Even after thirteen movies, Marvel Studios is about to do something they have never done before. Throughout the first two phases and the beginning of Phase 3, the villains on the big screen in the MCU have always been that way from the get-go. When Doctor Strange hit theaters in the near future, it will do so with another straight up villain in Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) for Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to go up against, but our hero will be helped by Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), his mentor in the film but archenemy in the comics.
This approach is being used to give audiences a chance to learn more about Mordo and possibly even grow to like him, which would make a potential/inevitable evil turn more impactful for viewers and Strange. Instead of following the traditional formula of bringing a new villain for each movie, Marvel Studios is setting up Mordo to be their first villain that fans will get to know prior to his turn. Throughout Doctor Strange, viewers will obviously have a heavy dose of Cumberbatch, but this movie is just as much Mordo's story as Strange's.
Screen Rant's Rob Keyes was lucky enough to visit the set of Doctor Strange last year and had the chance to chat with Derrickson about this change. While fans have previously cried foul over changing source material, this change is to give the character greater depth moving forward. This plan is obviously contingent on a sequel, or at the very least another film appearance, but it is clear that Marvel has future plans for Mordo. The director explained:
"Mordo, in the comic books... was just really arch. And he's in the origin issue and even in reading through - and I've read the entire body of Doctor Strange now - it was a difficult character, very difficult character to adapt. Because of the very basic archness that he plays all the way through there. So we wanted to keep what were the interesting aspects of him... but with the way that [Mordo] needs to be a presence in the universe of Doctor Strange and, god willing, in sequels, I felt that we had to start by establishing who he was before he got into that arch villainy in the comics. And that's a lot of what we're doing in this movie... we're sort of building a foundational understanding of who he was before the guy that you met in that comic so that that turn isn't an arch turn."
It makes sense that Marvel would want to keep a talent like Ejiofor around for more than one movie. While some fans might be wary of this change, Ejiofor told us that he still took plenty of inspiration from the character's history in the comics:
"The source material was very helpful in terms of trying to construct an overall understanding of him and his relationship to the place, Kamar-Taj, and his relationship to The Ancient One. Of course, in the source material, it’s a much more two-dimensional story in some ways. But one of the richest things of this is finding the other space and really trying to create something that’s very three-dimensional and a person who has a real history and a real background and, as in the comics, has a very good relationship with Kamar-Taj and the Ancient One and by extension Strange himself. So I definitely thought about the character in terms of comics, and really understanding the ways in which the character changed and still keep the essence of who he is and add this more three-dimensional aspect to him."
Throughout Mordo's comic history, he viewed himself as the rightful replacement to The Ancient One, to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. The problem for Mordo was that Strange was already destined to take up the mantle, something that made him immensely jealous. For the movies, jealousy will not be the deciding factor in him making the turn. Instead, the MCU version of Mordo will do whatever he deems necessary to protect his world.
"No, I don’t think of him as a kind of envious or jealous entity. He’s actually much purer than that. That’s what I mean by the comics create a slightly more two-dimensional aspect. But the place, Kamar-Taj, what it means and what it means to Mordo, is so strong and his defense of it is so deep and his loyalty is so committed–to the ideas of Kamar-Taj, to the reality of Kamar-Taj, and to The Ancient One, that he would react to any perceived threat but it wouldn’t come from a place of envy but from the dynamic of protection and loyalty."
Even though fans still have to wait a few more weeks to see Mordo on the big screen, Ejiofor is one of the top actors in Hollywood and definitely has the talent to pull off a great ally-turned-baddie over a multiple movie arc. There has not yet been any sign of Mordo and Kaecilius interacting, but it seems likely that their paths will cross in the final act, or possibly even before. The prelude comic for the film has pointed to Kaecilius working with Wong - and presumably The Ancient One as well - so depending on how long Mordo has been training, he could have had training from/with Kaecilius.
It will be at least a few years before fans get the chance to see Ejiofor play Mordo as a main antagonist, but it's good to hear that Marvel has big plans for the character. Marvel's only repeat antagonist (not counting puppet master Thanos) so far has been Tom Hiddleston as Loki, with the rest having only one appearance to make an impact. This plan should help set up Mordo to be one of the standout villains within the MCU moving forward. The only question remaining is when fans will see Mordo and Strange go head to head, with 2020 as the earliest feasible option.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for even more coverage from our Doctor Strange set visit reports.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.