Tucked into a recent Variety article about the challenges movie studios are facing when it comes to starting or relaunching production on a number of tentpole films was this little nugget: “The biggest film in pre-production that has yet to move its start date is Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Pre-production has continued remotely on the superhero film, and sources say it is still on track to start shooting in June.”
Like every other studio during the COVID-19 pandemic, Marvel has recently shut down: while the kick-off to the MCU’s Phase 4, Black Widow, is completed and awaiting a new release date, other upcoming film and streaming projects are in a different kind of limbo: Eternals is reportedly in post-production, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have all halted physical production at various stages.
Meanwhile, the Sorcerer Supreme’s second solo outing, widely speculated to be the most critical new piece in the ever-expanding MCU mosaic, has remained on track to have cameras rolling in June, despite the exit of director Scott Derrickson and the commissioning of a new script from Loki showrunner Michael Waldron. The sensational news that Sam Raimi was in talks to take over as the film’s director has yet to be officially confirmed by Marvel.
Nevertheless, pre-production has “continued remotely,” which could mean several things. Much of the pre-production on Marvel films consists of visual effects artists designing major sequences in what is called “previsualization” or “previs.” That can mean anything from modest, primitive animation to highly detailed, all-but-completed scenes, all created to make the actual filming of the live elements of those scenes — if any are even deployed — more manageable by figuring out camera direction, lighting, composition and any potential issues that could arise.
Assuming that Raimi is in fact directing, and that he and the effects teams are all able to work remotely from home workstations, progress on what are sure to be extensive visual effects sequences for Doctor Strange 2 could be moving forward relatively easily. At the same time, if the director and cast have a script in their hands, rehearsals or read-throughs can also be done via Skype or Zoom. Since Marvel is often tweaking and retooling its films throughout production, any later changes are not really a surprise.
If all this is going forward, then yes, it’s conceivable that Doctor Strange 2 could hit the ground running in June. The biggest question is: will the worst or enough of the pandemic have passed by then for Marvel to safely gather hundreds of cast and crew members in one place to begin filming? That’s a future that even the Sorcerer Supreme himself might not yet be able to see.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for release on May 7, 2021.