The best thing about next year's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is that Spider-Man director Sam Raimi is making it. His return to directing Marvel movies wasn't always a sure thing, though, especially after the heated reaction to 2007's Spider-Man 3.
Raimi talked about how much the response to the film affected him in conversation with Collider. "I didn't know that I could face it again because it was so awful, having been the director of Spider-Man 3. The Internet was getting revved up and people disliked that movie and they sure let me know about it. So, it was difficult to take back on."
Spider-Man 3 was famously criticized for having too many villains, and being tonally uneven, with an 'emo' symbiote-infected Peter Parker becoming the subject of memes. Raimi originally intended the movie to feature Sandman – but producers pushed for the film to feature both Gwen Stacy and Venom. The result was, tragically, the last Spider-Man movie Raimi made before Sony rebooted them with The Amazing Spider-Man series.
Still, the Doctor Strange sequel appealed to Raimi because he loved the character, and Scott Derrickson's effort on the first movie. "But then, I found out that there was an opening on Doctor Strange 2. My agent called me and said, 'They're looking for a director at Marvel for this movie and your name came up. Would you be interested?' And I thought, 'I wonder if I could still do it.' They're really demanding, those types of pictures. And I felt, 'Well, that's reason enough.' I've always really liked the character of Doctor Strange. He was not my favorite, but he was right up there with the favorites."
That's why Raimi said yes. You might remember that Doctor Strange had a small mention in Spider-Man 2, when the editors of the Daily Planet were trying to dream up a name for Doc Ock.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will star Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor. You'll be able to see it on March 25, 2022. Other than Spider-Man: No Way Home, it's the Marvel movie that's shrouded in the most mystery right now – especially as we're slowly piecing together what the multiverse looks like in these movies following the Loki finale.
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Whatever happened to Spider-Man 4 and 5?
Spider-Man 3 is a strange film in retrospect, and the meddling of producers is fairly obvious in the finished product. You sense that had the film entirely followed Raimi's creative instincts, it might have lived up to its predecessors, which arguably remain the two most influential movies of the entire genre. Raimi included Venom to please the fans, ultimately, but ended up irritating them instead.
In 2008, Raimi and actor Tobey Maguire signed up to make both Spider-Man 4 and 5 at the same time, and the fourth movie reportedly targeted a 2011 release date.
Raimi pulled out in 2010 because he didn't think he could make the release date and maintain the film's creative integrity, according to a Deadline report. It sounded like the script had issues that were never truly resolved – but they got far along enough that at one point, Maguire mentioned that filming was set to begin in February 2010.
Raimi wanted John Malkovich to play the Vulture in the film, while studio Sony was reportedly pushing for Anne Hathaway to star in the film as Black Cat.
When the project collapsed, Sony made The Amazing Spider-Man movies instead, which really had nothing on Raimi's movies – though Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were excellent in both of them.
All of Spider-Man's live-action stars are rumored to converge when Spider-Man: No Way Home releases in December. For a long time, speculation has been rife that Maguire and Garfield will both appear in the film alongside Tom Holland.
Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will mark the next MCU theatrical release after the third Spider-Man film, which seems weirdly symbolic.