Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo is going to be a big deal in the MCU’s Phase Four.
“Doctor Strange” can’t really be considered one of the biggest successes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there were some pretty visuals and a few fun ideas, a lot of the structure; the meat and bones of the piece; felt entirely lifted from other, more innovative Marvel movies (most notably “Iron Man”), and overall, the film hasn’t exactly permeated modern culture in the same way as some MCU films.
But, then, the aim with “Doctor Strange” was never to create a standout movie. The goal was to build up a series of characters that could carry the future of the MCU for years to come.
If you’d suspected that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is intended to be the replacement Iron Man, you’re not alone; and if you think that Baron Mordo looks set to be the new Loki, then even one of the film’s writer agrees with you.
“For those of you who have ever read the comics, you know that Baron Mordo has a very particular arc, and that’s something we discussed with Chiwetel while working on the first movie. And part of the reason Chiwetel wanted to play Mordo was because he has a definitive ending as a character and it’s such a fascinating ending. And I do know that whether we’re attached or not, that Marvel plans on working towards that ending and fully realizing Mordo as more than just a cardboard cutout villain, but actually taking him to kind of Loki levels of awesomeness. That’s the goal with him.”
Yup, sounds like the basic plan is to replace Loki with Mordo, as the MCU gains a new charismatic villain that everyone kind of roots for in spite of his inherent evil.
The big question, then, is whether or not Marvel can pull this off.
Loki’s initial popularity feels, to a certain extent, like a happy accident. Yes, the character always seemed poised to turn up for “The Avengers”, but Marvel could well have negotiated him out of the way if the character hadn’t resonated with audiences. All these years later, Loki is one of the biggest standout elements of the original “Thor” that still feels memorable, not only because of Tom Hiddleston’s fantastic performance, but also because his character is so well written, as a mini Shakespearean tragedy hidden within an otherwise fairly dull superhero origin movie.
Baron Mordo, alas, doesn’t have that same stature. While Chiwetel Ejiofor is definitely a talented actor, and brought his all to the role, there wasn’t much for him to do in “Doctor Strange”. He’s a superfluous character, and it’s obvious to everyone that he’s in the story merely as a way to set up an eventual sequel.
Perhaps this is the problem with the character in general: Marvel has gotten so good at sequelbaiting that it’s hard to see their new characters as anything other than advertisements for future films.
It almost seems as if Marvel is aware of their failings with making Mordo feel meaningful – after all, the Loki formula of creating a sympathetic, charismatic villain is applied again in “Black Panther” with Michael B Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, to far greater success.
Baron Mordo probably isn’t the silver bullet villain that Marvel is hoping for. As for whether he’ll be any more meaningful in “Doctor Strange 2” than he was in the first film, we’ll just have to wait and see.