Karl Mordo is a former member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts and had been a close ally to the Ancient One, assisting in recruiting and training their future sorcerers. When Mordo had encountered Stephen Strange, he invited him into Kamar-Taj, despite the Ancient One's objections, and had later aided him with the conflict against Kaecilius and the Zealots. During this battle, Mordo learned that the Ancient One drew all her power from the Dark Dimension, which had been forbidden to all the Masters. Following the death of the Ancient One at the hands of Kaecilius, who had also been defeated before he was able to bring Dormammu to Earth, Mordo was so mortified by this betrayal that he turned his back on his allies, and choosing to restore balance by stripping sorcerers of all their powers.
Arrival at Kamar-Taj
- "I wanted the power to defeat my enemies. You gave me the power to defeat my demons and to live within the natural law."
- ―Karl Mordo to Ancient One
Having suffered a tragedy in his life, Mordo came to the Kamar-Taj to become one of the Masters of the Mystic Arts in order to gain revenge for his loss, although he was initially disrespectful to the teachings and way of life he found there. Mordo was trained by the Ancient One in the Mystic Arts and soon became a Master, putting aside his desire for revenge and dedicating his life to the mystic arts and protecting the world from harm.
Fighting Dragon Raiders
- "They always want a fight, don't they?"
"Unfortunately for them, yes."
- ―Karl Mordo and Ancient One
When the Bow and Arrow of Apollon was stolen from Kamar-Taj by Jiãó ào Zhànshì and his army of Dragon Raiders, Mordo and the Ancient One went on to confront his army. Engaging in a fierce battle against the Raiders, the Masters of the Mystic Arts eventually were victorious and reclaimed the Bow and Arrow, returning it to Kamar-Taj for safe keeping.
Recruiting Doctor Strange
- "That one looks a little more...Kamar-Tajey."
"I once stood in your place. And I, too, was... disrespectful. So might I offer you some advice? Forget everything you think you know."
- ―Stephen Strange and Karl Mordo
While walking in Nepal, Mordo overheard Stephen Strange asking people for directions to the Kamar-Taj. Seeking to understand what Strange was looking for, Mordo followed him through the streets, keeping his distance while Strange continued walking people if they knew where he could find Kamar-Taj, although nobody would give him the location.
Having seen Strange help a wounded dog, Mordo then saw that he was being surrounded by three muggers who were after his watch, which Strange begged to keep as it was a gift from Christine Palmer. As Strange was beaten down, due to his hand being too wounded to fight, Mordo intervened and used his own training to defeat the muggers before handing the now broken watch back to Strange and inviting him to come to Kamar-Taj.
Mordo then took Strange to the Kamar-Taj, although Strange noted that he was surprised by the unassuming front door, noting that perhaps the one nearby was the actual Kamar-Taj as it fit into all his presumed notions. Mordo then turned to Strange and noted that he had once been disrespectful like Strange was being, going on to tell him to forget everything that he thinks he knows before opening the door and then welcoming Strange inside the building.
Entering Kamar-Taj, Mordo was amused as Strange mistook Hamir for the teacher, before the Ancient One then revealed herself and offered tea to Strange and Mordo. Mordo watched as the Ancient One presented Strange with the concept of how Jonathan Pangborn had used the Mystic Arts to heal his own body, which disgusted Strange who thought he would get actual medicine rather than the spiritual teachings and insulted the Ancient One.
Mordo supported Strange's physical body when the Ancient One pushed his Astral Form out of his body to give him a view of the Astral Dimension, much to Strange's horror. Mordo also called attention to Strange's spiking heart rate as the man was pushed through the Multiverse but the Ancient One said he looked fine and sends him back. Having experienced the Multiverse, Strange begged the Ancient One to teach him, but she just refused.
Convincing the Ancient One
As the Ancient One had refused to teach Stephen Strange, Mordo convinced her to reconsider this choice, noting that Strange could help them defeat Kaecilius and the Zealots. He pointed out that he was once proud and brash like Kaecilius but was taught a better way by the Ancient One, so eventually she let Strange back into the Kamar-Taj to train.
Mordo brought Strange to his room in Kamar-Taj and explained that they would begin training with the Masters of the Mystic Arts first thing in the morning. Mordo then handed Strange a piece of paper which Strange questioned if it was his mantra, only for Mordo to then explain that it was actually their Wi-Fi password so Strange could still contact home, joking that the Masters of the Mystic Arts were not savages before leaving Strange to rest in his room.
Training Doctor Strange
Mordo began teaching the Masters of the Mystic Arts students how to use a Sling Ring a device to help Sorcerers travel great distances quickly and notices Stephen Strange's difficulty in using them, which he blamed on his own damaged hands being to shaky to do as he wished. The Ancient One then arrived in the courtyard, ending the session and sending away Mordo and the other trainees, leaving just herself and Strange to discuss the difficulty he was having and using Hamir as an example of what could be achieved under Mordo's teachings.
When Mordo returned to the courtyard just a short while later, he discovered that the Ancient One was trying something different and had left Strange on the top of Mount Everest as encouragement, with Mordo horrified that the Ancient One was using this technique yet again. Although Mordo considered collecting Strange, fearing for his safety, the Ancient One ordered him to wait and eventually Strange succeeded in creating a portal with his Sling Ring and returned to Kamar-Taj, freezing cold and falling to his knees. Upon seeing this, both Mordo and the Ancient One chuckled at Strange but then also complimented his success at achieving the portal.
- "You're ready when the relic decides you're ready... For now, conjure a weapon. Fight! Fight like your life depended on it! Because one day, it may."
- ―Karl Mordo to Doctor Strange
With Stephen Strange gaining more confidence in his abilities, Mordo helped to train him in hand-to-hand combat. As they prepared to spar together, Strange asked Mordo about the Ancient One and why he followed her, with Mordo explained that while he did not know much about the Ancient One's past or even her age, he still remained loyal to her.
As they began fighting each other, Mordo told Strange the story of how Kaecilius had turned against the Masters of the Mystic Arts, then explaining how he had first come to Kamar-Taj as a broken man mourning the loss of his wife Adria. Their fight progressed, with Mordo managing to get Strange in a headlock while telling him that Kaecilius had lost faith in the Ancient One's teachings and eventually formed the Zealots to fight against his former teacher.
Moving on from their sparing, Mordo told Strange to ask no more questions and then explained that some magic could be channeled through objects and relics to create more advanced weapons and spells, such as his own Staff of the Living Tribunal as well as the Wand of Watoomb. While Strange joked about all the names, Mordo explained that Strange would soon also find his own relic when the relic had decided that he was ready for its power.
Mordo then ordered Strange to conjure a weapon, smiling as Strange struggled to summon an energy whip. However, before Strange was ready, Mordo used his staff to attack, ordering him to fight like his life depended on it. They began fighting together, with Strange on the defensive while Mordo used the Vaulting Boots of Valtorr to gain the advantage and easily beat Strange, telling him that one day his life would depend on his fighting skills against his enemies.
Explaining the Masters
- "You want to get stuck reliving the same moment over and over forever or never having existed at all?"
"They really should put the warnings before the spell."
- ―Karl Mordo and Doctor Strange
Mordo and Wong both later discovered Doctor Strange while he was experimenting with the Eye of Agamotto and manipulating time, with Mordo ordering him to stop and explaining that the use of such spells was highly dangerous as he could have trapped himself in a time loop for all time or possibly erased his existence from the history of the world.
When Strange questioned the purpose of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, the pair attempted to explain to him the cause the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj serve, comparing them to the Avengers who protected the world. As Strange struggled with the realization of his training's true purpose, the temple was raided by Kaecilius and he was separated from Mordo as he was knocked into a portal towards the New York Sanctum where Kaecilius was going next.
Defending the Ancient One
Mordo and The Ancient One eventually reunited with Doctor Strange in the New York Sanctum, where they discovered that not only had he survived his own battle against Kaecilius but that he had also managed to gain the Cloak of Levitation as his own relic, much to Mordo's surprise. Mordo then sadly confirmed that they had taken the body of Daniel Drumm away in order for him to be buried.
While they discussed what had happened, Mordo listened while the budding sorcerer vowed to never take a life again, having killed Lucian Aster during the battle. Strange then accused the latter of drawing power from the Dark Dimension, and of tricking him into entering their metaphysical war, although Mordo strongly denied this, while the Ancient One was a lot more defensive over the claims, as Strange noted that all his points did make sense.
While the Ancient One then returned to Kamar-Taj, Mordo, furious at what he had heard, accused Strange of disrespecting the Ancient One, although Strange insisted that she was not who he thought she was. Mordo defended her actions while noting that if they did not fight the Zealots, then they would summon Dormammu and destroy the world, accusing Strange of cowardice and presumptuousness because of all his recent actions during the fight.
The pair's argument was interrupted when they were soon attacked by Kaecilius once more. Seeing that Kaecilius was attempting to destroy the New York Sanctum once again, Mordo charged forward and attacked the Zealots. However, Mordo was overpowered by their numbers, while Doctor Strange tried to confine Kaecilius in the Mirror Dimension.
Kaecilius remained confident, however, and began manipulating the Mirror Dimension around them, forcing both Mordo and Strange to run outside. Seeing the Zealots' power, Mordo then noted that they were now held at a disadvantage by Kaecilius' connection to the Dark Dimension extensive powers, telling Strange that this plan was suicidal. Mordo and Strange were forced to then run through New York City while the Zealots chased after them both.
Desperate to get away, Strange tried to use his Sling Ring to create a portal home. Kaecilius used his world manipulating powers to stop them. Continuing to run, Mordo used his Vaulting Boots of Valtorr to climb up the side of the buildings while Strange used the Cloak of Levitation. As they watched the entire city being twisted around by the Zealots, Strange finally admitted he made a mistake, with Mordo looking at him with both amazement and frustration.
Before Mordo could berate Strange, however, they were both then knocked off the side of the building and barely survived the fall. Having landed down, the two Masters of the Mystic Arts were then separated during the chase as Mordo was chased down by the Tall and Brunette Zealot while Strange was hunted down by Kaecilius, who wanted to retake his Sling Ring and kill his enemy, while Mordo attempted to get back to Strange and assist him.
Before Strange could be killed by Kaecilius, he was saved by the arrival of The Ancient One who confronted Kaecilius. To Mordo's horror, it was revealed that her powers of immortality did indeed stem from the Dark Dimension which she had claimed was forbidden due to its connection with Dormammu. The Ancient One then fought against the Zealots while keeping Mordo and Strange at bay, being forced to watch the battle helplessly from the side.
However, the Ancient One was mortally wounded in the process, with Kaecilius furiously kicking her through a portal created by his sling ring causing her to fall hundreds of feet to the ground. Mordo and Strange both attempted to save her, but were too late, witnessing her crash land hard on the ground. In a last attempt to save her, Strange took the Ancient One to Christine Palmer and Nicodemus West to get emergency surgery while Mordo just walked away.
While Strange took the Ancient One to Metro-General Hospital where she eventually died, while Mordo returned to Kamar-Taj where he overlooked the wreckage from the last attack and became deeply disillusioned about his master and her cause, believing her bending of the laws of nature made her responsible for Kaecilius' fall towards the dark side.
Mordo was joined by Strange who informed him of the Ancient One's death, with Mordo expressing his great disappointment that the Ancient One was not the person he had thought she was. Mordo went on to note how drawing power from the Dark Dimension could have corrupted her into a follower of Dormammu. He concluded that her hypocrisy had led the Zealots to Dormammu. Strange requested Mordo's help in stopping the Zealots, which he agreed to.
They arrived to find that the Masters of the Mystic Arts had already been defeated and the Hong Kong Sanctum was now completely destroyed, allowing the Dark Dimension to materialize over the city. While Mordo looked on his utter horror at the destruction his enemy was causing, claiming that there was nothing they could now do, Doctor Strange thought for a moment before trying something drastic to stop the Dark Dimension from destroying everything.
Strange attempted to use the Eye of Agamotto to reverse the Sanctum's destruction, bringing Mordo into his out time stream as they watched the city rebuild itself. While Strange used the Eye's power, Mordo protected him by battling Kaecilius and his Zealots. Using the chaos of the rebuilding city to his advantage, Mordo subdued both the Blonde and Brunette Zealot before using the Staff of the Living Tribunal to launch Kaecilius through a wall.
As the city was being rebuilt, they found Wong who had been killed by Kaecilius and used the Eye to return him to life, with Wong not objecting to their actions. However, eventually Kaecilius managed to stop the reversal process by tampering with the Eye and stopping time. Having all been knocked off their feet, Mordo and Wong stood back up and challenged Kaecilius, with Mordo ordering Strange to get up as well and fight one last time with them all.
As Kaecilius marvelled at Dormammu's arrival, he noted that the Dark Dimension was beautiful and was a place beyond death and beyond time. With this comment, Mordo witnessed Strange using the Cloak of Levitation to fly straight into the Dark Dimension, seemingly abandoning them to die. In truth, Strange left to make a bargain with Dormammu instead, forcing the being to now leave the Earth and take Kaecilius and all of his loyal followers with him.
While both Strange and Wong were in the celebratory mood, Mordo found himself further disillusioned by Strange's breaking of nature's laws to dispatch of Dormammu, much like the Ancient One had also done. Mordo concluded that sorcerers abuse their power and were responsible for the world's imbalances, deciding that his best cause of action was to leave the Masters of the Mystic Arts for good, noting that the bill would come due for them all, as it always did. With that, Mordo turned and walked away from his allies.
Attack on Jonathan Pangborn
- "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I see at long last what's wrong with the world. Too many sorcerers."
- ―Jonathan Pangborn and Karl Mordo
Having had time to consider the events, sometime later, Mordo confronted Jonathan Pangborn at the factory he had worked at. When Pangborn asked why Mordo was there, he was told that Mordo had recently had a revelation while away from Kamar-Taj and had come to see that sorcerers were stealing power and perverting nature with their magic, although Pangborn insisted that his use of magic to walk was not stolen power, but was his own to use.
Mordo made it clear he had left the Masters of the Mystic Arts and, when Pangborn realized that Mordo was going to attack him, he then retaliated with a crowbar. Mordo defeated him and began stealing his magic by drawing it out of his chest, reducing him to a paralytic once more. The horrified Pangborn clutched his own now useless legs and questioned why Mordo was doing this, to which Mordo declared his intention to cleanse the entire world of rogue sorcerers.
- "You lack imagination."
"No, Stephen. You lack a spine."
- ―Doctor Strange and Karl Mordo
Mordo claims to have once been a lot like Stephen Strange during the latter's first visit to Kamar-Taj - arrogant and disrespectful. After years of training and becoming a Master of the Mystic Arts, however, Mordo became more humble and wise, with a great deal of respect towards both his mentor, the Ancient One, as well as the natural laws of the universe.
However, he is also noted by the Ancient One to be rigid and unwilling to compromise, giving him a highly predictable personality. However, the Ancient One noted this gives him a strength Doctor Strange does not. He is so respectful of the natural order of things that he is unwilling to bend it under any circumstances, nor willing to tolerate others to do the same.
Mordo is strongly implied to have lived a violent past that has shaped his present views on violence. Unlike most who sought the Ancient One out to be healed, Mordo sought the Ancient One to gain the power to kill his enemies. Mordo would become grateful to the Ancient One for not only giving him this power but teaching him to suppress his demons and live fighting for an honorable cause. As a warrior for the Masters of the Mystic Arts, Mordo was unafraid of conflict, or even of killing, as he was used to fighting for his life and to defend reality from rogue sorcerers. When Strange expressed disgust over killing Lucian Aster, Mordo called him a coward for not having the spine to do what must be done and stated that he would have done it without hesitation. Mordo also mentioned at this moment that Strange had no idea of the violence Mordo had committed; further implying a violent past.
Unfortunately, his single-minded adherence to the laws of nature and his lack of hesitation to kill narrowed his perspectives, as he claimed that there was no other way to defeat their enemies besides killing, which led Strange to accuse him of lacking imagination, and later prove him wrong by defeating both Dormammu and Kaecilius without killing either of them. Ultimately, Mordo's inflexibility proved to be his greatest flaw, as he was unable to understand that while the Ancient One did draw power from the Dark Dimension, which she had forbidden, she did so because she believed it was necessary to protect the world.
Upon learning that the Ancient One had secretly been harnessing energy from the Dark Dimension, and after Strange manipulated time to defeat Kaecilius and the Zealots (thereby going against the universe's natural laws) Mordo becomes disillusioned and embittered by what he sees as a betrayal of the order's supposed purpose, and proceeds to leave the order. He began to believe that one of the root problems of the world was having too many sorcerers, and thus his purpose was to rid the world of sorcerers who misused their powers, broke natural laws and unwilling to help defend reality, which led to him attacking Jonathan Pangborn and stripping him of his power, which the latter used to only make himself able to walk, ignoring the responsibility of defending reality. As he made attacking sorcerers his new purpose regardless of innocence or guilt, it could be said that, just as the Ancient One once told Mordo that humans only learn to live above their demons, Mordo had fallen back down to the level of his own demons once again.
Powers and Abilities
Master Sorcerer: Mordo was known to be one of the most powerful and skilled members of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, possessing a considerable mastery of the mystic arts and magical power, which he uses to defend his native reality. With the help of numerous mystical artifacts and relics, in addition to his astral powers, Mordo is able to gain access to a multitude of mystical powers.
- Eldritch Magic Manipulation: Mordo is able to create, shape, and manipulate Eldritch Magic.
- Portal Creation: Using a Sling Ring, Mordo is able to open a fiery portal to another location, gaining ability to move tremendous distances instantaneously.
- Interdimensional Travel: Using the same Sling Ring, Mordo can travel between different dimensions of the Multiverse, crossing over different planes of existence or traveling across various forms of reality.
- Portal Creation: Using a Sling Ring, Mordo is able to open a fiery portal to another location, gaining ability to move tremendous distances instantaneously.
- Astral Projection: Mordo is able to separate his astral form from his body, gaining access to the Astral Dimension.
- Power Absorption: Mordo can absorb magical energies from other sorcerers. Mordo demonstrates this ability when he strips Jonathan Pangborn of his magic, rendering him a paraplegic once more.
- Master Martial Artist: Mordo is a highly proficient martial artist, in both armed and hand-to hand combat. He managed to easily defeat three Nepalese thugs, quickly outduel the inexperienced and not fully trained Stephen Strange in a sparring session, take on Kaecilius and overpower two Zealot sorcerers, as well as easily incapacitate Jonathan Pangborn when he tried to defend himself from Mordo's attack.
- Staff of the Living Tribunal: A pole weapon which is used by Mordo as a melee weapon. It is able to extend and become segmented like chain-links, allowing it to be used as a flail or whip. When in use, it radiates orange sparks and exerts extreme amounts of force, enough to send others flying though the air. Mordo even used it to swing from a structure while battling Kaecilius's followers on a scaffold, showing it can hold a person's weight without breaking.
- Sling Ring: A mystical object which enables the wearer to open a fiery portal to another location.
- Vaulting Boots of Valtorr: Boots imbued with a power to increase the wearer's leaping ability and are also capable of allowing the wearer to walk and run on air, as well as to nullify the adverse effects of impacts from high landings. When the boots' power is invoked, they emit orange sparks from the footfalls.
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- In the comics, Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo was a Transylvanian nobleman and a student of the Ancient One, until he betrayed and tried to kill him. He once served Dormammu in order to receive additional power in order to kill Doctor Strange, thus making him Strange's archnemesis.
Behind the Scenes
- Kevin Feige stated they did not make Mordo the villain of Doctor Strange because "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 are 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."
- Although Mordo did become a villain following his disillusionment with Strange and Ancient One's ways, he was given different character development for the same reason.
- Gary Oldman and Mads Mikkelsen were considered for the role.
- Lee Admassie and Liam Henry were stand-ins for Chiwetel Ejiofor in the role of Karl Mordo.