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Why Sam Raimi is the perfect choice to direct Doctor Strange 2 (and what the MCU needs right now)

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney)

We now seemingly have confirmation that Sam Raimi is stepping into the Sanctum Sanctorum to helm Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness – the filmmaker’s first superhero movie since Spider-Man 3 nearly 15 years ago. What’s so exciting about the announcement, though, may not be obvious at first. 

Yes, we’re getting a demonstrably excellent director steering an exciting sequel, but Raimi’s appointment could mark a significant change in how Marvel constructs the MCU going forward – and it’s an appealing shift for everyone, including Marvel directors and cinema-going fans.

Marvel is changing how it picks directors

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With the greatest respect to the majority of directors who have worked with Marvel, few were big names with inimitable styles before their MCU debuts. Look back at the careers of Ryan Coogler, Captain Marvel duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi. These were all indie directors with zero blockbuster experience between them. Kevin Feige picked them up and put them on the Marvel conveyor belt, leading to a selection of great movies that follow a precision brewed recipe for superhero success. They are undeniably formulaic in places.

Step forward Sam Raimi, a brave pick that hints at Marvel leaning back towards directors with serious experience behind them. Not since Joss Whedon took on the Avengers: Age of Ultron has such a well-known name worked with Marvel Studios (though Waititi and the rest have become household names thanks to their Marvel flicks). That’s a big risk.

While Raimi probably won’t be given carte blanche on the story’s overarching direction, he certainly has enough cache to put his own trademark stamp – meshing heart with horror – on Multiverse of Madness. If the experiment goes well? Perhaps more big-time directors could come calling. Who knows – maybe we’ll end up with Spike Lee directing Blade. 

The MCU goes horror – and needs a firm guiding hand

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As the Marvel universe continues to expand at an unprecedented rate (now including multiple Disney Plus series), Feige will need experienced hands to deal with their unexpected turns into different genres. What better place to start than with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which sounds perhaps more out of Marvel’s comfort zone than any other Phase 4 movie announced so far. 

Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 that the movie will have “a twist of horror that will really have people gripped… We’re going back to try and destroy [Stephen Strange] a bit I think.” Sure, Marvel has done espionage, ‘90s throwbacks, and a post-apocalyptic nightmare where half the universe’s population is turned to dust. But splicing scares into the Sorcerer Supreme’s next adventure will be difficult – especially if they are still aiming to reach families with these blockbusters (horror, of course, being known to throw many parents off wanting to take their children to cinemas).

Scott Derrickson, who directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose before the first Doctor Strange, did not quite make his MCU debut scary. Raimi, though, has already mastered the goofy horror with Evil Dead 2. Then there’s Drag Me to Hell, a movie that will certainly keep you up all night. Plus, he brought 50 States of Fright to the mobile streaming service Quibi, which shows the director can do bite-sized campy horror primed for younger audiences to consume. 

Raimi has superhero experience

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So, Raimi has the horror experience – but also more prior superhero experience than all the other MCU directors combined. Just look at Spider-Man 2, one of the best superhero movies of all time, for good reason to trust Raimi with Doctor Strange.

The scene where Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker is unmasked and then helped by the regular folks of New York City drills into what it means to be a superhero – arguably doing so better than any other big-screen effort, Marvel or otherwise. Raimi puts emphasis on the smaller, more human aspect of saving the world that has been rarely touched upon in the MCU, and we can only hope to see the same again.

Doctor Strange desperately needs a richer world – and better villains

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

While Maguire’s Spidey was certainly the focal point of the Raimi trilogy, there’s no denying how impressive the webhead’s villains were. Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina thrived as Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus respectively, while J. K. Simmons was born to play J. Jonah Jameson, elevating the character beyond the comic book pages.

The MCU, however, does not have a great track record when it comes to rogues. Put it this way: Mads Mikkelsen should not have been a forgettable footnote in the MCU. Raimi can help flesh out characters both good and evil, and hopefully add some memorable faces to Marvel’s rogues’ gallery. 

Bring! Back! Tobey! Maguire!

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Then there’s the webbed elephant in the room. Ok, admittedly, this one’s a pipe dream. But when again will there be a chance to bring together all the live-action Spideys? Doctor Strange 2 will be about the multiverse (the clue’s in the title) and both Sony and Marvel have a deal allowing Tom Holland to appear in the MCU. Perhaps, with some sourcery, they can have Maguire’s Spidey turn up?

We can only hope that Raimi’s previous Spider-Man experience tips this possibility into reality. Raimi never got to make Spider-Man 4, but he could just have the chance to offer just a tantalising glimpse at what could’ve been if Stephen Strange strays a little too far away from Earth-616…

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GamesRadar+'s Entertainment Writer. Lover of all things Nintendo, in a tortured love/hate relationship with Crystal Palace, and also possesses an unhealthy knowledge of The Simpsons (which is of no use at parties).