How the cast of Doctor Strange should really look

As the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel universe, Doctor Strange has a long and pretty weird history. As a result, the makers of the Doctor Strange movie faced a real challenge to bring the psychedelic magicians of the comics into the more down-to-earth Marvel film universe. Some movie characters are almost unrecognizable, while others stick pretty close to their comics counterparts.

Note: this article contains some spoilers for Doctor Strange. Don't say we didn't warn you!

Doctor Strange

While Marvel has hardly put a foot wrong so far, Doctor Strange does represent a bit of a gamble. Moviegoers were willing to accept a talking space raccoon and a hero played by Paul Rudd, but how will they feel about comic-style magic? The movie didn't take any chances, sticking as close to the comic book version of Strange as possible while still making the standard comic-to-movie changes we've come to expect. The character's palette has been toned down with drabber shades of blue and red. The Cloak of Levitation is a bit less pointy. (Strange makes a little offhanded jab at the traditional look at one point.) Strange's famous amulet, the Eye of Agamotto, appears as a necklace rather than a brooch. Finally, the character wears multiple belts, proving that the real magic is knowing how to properly accessorize.

The Ancient One

While Doctor Strange was definitely one of Marvel's and the year's most anticipated releases, the decision to cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One generated some heated controversy. In the comics, the Ancient One is a 500-year-old Tibetan man who tutors Doctor Strange in the mystical arts. While Tilda Swinton is almost certainly a 500-year-old mystic, she is decidedly not Tibetan, which led to accusations of whitewashing.

There was also speculation that the character's Tibetan origin had been dropped for fear of upsetting the Chinese government, which regards Tibet as an integral part of China. Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill seemed to confirm as much in an interview on the Double Toasted show: "If you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he's Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that's bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, 'Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We're not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.'" As a result, Marvel decided to make the Ancient One Celtic in origin, with the character's Buddhist-inspired costume dropped in favor of some generic magical robes.


The Marvel movies so far haven't exactly been full of strong Asian characters — and nobody expected the role of Wong to change that. In the comics, he's the loyal servant who makes the tea and trains Strange in martial arts. The character was so underwhelming that Marvel originally planned to leave him out of the movie entirely. But when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One, Marvel found itself making a movie set partly in Asia but with no Asian characters. As a result, the role of Wong was brought back and beefed up into a skilled magician in his own right. Actor Benedict Wong was cast to give the character a more imposing presence than his retiring comics counterpart, telling Den Of Geek that "I'm certainly not going to be the tea-making manservant. We're heading in a different direction. … There isn't any martial arts for Wong in Doctor Strange actually, he's more of a drill sergeant to Kamar-Taj. He's one of the masters of sorcery."


Baron Karl Mordo is usually considered Strange's archenemy, but only because he got there first. He's simply not a very interesting character in the comics, which portray him as a cliched supervillain, noted more for zany schemes and melodramatic dialogue than any degree of emotional depth. Since Marvel has traditionally struggled to create memorable movie villains (you could probably switch the bad guys from Guardians Of The Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World without too many people noticing), they decided to take Mordo in a different direction.

Instead of a villain, Mordo was an ally of Strange and the Ancient One in the movie adaptation. Classically trained actor Chiwetel Ejiofor was recruited to bring some gravitas to the role, telling Screenrant that he was "really trying to create something that's very three-dimensional and a person who has a real history." As a result, the character's look was toned down, with his usual villainous spandex replaced by some muted robes. In shots from the trailers, we saw him wearing a baton and charging into battle alongside Strange, which suggested that he'd be more of a hands-on fighter than in the comics. And we certainly weren't disappointed in terms of fighting. It'll be interesting to see if Mordo's wardrobe changes significantly in any sequels.


Fans were surprised when Mads Mikkelsen was cast as the villainous Kaecilius, mostly because hardly anyone had actually heard of Kaecilius, an extremely minor character who made a few early appearances as a henchman of Baron Mordo. He did once face off against Strange, but that was only with the aid of extra powers granted to him by Mordo. The character's one post-1960s appearance came in 1982, when he disguised himself as a documentary filmmaker to sneak into Strange's house. (The good doctor wasn't fooled for a moment.) Since the character was so obscure, the filmmakers were able to remake him almost entirely. In the movie, Kaecilius is a former disciple of the Ancient One who breaks away and forms his own sect over philosophical differences. The character's ridiculous costume from the comics is gone and Mikkelsen plays the character as a sinister "man of ideas" instead of the sniveling sidekick from the comics.

Kaecilius's eyes

Kaecilius's eyes are his most distinctive new feature in the movie. The skin around his eyes seems to crack and fall away, revealing a lava-like second skin hidden underneath. This creates the impression of some monstrous entity lurking beneath the surface, using Kaecilius's human features as a mask. The question is, why make Mikkelsen's character Kaecilius and then change everything about him instead of just creating a new character? In the comics, Kaecilius's main role is as a henchman, working for more powerful characters like Mordo. At one point, Mordo even takes control of his mind to work through him. In the movie, it's not exactly clear where the line is drawn between the person of Kaecilius and the corruption of the dark magic that caused the change to his eyes, so we don't know how much the dark magic was controlling him and how much he was just feeding on its power. Is Kaecilius still a "villain"? Mikkelsen told Yahoo that he doesn't see the character as a villain, but simply "a man who believes in something else than the hero."

Christine Palmer

Rounding out the Doctor Strange cast is Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. The character originally appeared in Night Nurse, a 1970s Marvel series following the adventures of three young nurses working at a New York hospital. The series didn't last long, but it became something of a cult classic, and the character Linda Carter made a number of appearances as in other comic books, adopting the "Night Nurse" name for her work treating injured superheroes. However, Christine Palmer largely faded into obscurity (except for a brief fling with Nightcrawler in the early 2000s) until Marvel decided to resurrect her for the movie.

They made a number of changes to the character, who is now a surgeon and an old friend/flame of Strange's. Marvel boss Kevin Feige told Slashfilm that the studio went with Palmer over one of Strange's supernatural love interests from the comics because "we wanted a grounded character … somebody that could be his anchor to the real world." She also won't be adopting the "Night Nurse" persona used by Linda Carter, although Feige did hint that the studio might consider it for the sequels. All of which makes it somewhat puzzling that the studio chose Palmer over Carter, who actually did date Strange in the comics.