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Did Sam Raimi Just Confirm He's Directing Doctor Strange 2?

When it was reported in February 2020 that Sam Raimi was in talks to direct the second Doctor Strange movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a wave of excitement rippled through the Marvel fandom. After all, the kind of weirded-out, trippy, otherworldly imagery the title evokes seemed right in Raimi's wheelhouse, the director having made his name bringing eldritch horrors to life in movies like Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and Drag Me to Hell. Who better to replace the departing Scott Derrickson and supervise Stephen Strange's next adventure than Raimi?

Well, that wave may be set to become a tsunami. In the midst of an interview for an entirely different project, Raimi appears to have offhandedly confirmed that he's got the job. 

While talking to ComingSoon.net about his upcoming Quibi anthology horror series, 50 States of Fright, Raimi was asked about a Doctor Strange reference he dropped into his second Spider-Man flick, 2004's Spider-Man 2. In his answer, Raimi spoke in a way that indicated those aforementioned talks were successful, and that he is, in fact, fully on board for a journey to the Multiverse of Madness.

Could even Stephen Strange unknot this tangled web of intrigue? Let's dive in, true believers.

Sam Raimi and the Casual Confirmation

In the interview in question, Raimi was asked about a scene in Spider-Man 2 in which J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) is brainstorming nicknames for the tragically villainous Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) with a Daily Bugle staffer played by Ted Raimi, Sam's brother. A few doctor-related monikers are tossed out before Ted Raimi's character suggests "Doctor Strange," to which Jameson replies, "That's pretty good. But it's taken!" It was a fun little nod to a larger Marvel universe at a time when that wasn't really a thing at the movies.

Raimi, too, thought of it that way. "When we had that moment in Spider-Man 2, I had no idea that we would ever be making a Doctor Strange movie, so it was really funny to me that, coincidentally, that line was in the movie," he told ComingSoon.net. "I gotta say, I wish we had the foresight to know that I was going to be involved in the project." 

Admittedly, it's an offhand statement, but the wording involved seemingly confirms that Raimi's involvement in the sequel to 2016's Doctor Strange has progressed well beyond the speculative stage and into locked territory. It's also set to get Marvel fans excitedly imagining just what a Sam Raimi-crafted Marvel movie will look like.

Doctor Strange vs. the Sophomore Slump

When it arrived in 2016, Doctor Strange seemed like a gamble for Marvel Studios. First, it was the initial introduction of "magic" into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there was some question as to whether fans would get on board. Second, it had as its director journeyman Scott Derrickson, whose prior work was in lower-budget horror fare like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. Thanks to a winning performance by Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, competent work by Derrickson, and an ever-steady hand from producer Kevin Feige, it proved a success — clocking an 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and netting over $677 million worldwide.

Doctor Strange went on to appear in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but this being the MCU and franchise films being what they are, talk of giving the character his own sequel was inevitable. Feige confirmed it in a big way at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, announcing the out-there title Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and revealing that Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch would be featured in it. 

From that time, though, things got a little dicey. First, Feige walked back comments he'd made at SDCC indicating that the film would dip its toe into the horror genre, stating instead that it would carry on the Marvel tone with just a few scary scenes. Then, in January 2020, Derrickson departed as director – citing that old saw, creative differences, as his reason for leaving. Things seemed a little uncertain, especially in the context of the typically well-greased Marvel machine.

Sam Raimi in the Marvel Movie Maelstrom

Raimi's hiring, assuming it's locked in, would appear to wipe that uncertainty entirely off the map. He's generally thought to be the director who best handled a Marvel property before the MCU existed, with the first two of his Spider-Man movies captivating audiences worldwide in an era when superhero movies were no sure thing. The gonzo horror stylings he put on display in the Evil Dead series also seem to fit particularly well with the type of eldritch atmosphere conjured by artist Steve Ditko in classic Doctor Strange comics. Even Derrickson has chimed in with an endorsement for Raimi, tweeting, "I've worked with Sam Raimi. One of the nicest people I've known in the film business, and as a director, a true living legend. What a great choice to take over Doctor Strange."

Of course, nothing is certain, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does have some questions to answer. How will Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) — set up as a future villain at the end of Doctor Strange and already confirmed to be returning — factor into things? Will Raimi's idiosyncratic style mesh cleanly with Feige's firm-handed vision for the overall MCU? How will the rumored connections to Disney+ series WandaVision come into play? All of these pieces and more will have to fall into place for the film to be a success, but the apparent hiring of Raimi is a great first step in creating a brighter future for Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for (a later-than-originally-planned) release on November 5, 2021.