If there’s one thing that the MCU has become known for during Phase 4, it’s shifting around its release schedule. We just saw that yesterday when Marvel swapped the 2023 dates for Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels, and it happened a couple times last year as well, when sequels for Thor and Black Panther were moved around. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been a repeat victim of all the schedule shuffling, originally set for May 2021 before getting bumped back a few more times to account for other MCU films and shows, plus COVID and director Sam Raimi taking over after Scott Derrickson departed.
Now that Multiverse is set to hit theaters next weekend, Raimi was asked by Rolling Stone about how moving around Stephen Strange’s sequel so much affected the film’s development. Again, this movie was meant to come out last year, but is now coming relatively hot off the heels of WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home, both of which were originally meant to follow this movie. As a result of the restructuring, Home and WandaVision had to guide this film in a “really specific way,” particularly on a character level. It was important, for example, to make sure Strange wasn’t a complete idiot about the multiverse while making sure he hadn’t suddenly become an expert on it in the months since he shunted several interdimensional visitors back to their own realities.
Since much of this film also sees Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda being faced with the possibility of reuniting with her kids after her show ended with them being wiped from existence, it was definitely important to keep her as consistent as possible. Raimi rather openly admitted that he initially had no clue what the heck was going on with Wanda Maximoff over in Westview, as he and screenwriter Michael Waldron were “halfway or 3/4 into our writing process” when he even first heard of the show. When it came time to check on the show to make sure the movie’s take on the Scarlet Witch was consistent, he only saw “key moments of some episodes that I was told directly impact our storyline.” Going through those key moments, he said, helped give Wanda a proper through line and character growth that she otherwise may not have had, and promos have been slowly teeing that journey up in some creepy ways. And since he hadn’t watched the show in its entirety, he deferred to Olsen for how her character would feel and act in the moment. “She’s [Elizabeth] got to be an integral part of the storytelling, or it wouldn’t make any sense.”
It all sounds like it had the potential to be a bit of a mess, though Raimi wouldn’t go so far as to use that word. He called the overall process “chaotic, wonderful, creative,” and he now has a better understanding of what MCU writers and directors before him have been through. “It was just a cascade of ideas,” he recalled. “We’d take the best ones and quickly weave together the fabric of this universe...I guess it must be like that for all of the directors and writers of these very big Marvel properties that now have a long history.” But it wasn’t all fun and games, and he confessed to feeling fairly “panicked” at having to join on a film mid-production, with a with a predetermined deadline and script he had no real involvement in.
Fortunately, COVID also contributed to some of the film’s delays, which he thinks contributed to the film becoming a better product. Citing the previous deadlines as the “hardest part” of making Multiverse, he frankly stated that pushing the film back bought him and Waldron plenty of time, especially as they were halfway into shooting the movie and still unsure what the ending would be. In the end, things worked out, but it doesn’t sound like Raimi’s in any real mood to ever go through that again. “When you don’t quite know everything about the picture, it’s hard to do that job as effectively as possible,” he said. “We eventually got to the point where we had started shooting, even though we were still working on the script. Now I feel much more relieved. That part of the process is behind us.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters next Friday. Look for our review of the film soon.
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