The Sorcerer Supreme will make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut this November in Doctor Strange. We know that he, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, will be up against Mads Mikkelsen as the film’s big bad. We are only just learning which character Mikkelsen is playing and that knowledge comes with even more questions.
Last month, images of the first LEGO set from the movie revealed Mikkelsen’s character to be Kaecilius. This week, Marvel Comics confirmed Kaecilius as the antagonist in Doctor Strange Prelude #1, a tie-in comic that is considered canon in the MCU. The character design is a perfect match from what we saw of Mikkelsen in the Doctor Strange teaser trailer.
In the prequel comic, Kaecilius is an ally. He’s one of the Masters of the Mystic Arts. We can already see his antagonistic leanings in the above interaction with Wong, a character to be played by Benedict Wong in the film. Confirming Kaecilius as the villain in the film creates more questions than answers, though, because the comic book version of the character is hardly a top rival for Stephen Strange.
Kaecilius has only been in a handful of comics. He’s never been a lead villain in any plot against Doctor Strange. In most of his appearances, which take place between Strange Tales #130 and 143, he’s a disciple of Baron Mordo. The term “disciple” is rather generous. He’s really more of a lackey, or even more accurately, a puppet.
Just look at that purple outfit. It might as well be screaming “Generic Henchman!” Kaecilius spends much of his time in comics literally having his body and mind taken over by Mordo. On his own, he is no match for and no threat to Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange Prelude #1 already shows a change to the character by making him a Master of the Mystic Arts. This gives him a preexisting relationship with Wong and, presumably, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. This is likely the first of many changes.
The advantage to using a character like Kaecilius is that he’s pretty much a blank canvas for director Scott Derrickson and the screenwriters to work on. The character can be molded into exactly what the film needs. Any fan who tries to claim the movie “ruined” Kaecilius this November will be lying about how much he or she ever cared about the character.
Kaecilius will remain a mystery up until the film’s release, but that doesn’t mean there are not some clues from the comics. Derrickson once mentioned looking at the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run of Strange Tales for inspiration. The Kaecilius issues are part of that. In that story arc, Baron Mordo and another major Doctor Strange villain are huge factors.
Mordo is the one piloting Kaecilius in the story as part of a larger plot to find and destroy Doctor Strange and The Ancient One. Mordo is going to be in the movie, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The movie version of Mordo has been billed as an ally, but he could easily break bad at any point in the franchise.
Dormammu is the other villain in that Strange Tales story arc. The dreaded one uses his powers to increase those of Mordo, so that the latter can silence the Sorcerer Supreme once and for all. It’s possible the movie will remove Mordo as a middle man and have Dormammu work with Kaecilius directly. Kaecilius could even be an Earth-bound manifestation of Dormammu.
The one thing I would not expect is for Kaecilius to be a puppet like he was in Strange Tales. Why would you cast Mads Mikkelsen to do that? He might be working with or actually be someone else, but I don’t see Kaecilius being an empty vessel for any other character.
It’s interesting that based on the prelude comic, Kaecilius’ story feels very similar to that of Mordo in the comics. Like the Marvel 616 Universe Mordo, the MCU Kaecilius seems to start out on the side of good and a disciple of The Ancient One before a lust for power drives him down the path to evil. Perhaps there is no intention of having the MCU Mordo turn bad, so his evil traits have been passed on to Kaecilius.
Which is to say, in the longest way possible, that knowing a name doesn’t mean we know anything at all about Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. He is a villain who seems to have been good at one point while bearing no resemblance to his comic book counterpart. He could be someone completely new, a familiar character in disguise, an amalgamation of multiple Doctor Strange foes, or some combination of all those things.
Kaecilius is still an unknown. He is a blank to be filled in when Doctor Strange arrives in theaters November 4.