Benedict Cumberbatch is all set to expand our minds next spring with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — a direct sequel to the character's 2016 origin film. Following creative differences with Marvel Studios last year, Scott Derrickson opted not to return as director. His replacement? Spider-Man veteran and horror maven Sam Raimi, who completely started from scratch with screenwriter Michael Waldron (head writer and executive producer on Loki).
During a recent Zoom conversation with SYFY WIRE, Waldron laughed when we prompted him for any kind of teaser about the top-secret follow-up, which wrapped up its U.K. production in April. "It’s a Sam Raimi movie," he told us. "That’s the best tease I could give you."
Raimi hasn't sat in the director's chair since 2013's Oz the Great and Powerful, preferring to serve as executive producer on a number of horror/thrillers projects such as Don't Breathe, Crawl, and The Unholy. However, it's only fitting that his first directorial credit in almost a decade is for a movie that brings him back to the Marvel Universe. Aside from the Evil Dead trilogy, Raimi's trio of Spider-Man films (released between 2002 and 2007) is what he's most famous for.
And despite the fact that comic book movies have greatly evolved since Spider-Man 3, it sounds like Raimi hasn't lost his panache for high camp and striking imagery that are never too far from the filmmaker's hair-raising roots. He's a Nexus being in his own right, capable of juggling the convergence of light-hearted tone and genuine scares. Exactly what you want out of a movie billed as the MCU's first overt horror flick, especially when there's a good chance that movie might very well introduce Lovecraftian entities of Strange canon like Shuma-Gorath.
"It’s a thrill ride," Waldron continued. "It’s a thrill ride with heart like you’d expect from a Sam Raimi superhero movie. Sam’s a genius and the way he moves the camera is really exciting and he’s not afraid to take chances. I think it’s gonna be a really cool experience for everybody."
Unable to give up specific plot details, the writer said he was excited by "all the cool sci-fi and fantasy stuff you can do with Doctor Strange." Taking the same approach he used for Loki, Waldron asked himself: ‘How can you go deeper into the character of Stephen Strange?’ This is a guy who’s been through a lot in the last several years. What effect does that have on somebody so powerful? That’s exciting. And beyond all that, he’s just a great adventurer — a great adventure hero you just like to watch kick ass."
In addition to providing a deeper understanding of the Sorcerer Supreme, Waldron also had to work Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) into the story. Fresh off her magical experiences in Westview, the Scarlet Witch will have a greater grasp on her terrifying abilities, thanks to the Darkhold. As we're seeing in Loki, the multiverse is in critical danger of ripping apart at the seams and due to her status as an incredibly powerful Nexus being, Wanda is one of the few heroes who can help rectify the situation. Let's just hope she's on Strange's side.
Waldron explained that he made sure to treat Wanda's character "with reverence" while writing the Multiverse of Madness script. "As I think you had to because WandaVision was so good and we were making Doctor Strange as WandaVision was releasing," he said. "I had conversations with [WandaVision head writer/EP] Jac Schaeffer and really collaborated with her on this next chapter and then working with Lizzie Olsen as well to make sure we were doing justice to the character. So, you’ve gotta honor what came before and also be bold in your own choices and just trust that you’re doing something cool."
Waldron's collaboration with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige won't end with Loki or Multiverse of Madness. In January of this year, it was confirmed the writer had been tapped to write a mysterious Star Wars project for Feige and Lucasfilm, which was first announced in November 2019.
"It’s a mystery. It’s in space!" Waldron told us. "It’s such early days on that one. I have been so plugged into Doctor Strange. I think that’s just one of those things time will tell how all of that stuff comes together."
The man is good with protecting spoilers, alright. He can't reveal any specifics just yet, so we try and different tact and ask what he loves most about the galaxy far, far away.
"I think Star Wars [has] great stories about families — a family of characters and I guess literal families as well," he concluded. "It’s just great characters. It’s like anything else. The same reason any film franchise works is great characters struggling together. It’s exciting to watch and so, I love Star Wars. I love all of it and I’m just excited… to be in that universe at all is really cool."
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness portals into theaters everywhere on March 25, 2022. No specific release date has been announced for Feige and Waldron's Star Wars project.
The first two episodes of Loki are now available to stream on Disney+, with Episode 3 slated to hit the platform this coming Wednesday (June 23). For SYFY WIRE's official recap of the show's first two installments, click here and here.