On Wednesday, Film Twitter unleashed one its biggest gasps when Variety broke the story that Sam Raimi, director of the first Spider-Man trilogy, would be returning to Marvel to direct Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Just a month earlier they had broken the news that Scott Derrickson, who had directed the first Doctor Strange movie, had parted ways with Marvel due to creative differences. Derrickson’s departure had fans questioning what went wrong with the movie, did Marvel chicken out on the promised horror elements of the sequel? In a tweet dating back to mid-December, Derrickson mentioned that “studio release dates are the enemy of art” suggesting that he wanted more time and Marvel wanted to rush the film so it could make its May 2021 release date. But with the announcement of Sam Raimi taking over that put cold water on those rumours. After all, aside from his Spider-Man films, Raimi is most famous for his horror-comedy franchise “Evil Dead”, not too mention the numerous horror flicks he has produced, including last summer’s killer crocodile movie “Crawl”. If Marvel was getting cold feet about horror being a part of Doctor Strange than hiring the guy who stuck this scene below into a Spider-Man movie probably wasn’t the best idea.
On top of that the speculation that Marvel was rushing the film into production also doesn’t hold up due to the news that the Strange sequel is getting a re-write from “Loki” writer Michael Waldron. And no offence to Derrickson but Doctor Strange (as well as Captain Marvel whose directors are also not returning for the sequel) was one of the lesser Marvel films of recent memory, certainly not bad but nowhere near the heights of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok.
Raimi’s horror work is among the most important of the genre. His first feature “The Evil Dead”, was made on a shoestring budget but ended up spawning a franchise. Evil Dead 2 is a masterpiece in horror comedy, with slapstick violence so original and insane that it just has to be seen to be believed. Just take a look at this work of art below.
So it goes without saying that Raimi is more than a little creative with his set pieces. Marvel is known for developing their action scenes even before their writers get hired. Winter Soldier screenwriters Markus and McFeely were told their script had to have a SHIELD helicarrier crashing down for example. But with Raimi on board he’s bound to have new ideas that the current Strange draft doesn’t have. His visual style is among the most distinct of any director Marvel has hired. Even Joss Whedon, whose Avenger films have those trademark Whedon quips, wasn’t the boldest when it came to shot composition. Marvel has hired some very good writers with original takes but their films definitely have a house style, almost like how Jack Kirby defined the look of Marvel comics for nearly two decades. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a Raimi film this will feel like.
Raimi is a bold pick for Marvel, not just because his prior work with the company would have suggested he had moved on from superheroes, but also because his directing style is so distinct compared to other directors Marvel has worked with. The studio has typically chosen directors who are willing to do their job and work within the limits that Marvel has set them. Edgar Wright famously departed Ant-Man mere months before shooting due to creative differences. But the past few years have marked a change in the studio. Prior to Taiki Waititi being hired for Thor: Ragnarok, the film was pitched to audiences as the darkest Marvel movie yet. This did not end up being the case at all, and the film feels very much like Taika’s independent comedies despite the presence of multiple gods and a Hulk. Likewise Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a deeply personal film that opens and ends with scenes in Ryan’s hometown of Oakland. And James Gunn straight up completely changed the Guardians of the Galaxy characters from how they were in the comics. Will Raimi reinvent Doctor Strange as well?
Well, we’ll see. The character has already changed a fair bit between his appearance in his first film and Infinity War. The Russo Brothers and screenwriters Markus and McFeely seemed to have a far better handle on the character than Derrickson did. Not to mention the massive power up that Strange was given between the two movies. Marvel has not shied away from changing characters on a dime, the Thor of Thor: Ragnarok was a chill surfer dude, a far cry from his more Shakespearean portrayal in his previous four movies, so Raimi will be given at least a degree of freedom in altering the character.
On top of that, as per the films title, the multiverse will be explored which brings new possibilities to the table. Most importantly the potential for a cameo of Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. After the brief spat over the Spider-Man rights, Sony seems to be far more flexible with the character and Marvel has too. The trailer for Morbius showed that the film will be a part of the MCU thanks to a cameo from Michael Keaton’s Vulture. If Marvel is willing to let Sony play in their court, perhaps Sony will allow Marvel to use the original movie Spider-Man as well. Tobey Maguire hasn’t exactly been an active actor lately (his last on screen role was in 2014) but perhaps a quick payday would be enough to convince him to suit up once again. Better yet, in Sam Raimi’s un-made Spider-Man 4, Bruce Campbell was to play Mysterio (here’s official concept art below). Perhaps Campbell will finally get the chance. There’s many possibilities when dealing with alternate Earths, as the DC Universe did so just recently with Crisis on Infinite Earths, so it would be unfortunate if Marvel didn’t take advantage of some of their history.
With Sam Raimi behind the camera, Marvel seems to have found a new angle with Doctor Strange. It’s both a intriguing new choice and also a homecoming of sorts. The studio’s track record hasn’t faltered yet and its unlikely this will be the one to crack it. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for May 2021.