ByTom Bacon, writer at
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Tom Bacon

One of the most frequent criticisms of is that the company has a 'villain problem'. Critics argue that the villains are either under-developed or one-dimensional; with the notable exception of Tom Hiddleston's Loki, few Marvel movie villains have left a real impact on audiences. Marvel is hoping that Doctor Strange will change all that; insiders seem very proud of and his Zealots. But Doctor Strange also gives us another ray of hope: Chiwetel Ejiofor's Baron Mordo!

Who Is Baron Mordo?

Baron Mordo in 'Ultimate Spider-Man'. Image: Disney
Baron Mordo in 'Ultimate Spider-Man'. Image: Disney

In the comics, Baron is the light to Strange's darkness, the Moriarty to Strange's Sherlock Holmes. He's a tremendously powerful sorcerer who trained under the Ancient One, but coveted the Ancient One's power, and made a subtle attempt to have the Ancient One killed. Stephen Strange was actually originally planning not to stay with the Ancient One, but learned of Mordo's treachery, and stayed in order to protect him.

Mordo's history with Strange is one of constant conflict, with Mordo often acting as an agent of the Dread Dormammu, a cosmic being who's also likely to appear in Doctor Strange. Dormammu would lend Mordo additional mystical power in order to battle Strange, but time and again Mordo has been bested.

The MCU Version Is Very Different

Baron Mordo and the Ancient One. Image: Marvel Studios
Baron Mordo and the Ancient One. Image: Marvel Studios

Chiwetel Ejiofor's version is very different. The various Doctor Strange Prelude comics have already shown us that Baron Mordo is second-in-command to Tilda Swinton's Ancient One. This version of Baron Mordo scouts the world for those who have the potential to become Masters of the Mystic Arts. In fact, it was Mordo who discovered Kaecilius, and Mordo will also be the one to offer Stephen Strange a shot at redemption.

The relationship between Strange and Mordo won't be one of animosity. Instead, Mordo will initially act as Strange's mentor, training him in the mystic arts. As Ejiofor explained:

“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.”

It seems that the difficult relationship between Strange and Mordo will be a highlight of the film; the two characters are similar in personality, and that leads to some conflict. Still, Mordo is characterized by his faith in Strange, and is one of the first to recognize Strange's potential.

Will Baron Mordo Become A Villain?

Baron Mordo trains Doctor Strange. Image: Marvel Studios
Baron Mordo trains Doctor Strange. Image: Marvel Studios

Known as one of Marvel's most dangerous mystic villains, it feels inevitable that Mordo will fall from grace. But it won't be from envy or jealousy, as is often hinted in the comics. Again, Ejifor commented:

"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 a place of protection and loyalty.”

Ominously, though, comments about Kaecilius have suggested that there are cosmic forces out there that can seduce a Master of the Mystic Arts, corrupting them and turning them to evil. One of these forces is likely to be the Dread Dormammu, and we know that plays a role in the film. It's possible that, over the course of Doctor Strange, Mordo will be exposed to Dormammu — and that this will trigger his fall.

Behold - the Dread Dormammu! Image: Marvel Comics
Behold - the Dread Dormammu! Image: Marvel Comics

My strong suspicion, though, is that Doctor Strange will end with Mordo still at Kamar-Taj, still training under the Ancient One, but possibly with his fall from grace having already been set in motion. It looks as though Marvel is playing the long game, planning to chart Mordo's story across multiple films, and in so doing to build a character who we truly care about. If that's the case, I can see why Marvel is confident Doctor Strange is the solution to Marvel's 'villain problem'.

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Whatever the case, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Baron Mordo is evidently very different to the character we've come to know in the comics. I for one am intrigued to see what changes Marvel has made, and how effectively those work in Doctor Strange. If Marvel is indeed playing the long game, then we could be in for a villain of greater quality than Marvel has had to date...

Are you excited to see how Baron Mordo is handled in Doctor Strange? Let me know in the comments!


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