Source: Marvel Studios

Ever since photos of LEGO packaging confirmed that Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is the antagonist in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, fans have been quoting Korath (Djimon Hounsou) from Guardians of the Galaxy and asking, “WHO?”

That’s because Kaecilius is about as minor of a Marvel Comics villain as you might find. He’s only appeared in a handful of comics and has very little backstory. He’s spent most of his comic book panels as relatively anonymous underling of Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo. Chiwetel Ejiofor is playing Mordo in the film, but he’s not a villain in this film or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yet).

Kaecilius is mostly a blank canvas on which director Scott Derrickson and Mikkelsen can paint. He is essentially a new villain for Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but that does not mean the Sorcerer Supreme will not have a very familiar, very powerful foe to worry about. Derrickson teased as much to the press, including Slashfilm, during a set visit. (Derrickson was very vague, but if you don’t want to know anything about Kaecilius or any help he might have, do not read the quote below or what I’m taking away from it.)

“I don’t know how much I can’t give away about this, so I’m gonna answer with a tease.  Is that fair?  What we wanted was a character that was rooted in the real.  This is certainly what I was pitching from the beginning was an antagonist who was rooted in the real world so that there could be an intimate relateability between Strange and his adversary.  But who was empowered by something else.  By something otherworldly.  And connected to something else otherworldly.  Which comes straight from the comics.  And another character straight from the comics.  And that became interesting to me.

“I always loved the Sauron-Saruman idea in Lord of the Rings, even though you never see Sauron except I think in the prologue.  I think that’s the only time you ever see him in that trilogy, but what a presence and what a power.  And we do more than that with this other dimensional power.”

Derrickson may have only intended to provide a tease, but for Doctor Strange fans, this is a dead giveaway. The Dread Dormammu is going to be the Sauron to Kaecilius’ Saruman. Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension, is the big bad in Doctor Strange lore. He exists not only as a physical being, but also as an idea, which means he can never truly be destroyed. Dormammu is often the source of increased power for Doctor Strange’s other adversaries, including one example that fits Derrickson’s “straight from the comics” line like a glove.

Most of Kaecilius’ comic book appearances, including his first, occur in a story arc played out from Strange Tales #130-143. In that arc, Baron Mordo is empowered by Dormammu so that Mordo can destroy The Ancient One and Doctor Strange. In those same issues, Mordo often takes over the body of Kaecilius to help carry out the former’s evil bidding.

Dormammu | Source: Marvel Comics
Dormammu | Source: Marvel Comics

While Derrickson obviously isn’t adapting those issues of Strange Tales directly, they are part of the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run that Derrickson has cited as an influence on several occasions. It sounds like Derrickson has taken some elements of that storyline while replacing Mordo with Kaecilius as the one empowered by Dormammu to take on The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Stephen Strange.

For one last bit of evidence, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige name-dropped Dormammu while discussing the way Doctor Strange will handle alternate realities and dimensions (via Comicbook.com).

“When comic book fans hear parallel dimensions or multiple dimensions, they think of Earth 616 and Earth 617 or Earth 618. That’s all possible but what we’re playing with in this world is that there are dimensions. That the other dimensions are not just parallel realities. Although some of them are but they a dark dimension, where Dormammu inhabits. There are dimensions that are so mind-bending that you can’t barely perceive them. There are dimensions that … That’s where a lot of the Ditko images come from. They’re dimensions that are just mind trips, that the human mind can barely fathom, which is why it’s hard to turn them into something to show an audience in November.”

All signs point to Dormammu existing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and having some kind of presence in Doctor Strange. The presence of a larger threat, however, does not mean we should be dismissive of Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. Derrickson had some very interesting things to say about the character and the kinds of antagonists from which he drew inspiration.

“And the thing I’ll say about Kaecilius is my favorite thing about him is he is a man of ideas.  And that’s to me what always is compelling about villains.  I am much more interested in how they think than in what they even do. My favorite villain being John Doe in Seven.  Who does this extraordinary things and is so scary, but the scariest scene is when he actually, for me the scariest scene in that movie is the ride into the desert when he articulates why.  I got terrified, I felt nauseous watching that movie, because I was like oh my God, he makes sense.  Oh my God, how can this be?  You know, and it was that watertight logic of what he says.

Same thing with The Joker in The Dark Knight.  The watertight logic of his anarchistic philosophy in that hospital bedside table scene with Harvey Dent is awesome. So I’m not saying our villain is as great as John Doe or The Joker, as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he is a man of ideas and to me, that’s what makes villains compelling.”

What do you hope to see from Kaecilius and (probably) Dormammu in Doctor Strange? Let’s speculate in the comments!

Marvel’s Doctor Strange is in theaters November 4.