It’s hard to imagine, but there once was a time when superhero films were thought to be little more than pop entertainment. Loud and colorful, but not exactly deep, the comics films of yesteryear were not looked fondly upon be either critics or creators. But with the arrival of Nolan’s Batman series and the birth of the MCU, superhero films are now seen as vital and relevant, attracting prime talent behind and in front of the screen. One such talent is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who will be portraying Baron Mordo in this November’s Doctor Strange. The 12 Years a Slave star spoke with the Financial Times about his role in the upcoming film and how Marvel is making efforts to be inclusive.
Born in England to Nigerian parents, the Shakeperan actor is noted for the humanity and inventiveness of his performances. Ejiofor cites Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers as having helped elevate the genre and Marvel in general for creating pop cinema with something to say.
“Marvel has managed to make popular films really accessible and really good,” says Ejiofor. “I was very interested in what [screenwriter and director] Joss Whedon did with The Avengers. He’s so skilled as a writer, and he started to really split those narratives and create characters that can intersect and then splinter off into all these individual stories. I think there’s an energy there because they want to make good movies that a lot of people will like, and they feel much more open to ideas.”
Playing Baron Mordo, one Doctor Strange’s oldest foes, Ejiofor promised a new and more complex interpretation of the rogue sorcerer. As few would argue, the former disciple of The Ancient One turned villain, was:
“a very two-dimensional character”, as Ejiofor accurately puts it.
But the film has appeared to rectify this. Mordo appears, based on the trailers, to be Strange’s friend and mentor, with his path to villainy to be explored at a later date. What the film has had in mind, since the beginning stages, are the stories visuals.
“The first conversations that we had were about the visuals,” he says. “They’d already created the visual language early on and I certainly hadn’t seen anything like it.”
While little mention has been made of Ejiofor’s race regarding his casting as the traditionally white Baron Mordo, the same can not be said for his cast mate, Tilda Swinton. Speaking on the conflict that was generated by the casting of Swinton as the traditionally Tibetan character, The Ancient One, Ejiofor felt that resulting controversy and criticism was unfair.
“I think representation in cinema is a really important issue,” he says. “There are a lot of films that don’t have any representation at all, are very monocultural, and have mono ideas on what race and gender mean, and who should be stars, and who shouldn’t. Doctor Strange is just not an example of that.”
“It’s something we seem to like to do, turning perfect into the enemy of good. We let other things slide, the 85 percent of the films out there that don’t really attempt to address these issues at all. But because they have entirely white, male casts, we don’t bother to talk about them.”
What do you think? Has Doctor Strange gotten more than its fair share of criticism? Or should we not let it off the hook and proclaim it as good enough? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Source: Financial Times