** This post contains spoilers for Doctor Strange **
As much as fans and critics alike have historically loved the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's one glaring criticism which always comes crawling from the woodwork whenever a new movie rolls around. You've probably heard of what I'm talking about, Marvel's "villain problem."
In the MCU thus far the focus has been on Thanos (Josh Brolin) as the big bad everything has been building up to, with other popular villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) being stretched across multiple movies. This means many of the one-movie villains don't get as much development as they should — especially in origin tales when the focus is on the hero himself, and not the villain. So, how does the newest release on the MCU's slate — #DoctorStrange — measure up?
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Is Kaecilius A Good Villain?
Doctor Strange is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is in turn thoroughly enjoyable to watch as the central villain. But perhaps the biggest mistake the filmmakers made was to omit a very important part of his backstory, the one thing which props up his whole motivation. It's explained explicitly in the prequel comics, but not included in the movie. So if you haven't read The Zealot, you might be a little underwhelmed by him.
The backstory in question involves Kaecilius's origins. After losing his wife and unborn child, he sought refuge at Kamar-Taj, pursuing the teachings of the Ancient One in an attempt to find a way to bring his family back from the dead. When this knowledge was denied to him, he turned against the Ancient One and formed his own sect — the Zealots. But in Doctor Strange we don't know about all of this. We know that Kaecilius is angry at the Ancient One for not sharing all her knowledge, but we don't know why.
The annoying thing is, there was plenty of opportunity to include this crucial piece of backstory in Doctor Strange. There's at least two instances that they could've dropped this information in without it being too on the nose — when Kaecilius is trying to convince Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to join him, and again when he's fighting with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) in the Mirror Dimension.
But the script never bothers to actually clarify why Kaecilius is doing what he's doing in Doctor Strange, beyond the fact that he's pissed off at the Ancient One. If we'd been given this extra piece of exposition, Kaecilius would've been a much stronger villain — like Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. Sadly, whilst he was fun to watch, there wasn't a great deal of substance to him.
So, is Doctor Strange just another mark on the sheet for Marvel's "villain problem"? Perhaps. But there is another antagonist introduced in Doctor Strange who is going to become pretty important later on.
Enter Baron Mordo
I speak, of course, of Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He's very different to his comic book counterpart in Doctor Strange, as the filmmakers made some major changes to Doctor Strange's origin story for the MCU. But as it turns out, those changes might have been for the best.
Doctor Strange sets Mordo up as an ally to Strange, and he remains this way for the majority of the movie. Mordo is the one who rescues the haggard Strange from the streets when he arrives in Kathmandu, and he's the one who convinces the Ancient One to allow Strange to stay on at Kamar-Taj as a pupil. He guides Strange, teaches him, and tells him when he's getting out of line. But when Strange demonstrates mastery over the Time Stone, everything changes.
After Doctor Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto — a.k.a. the Time Stone — to defeat Kaecilius and *spoiler* at the conclusion of the movie, Mordo objects violently to the notion, claiming that Strange is disrupting the "natural order" by messing with time. This comes off the back of his disillusionment with the Ancient One, to whom he had followed blindly for years and felt betrayed by when he learned of the secret to her immortality.
It's a moment when the scales fall from his eyes — he turns his back on Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) and stalks off into the Hong Kong night. But it's not the last we see of him...
The Doctor Strange Post-Credits Scene
The post-credits scene charts an altercation between Mordo and Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), who channels magic to allow him to walk after he was left paralyzed in an accident. Mordo forcibly takes Pangborn's magic from him, claiming that the way he's using it is a perversion of the natural order.
This scene takes place "many months" after Mordo leaves Strange and Wong in Hong Kong, and we learn that he's now on a mission to balance out magic in the world. As he says, there's "too many sorcerers" on Earth. Interestingly, Mordo seems to take the magic from Pangborn into his own body, so it seems he's on a mission to get stronger himself as he rids the world of other magic users.
While he functioned as a protagonist for the majority of Doctor Strange, the post-credit scene very clearly exposes Mordo's true nature. He's very firmly set on the path of the villain now, and his motivations for doing so have already been neatly laid out for us.
This is similar to the way Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was handled, having his character groundwork laid out in Thor to set him up as an antagonist for The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. And he's been one of the most successful villains of the MCU so far.
We don't yet know when Baron Mordo will return, but both Doctor Strange and Wong have been confirmed to be appearing in the ensemble venture Avengers: Infinity War, so perhaps he'll crop up again too. And then there's always the potential of Doctor Strange sequels, which are looking very likely at this juncture.
All we know right now is, the groundwork has already been laid to make Baron Mordo a very formidable villain indeed. So, is he the answer to the infamous "villain problem"? Time will tell.
Doctor Strange arrives in US theaters November 4, 2016.