Michael Waldron knows his way around a multiverse. The writer, who broke through with Rick and Morty, has been one of the architects behind introducing the concept into the Marvel universe, having scripted the Loki series and, next, Doctor Strange 2.
Speaking to SFX Magazine for the new issue, featuring Stranger Things on the cover, Waldron explains how the multiverse is both an "opportunity" and a "trap".
"The danger is you can expand your scope too wide, and you can actually reduce the stakes if you don’t make it personal as you go bigger and wider," he says. "But the opportunity in the multiverse is to have characters confront literal ‘What ifs?’ and alternate versions of themselves and perhaps others in their lives. It’s an interesting way to hold up a mirror to characters.
"In every way, it shapes the emotional heart of the story. It has to. The multiverse isn’t just a MacGuffin where we’re like, 'Okay, this is just a kitschy thing that we’re playing with in this movie.’ If you’re faced with alternate realities and with alternate versions of yourself that has to become the emotional heart, exploring who you might be if you were a different version of yourself, if you made other choices, the right choices or the wrong choices. It’s complex stuff, emotionally, and that’s exactly why it’s so thrilling and so great for a cast as dramatically talented as this one."
Waldron adds that, preparing for the Doctor Strange sequel, literally titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he watched the original Doctor Strange multiple times.
"We looked to that first film more than anything else," he says, "because this is Doctor Strange’s story above all else. He’s been in a lot of other movies but this is his story, and his franchise. One of the first things that I did was go back to that first movie and watch it several times, really become a student of it.
"I wanted to figure out, ‘Okay, who was that character in that movie? Who was he at the end of it?’ And then, ‘Alright, so what has he been through over the course of these Avengers movies and everything else, leading through to Spider-Man?’ And that’s really where we picked up."
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You can check out the full interview with Waldron in the current issue of SFX Magazine (opens in new tab), which features Stranger Things season 4 on the cover.
Doctor Strange 2 reaches cinemas on May 5 in the UK, and theaters on May 6 in the US. For more from SFX, make sure to sign up to the newsletter, sending all the latest exclusives straight to your inbox.