One of the things that sets Dr. Strange apart from other superheroes are the sorts of enemies he faces on a regular basis. The Avengers deal with alien invasions, killer robots, and villains bent on world domination. The Guardians of the Galaxy deal with galactic conquerors and forces that can blow up entire planets. Spider-Man deals with super-powered street crime that threatens New York, and occasionally dips his toe into the same arena as the Avengers. You get the idea.
Dr. Strange, though, deals with extra dimensional threats. Sure, he sometimes combats dangerous sorcerers, such as Baron Mordo or Nicodemus West, but frequently those sorcerers are in thrall to greater powers. Most of Strange’s villains are beings from beyond bent on destroying, consuming, or dominating our entire reality, or even multiple realities. Demons, dimensional warlords, Lovecraftian horrors, these are the threats that keep Dr. Strange up at night, feverishly preparing for the next confrontation. Among these threats, one foe stands out as Strange’s nemesis: The Dread Lord of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu.
Dormammu, in his comics’ backstory, was originally an energy being who was obsessed with physical matter and the sensations of the flesh. For this fascination, considered disturbing by his kindred, he was banished from his home dimension. The new reality he found himself in was a strange place which held far more solid matter than his own. Using this matter he fashioned himself a body and discovered his own innate energies not only made him extremely powerful but also allowed him to easily draw upon another form of energy: magic. Using this newfound power he ingratiated himself with the local ruler, swiftly overthrew him, and started a campaign of conquest. Soon he had taken control of the entire dimension and began expanding into other ones, absorbing them into his domain, creating a Frankenstein reality composed of multiple dimensions stitched together. Each dimension held its own magical energy and as he claimed more and more, Dormammu’s power swelled.
These combined dimensions became collectively known as the Dark Dimension, a universe full of numerous sapient beings from different realities, all thrown together by Dormammu’s interference. It is a place of diverse cultures and unstable physics, where the laws of nature could vary wildly from one region to another, acting very differently from what we might expect. Dormammu ruled this bizarre and colorful creation as an iron-fisted godking. It is his tyranny that made it truly a dark dimension, not in aesthetics, but in spirit:
Dormammu’s interdimensional war of expansion eventually brought him to the borders of our own reality, and in turn, into conflict with that reality’s mystical defender, Dr. Strange. In their first encounters Dormammu frequently worked through Baron Mordo as a puppet, lending the evil sorcerer a degree of his power and promising him grand rewards. In turn Mordo attempted to give Dormammu a foothold in our dimension while weakening Dr. Strange (and his mentor, The Ancient One) who opposed Dormammu and his plans of invasion. Mordo proved an unsatisfactory servant, however, and as time went on Dormammu challenged Strange himself more and more, with the Sorcerer Supreme often relying on trickery to foil his vastly more powerful opponent.
To date Dormammu has not been cast or mentioned as appearing in the Dr. Strange movie. There were some rumors back when it was first announced that Mads Mikkelsen would be in the movie that he might play Strange’s nemesis, but those seem to have been shot down. Recent comments from MCU godfather Kevin Feige indicate that Mikkelsen will be playing a human sorcerer of some kind, whose identity has not yet been guessed. However, he has also said that we will see glimpses of The Dark Dimension in the film.
What this most likely means is that we will see something of a slow burn on Dormammu. He’s Strange’s archenemy, so it makes sense to save him for a future installment that can be more about their rivalry and less about Strange’s own origins. Still, we may get hints pointing in that direction. The Dark Dimension is one of the more notable locales in the Dr. Strange comics, but there are other weird and exotic dimensions he travels to. We may see glimpses of the Dark Dimension among others, considering that dimensional travel is apparently a big part of the movie.
It’s been mentioned that a major plot point will be scary things in these other dimensions who may threaten to enter our own due to the plans of Mikkelsens’ character. Dormammu certainly fits the bill of “scary thing from another dimension” so he may be hinted at here, his name dropped or his fiery silhouette seen. Given that Baron Mordo seems to be more of a good guy in this movie we may also see hints at his fall from grace, perhaps calling on the Dread Lord for power in his spells. It’s also entirely possible that we’ll see The Mindless Ones, dangerous inhabitants of a dimension who Dormammu conquered, only to realize they were so dangerous that he had to keep them permanently sealed off in a distant corner of the Dark Dimension. Occasionally he has been known to unleash them upon his enemies. Their massive size and strength, combined with their ability to fire powerful magical blasts from their cycloptic “eyes” could make for a good action scene, while also hinting at Dormammu’s future involvement.
The biggest question may be be Dormammu’s characterization, when and if he appears. In his very early appearances, Dormammu was depicted as an enigmatic, alien figure, operating on logic inscrutable to human beings. Over time, his character in the comics changed, becoming more ego-maniacal and vain, with his arrogance and short temper often foiling his plans as much as Dr. Strange did. Yet a number of the MCU’s villains to date have been raving megalomaniacs, so it’s possible Dormammu’s personality could be altered somewhat in the adaptation to make him stand out a bit more. Perhaps they’ll go back to his earlier, more alien nature.
Regardless of which version of Dormammu the movies draw on for inspiration, we probably won’t see him until further down the line. If the first movie does well, his involvement in the second would practically be guaranteed. He’s also worth noting as a potential foe for the MCU as a whole moving forward. After the * Infinity War* movies have passed, Marvel may be looking for a new villain to replace Thanos as an ongoing threat. Dormammu, with his overwhelming powers and his schemes to take over the entire universe, may be seen as a contender.