain the punchline of a joke after no one laughs.
"Hive was trapped on a world and historically he had been viewed as the devil, the things he had done. We went through all of the incarnations he had through history and we're saying it was an Inhuman who had these abilities and through that became part of all these different stories," Bell said.
"One thing, we never explained that rock. We never even tried with that thing. It came from another planet! Science? I don't know. I don't know. We didn't even throw the science word in," Whedon admitted.
"I think we just thought it was the coolest looking effect we had ever seen. A hard rock turning into liquid like that. Sometimes you go with cool," Bell said. "Sometimes we talk about paying sins for the cool. 'That's so cool!' 'But does it make sense?' 'It doesn't matter.'"
So, if they aren't worried about finding a scientific explanation as long as it "looks cool" then why refuse to just admit that magic is a thing in this world? It feels a lot like watching early superhero movies that were ashamed of the fact that they were based on comic books. The MCU always felt like it was proud of the fact that it was based on comics, not ashamed, but perhaps they aren't as proud as we thought.