During summer 2019, Marvel Studios unveiled its slate of movies for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Amongst the list of films was a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange.
The movie – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – is set to take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and will see Benedict Cumberbatch reprise the role of Doctor Stephen Strange. As highlighted in the film’s title, this adventure will also throw the spotlight on Marvel’s oft-discussed multiverse – a space in which multiple versions of the same characters exist, albeit via different universes.
When Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was announced it was touted at the MCU’s first horror film. Scott Derrickson was to return to the director’s chair, having helmed the previous Doctor Strange movie, and all looked right with the world.
But in January 2020, four months before the movie was to begin shooting, Derrickson left the project, citing “creative differences” as the reason. Many fans began to speculate as to who would take over, as it was very clear from Marvel Studios that Derrickson’s departure would not impact the release date of May 2021.
Last night, various media outlets began to report that former Spider-Man (2002) director, Sam Raimi was in talks to take over the project. Some of the reports were conflicting – as some sites suggested it was a done deal – but so far, there has been no official confirmation from Marvel Studios.
Prior to the announcement, no one was really talking about Raimi as a potential director for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, yet now his name has been suggested, it seems like a good fit. And the more I think about it, isn’t his involvement with the Doctor Strange sequel a forgone conclusion?
As a director, Raimi has delivered both horror films (The Evil Dead trilogy (1981 – 1992) and comic book movies (The Spider-Man trilogy (2002 – 2007). He has also mixed the two together in Darkman (1990) – a dark, yet campy comic book-style caper with horror overtones.
If Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is to become the MCU’s first big step into horror films, then surely Raimi is the perfect choice? And if Marvel Studios wants to keep the film horror-lite, so not to alienate family audiences, then Raimi can easily do that too – just look to the gruesome ‘birth of Doctor Octopus’ scene in Spider-Man 2 (2004) as a prime example.
And it’s in his work on the Spider-Man films that Raimi seems like the perfect candidate. His trilogy – certainly parts I & II – demonstrated his love for the classic era of Spidey, aka the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run of Spider-Man comics, which influenced his movies.
And do you know what Lee & Ditko also worked on? Yep, Doctor Strange! The pair created the character when he first appeared in Strange Tales #110 way back in 1963.
This seems reason enough for Raimi’s hiring, but it’s not why I’m convinced the Doctor Strange sequel is set to be the director’s new gig. The reason I’m betting on it (although no money is changing hands) is because of the multiverse angle – and three elements in particular.
The Spider-Man/Multiverse connection
1) In 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, actor J.K. Simmons reprised the role of media tycoon, J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons previously played the part of Jameson in Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. This is the first link to Raimi’s Spidey films – and one that tie’s Raimi to the MCU.
2) In January, the first official trailer for Sony Pictures’ Morbius was released. The film – due out in 2020 – is set to share a multiverse connection to the MCU and if the trailer is anything to go off, Morbius will feature a nod to Spider-Man. Which version of Spidey? The Raimi version of course!
3) And finally, for this last connection, I need you to cast your mind back to 2004 and Spider-Man 2. In the film, after Doctor Otto Octavius is given four extra limbs, there is a debate in the Daily Bugle office over what to name him. Octavius is eventually called Doctor Octopus, but not before it is suggested that he be called Doctor Strange. Why doesn’t he take this name? Because J. Jonah Jameson says it has already been taken! Boom! Another multiverse connection that can now be retconned as a way to connect up the Raimi films with the MCU.
Until Raimi is officially given the job as director of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, fans (including myself) can only speculate on his potential hiring. For me, it seems like it is now a done deal, but until we get word from Marvel Studios/Disney, we can only imagine the possibilities.