Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange. Don't read any further if you have not seen the latest Marvel movie!
Marvel Studios has done something truly amazing over the course of the last eight years. In the span of 14 stellar films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced an army of amazing silver screen heroes that come in all shapes and sizes, and never fail to entertain. However, by placing so much emphasis on heroes, the MCU's villains have historically suffered. That all seems to have changed with Doctor Strange, because the film officially set up Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as Marvel's most compelling villain since Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Seriously, he's that great.
For the most part, Marvel has treated the majority of its villains as disposable analogs to our heroes. With the notable exception of Loki, most of the villains in Phases 1 and 2 were introduced, fought and killed within the course of a single movie. While Doctor Strange certainly continues that trend with Kaecilius and (possibly) Dormammu, the film goes one step further by grooming Mordo as a fascinating villain for a future Doctor Strange adventure. The movie takes time to explore Mordo's rationale and mentality for thinking the way he does, and allows him to develop as a character before developing him as a villain.
That idea pretty much gets to the root of why Mordo works as a new villain: his point of view actually makes sense. It's hard to truly empathize with bad guys such as Kaecilius or Dormammu because their respective outlooks on the universe are utterly apocalyptic. By contrast, Mordo simply cares about rules, law and order. He abandons Stephen Strange and the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj not because he loses faith in his own mission or because he decides he wants to live a selfish existence; he strikes out on his own because he believes that Strange and Wong have lost their way. Mordo cares about upholding "Natural Law," and his views (despite their hard line, fundamentalist nature) make quite a bit of sense from an outsider's point of view. It's a perfect reversal on the typical hero/villain dynamic because Doctor Strange shows how the hero is the one willing to bend the rules for the greater good - rather than the other way around.
As previously mentioned, this brings Mordo closer to Loki-status than any other Marvel villain to date. They're two of the only Marvel villains whose missions have not been driven by a simple lust for power. Just as the Thor films have spent time to establish Loki's deep-seated resentment of his brother, Doctor Strange gives Karl Mordo a legitimate gripe against Stephen Strange for his actions -- creating a conflict that's equal parts ideological and supernatural. Marvel hasn't offered too many personal battles between heroes and villains over the course of the last 14 films outside of Thor's rivalry with Loki, so the impending conflict between Mordo and Strange already seems like it's going to have a far stronger emotional element than anything we've seen from the MCU before. We already cannot wait for Doctor Strange 2.
Much of this success lies in Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance. Nothing about his take on Mordo is one-note, and he really takes the time to flesh out Mordo as a man. He shows genuine compassion for Strange during our hero's training in Kamar-Taj, fear for the future of the world when it seems that Kaecilius may win and pain when he believes that his friends have started down a path that he cannot follow. There's a look in his eyes as he leaves his allies in Hong Kong that almost makes us want to follow him. We will just have to wait and see where this new course takes him.
One thing is absolutely certain: the success of Baron Mordo shows quite a bit of promise for the future villains that we will see during Phase 3. What did you think of Chiwetel Ejiofor's take on Mordo? Do you think he is going to become one of Marvel's best villains in the near future? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.