Recently, we got confirmation on the news that prompted me to write thousands of words about how God and Sony were wrong to take Spider-Man 4 away from us: Sam Raimi is officially directing Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Sam Raimi, the guy who brought us the Evil Dead trilogy, the Spider-Man trilogy, and such underrated cult classics as The Quick and the Dead, Darkman, and A Simple Plan is making his return to the director's chair with an upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe flick.
On paper, it's right up his alley. The dude has directed superhero movies before, so adding one more brick to that house seems like something he'd be comfortable with. But when you look deeper, it's actually a little monumental.
See, Raimi kind of invented the modern superhero flick as we know it. Sure, we'd gotten superhero films before 2002's Spider-Man, but they feel like different branches on the genre's evolutionary tree. Richard Donner's Superman showed a love for the titular character, but its sequels quickly became muddled by the slapstick comedy that was violently rammed into them at every opportunity. Tim Burton's Batman definitely set the standard for the merchandising bonanzas that these films would become, but his vision for the Dark Knight was idiosyncratic and singular.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Blade is amazing, but its R rating is something that superhero filmmakers are still nervous about. And X-Men definitely features heroism on a grand scale, but seems more interested in pleasing people high off late 90s action films like The Matrix. But Spider-Man, with its goofy earnestness, showed a real love for its source material, particularly the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics from the early 60s. It was the first superhero movie to look at comics like they were story-making mythology, rather than polite screenwriting suggestions. It was the first film in its genre to say "Okay, comic fans. This one is for you."
And while most of the films of the MCU feel vastly different from Spider-Man (They're more openly self-aware, move at a much quicker pace, and sadly seem a little hesitant to sometimes let a genuine moment play out, often inserting bits of snark so that audiences don't get bored with all the characterization,) they're also very dedicated to making comic fans feel at home. Their whole goal, aside from helping Disney establish an entertainment empire that will one day be the only business on earth, is to replicate the extended universe found in the comics and give us a world where all the action figures are in one place, rather than scattered across the studio wasteland.
And I think Dr. Strange 2 is an appropriate fit for a comeback tour, because he's a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creation that has managed to retain a lot of the Lee/Ditko-ness. While Peter Parker has, over the course of the Amazing Spider-Man films and the MCU ones, been turned into kind of an affable trust fund kid (a far cry from the clumsy and borderline alien nerd that Tobey Maguire played him as), Dr. Strange is still the cool, intelligent, yet pretty full-of-himself super sorcerer that he was in those original comics. And since Raimi seems extremely comfortable in that specific time period sandbox, I imagine he'll bring the same sincere reverence that he brought to Spider-Man nearly twenty years ago.
But just as important as that is the horror aspect, and while MCU emperor Kevin Feige has made it clear that Dr. Strange 2 won't quite be a straight-up horror film but rather a superhero movie with "scary sequences in it," this isn't a reason to protest. Because that's pretty much what Raimi's Spider-Man films were. Hell, remember the Dr. Octopus hospital scene, which duels the train fight for the right to be the best scene in Spider-Man 2? That was basically a miniature slasher film, and yet it fits neatly into a movie that's mostly about Spider-Man saving people and looking longingly at Kirsten Dunst.
Remember Army of Darkness? That's a fantasy film with some really rad horror sequences in it. The same goes for Darkman. Creating movies that aren't really horror films yet feature some incredibly spooky shit in them is kind of Raimi's MO. He can make it work. He's also not out of practice, considering his last two films were Drag Me To Hell and Oz The Great And Powerful, which are kind of a one-two combo of the low-budget horror that Raimi excels at and the big-budget blockbuster that I'm sure studios wish he'd do more of.
Also, Bruce Campbell wants to be a part of it, and if it's anything like his cameos in the Spider-Man films, I can't wait for him to show up. The way he says "I love it. Romance. I am French" in Spider-Man 3 is low-key one of the best line readings of all time and I'm so excited for him to play a bartender than Dr. Strange meets who is a jerk for no reason.
Finally, it's nice to see Raimi confident to work with Marvel again after he poured so much energy into Spider-Man 4, only for it to not happen. Having big projects like that go under can be kind of crushing, and Raimi likely isn't returning to the comic book well JUST for the money (he probably makes a decent bit with the cheaper horror films he's produced like Don't Breathe and Crawl that have been hits at the box office). I tend to get excited about MCU films, not based on the characters, but on the people behind the camera, and with my intense, not-at-all-unhealthy love for Sam Raimi, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has become a must-see.
And, if my 2022 fan fiction goes according to plan, it will make a billion dollars and Sony will be all like "Okay, please make Spider-Man 4 for us," and Raimi, having said that he thinks about the film all the time, will be like "Okay, if you want me to..." and I'll go to the movie theater to see it and clap the entire time and get kicked out in the opening 7 minutes.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for stuff on the internet. He has a Twitter, but who doesn't, ya know?
Top Image: Marvel Studios