In Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will battle Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), an antagonist with an extremely low profile even in the source material. Doctor Strange’s best-known villain, Karl Amadeus (or “Baron”) Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is in the film, but in a far less familiar role, that of an ally.
In the comics, Mordo is a jealous rival who immediately turns on Strange as soon as the former realizes The Ancient One sees greater potential in the latter. That will not be the case in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During a set visit with press (via Birth.Movies.Death), director Scott Derrickson explained Mordo’s change from page to screen.
“In the comic books that character was just really arch. It was a difficult character, very difficult character to adapt because of the very basic archness that he (has in the comics). So we wanted to keep what were the interesting aspects of him, his relationship with The Ancient One, but 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 sounds like Mordo could make a villainous turn, just not in this movie. But you can bet your Stark billions that if there is a Doctor Strange sequel, we will most definitely get there. Mordo is the Lex Luthor to Doctor Strange’s Superman, so it’s just a matter of time before the two face each other in battle. Ejiofor, meanwhile, is happy to use this time to really flesh out his character beyond some of the limitations in the comics.
“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 has a very good relationship with Kamar-Taj and the Ancient One and by extension Strange himself.
“He is one of the first allies to Strange and he wants to bring him into this community, this very special, tight-knit community, and see if Strange can fit in. I think that Mordo is the first to recognize the potential in Strange and becomes his primary advocate, initially. Their relationship is complicated. In some ways they’re quite similar but that lends itself to tensions between them. But overall he is the tutor that really brings him in.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige echoed those sentiments as he explained the decision to divert from the source material in this instance (via Collider).
“And for this film, [Mordo] is a partner of Strange, and he is a mentor to Strange. You know that was something we wanted to play against in the comics. Because in the comics for as unbelievably creative and full of imagination as they are – we are desperate to recreate in cinematic form – there’s some things that are too obvious for modern day audiences. The jealous rival named Baron von Mordo, who turns against him when he shows any signs of talent – we specifically didn’t want to do that.”
Feige has a point. The jealous rival is something audiences have several times, with a few of those instances coming in Marvel movies, and they may not respond positively to seeing it again. That’s not to say Mordo should never turn against Strange. That can and probably will happen, but when it does, it will be a much more emotional event because it’s a relationship audiences know, understand, and (hopefully) like deteriorating right before their eyes.
We will just have to keep an eye to see if any seeds for Mordo’s presumed turn are planted when Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4.