Scott Derrickson brought such a unique flair to Marvel’s 2016 Doctor Strange movie. Eerie and surreal, with more than a hint of the psychedelic about it, Derrickson made the big screen version of Doctor Strange worthy of the unapologetic weirdness of the character’s Steve Ditko heyday. He even managed to sneak in an obscure Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd track to make sure that we all knew what kind of trip we were on. Few MCU directors have been allowed to put their stamp on a Marvel movie as clearly as Derrickson did, which is why it was an enormous disappointment when he departed Doctor Strange 2 because of the arch-enemy of all Marvel Studios directors: creative differences (he’ll remain on as an executive producer). His apparent replacement? Variety says it might be none other than Sam Raimi.
There was no way Marvel could get away with choosing a director for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness who couldn’t bring a similar, slightly horror-tinged edge to the proceedings, and Derrickson’s departure had the Den of Geek team whispering our dream replacements to each other (Panos Cosmatos? Richard Stanley?) knowing full well that these wishes wouldn’t be granted. But Sam Raimi is probably the director with the exact pedigree necessary to make sure Doctor Strange 2 keeps one foot firmly in the astral plane, thanks to his towering Evil Dead trilogy and his 2/3rds great Spider-Man trilogy.
Variety says that Raimi is “in talks” for the director’s chair, but let’s just assume this is a lock (and hope that “creative differences” don’t end up chasing him away from Marvel as well). Marvel has been adamant that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits its May 7, 2021 release date, which means that production has to begin in earnest no later than May of this year. The studio has plenty of other dates for Marvel movies on its calendar, so if this one has to slip a little, they’ll probably be just fine. The first Doctor Strange movie conjured up $677 million at the worldwide box office with an early November release, so the Sorcerer Supreme can make bank wherever he gets stuck on the schedule.
It’s easy to imagine a corner of the multiverse where Raimi had made a Doctor Strange movie in the 1990s or early 2000s at the peak of his career. The director has a love for offbeat superheroes, having long flirted with pulp hero the Shadow (for the moment, the closest we’ve come is his excellent Darkman with Liam Neeson). Fans hoping to explore the darker corners of the MCU may have gotten their wish.
Little is known about Doctor Strange 2 (other than its evocative title), but we’ll probably see some hints of what’s to come on the Disney+ Marvel TV series WandaVision, which appears to play with alternate realities. Elizabeth Olsen will also reprise her role as Wanda/Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Both Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor are expected to return, alongside Stephen Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.