Why Doctor Strange’s Mordo Had To Be Different From The Comics

Mordo Chiwetel Ejiofor

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know any details about the ending, we recommend clicking away to another one of our wonderful articles!

As played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Baron Mordo in director Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange isn't really a perfect representation of the character from the comics. In the source material, the green robes-clad sorcerer is immediately introduced to readers as a villain who wants nothing more than to kill Strange and The Ancient One -- but the movie adaptation changes this to make him a close ally and mentor to the titular former surgeon. Some comic book purists may wind up taking some issue with this -- but the filmmakers did it for a very important reason: it was the only way to actually have the relationship between Strange and Mordo actually mean anything.

This week, I had the pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with Doctor Strange co-writer Jon Spaihts, and amongst the many topics we discussed was the connection between Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor's Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. Referencing the earliest Doctor Strange comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, I asked about the process of morphing Mordo to make him a deeper and more complex character. Spaihts noted that this was something that Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, and he noted early in the process, acknowledging that it would prove to be very important in the future of the big screen franchise. Said Spaihts,

For that relationship to have any resonance, it needs to be rooted in a human relationship. As you're saying, the character of Mordo as sketched in the early Doctor Strange stories was a transparently wicked, snarling adversary who was never really a good guy in order to turn traitor. So we needed to build a friendship first and have a bond to break. And now there's that emotional cargo between the two men, so when they cross paths again there will be an undercurrent of heartbreak. And that's good drama!

While Mordo does start out as Doctor Strange's ally in the film, audiences watch that relationship take an unfortunate turn as the end of the movie plays out (including the second post-credits sequence). Up until Strange's arrival, Mordo is a devout follower of The Ancient One who believes that he is doing the right thing in initiating Dr. Stephen Strange to the world of magic... but due to some important revelations, his faith is rocked. By the end of the story, he is not only shocked to learn that The Ancient One has been hypocritically stealing power from The Dark Dimension, but also watched Doctor Strange corrupt the laws of nature in order to save the world. These events prove to be a wedge between Strange and Mordo, and it's a conflict that we will likely say play out further in Doctor Strange 2 (if not sooner).

This emotional drama winds up playing out effectively in Doctor Strange, proving that Jon Spaihts and company were 100 percent correct -- as I, as a fan, am definitely invested in seeing what happens between Strange and Mordo in the future. Unfortunately, it's a similar lack of connection between characters that winds up harming Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius' role in the blockbuster -- making him a mostly underwhelming villain. At least we can be 90% sure that won't be a problem in the sequel.

Hit the comments to tell us your thoughts about Mordo's representation in Doctor Strange, and stay tuned for a whole lot more from my interviews with the Marvel film's cast and filmmakers!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.