So Marvel Studios might shift their recent directorial strategy somewhat and instead of hiring a younger and/or up-and-coming director as is their recent modus operandi, they may look veteran Sam Raimi’s way in replacing Scott Derrickson to direct May 2021’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Yes… that Sam Raimi...
The fan-favorite director and creator of cult-hit genre franchises...
The arguable father of the modern comic book/superhero mega-blockbuster...
The director of the precursor-to-the-Marvel Cinematic Universe - the original Sony Spider-Man trilogy...
Meaning - the film series that, to this day, some fans feel ended prematurely over budget considerations and in a wonky way led to Sony and Marvel Studios eventually agreeing to a deal to allow Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe to revive the character on the big-screen…
Now if Raimi is signed on, he may just be agreeing to direct Multiverse of Madness straightforwardly with no webs attached. But given Marvel’s own reputed description of the film, his genre chops, and often hyper-cinematic directing style, Raimi may be just what the doctor ordered (get it?) for the sequel, particularly since Derrickson bowed out of the film over creative differences.
But recent Marvel Studios history seems to suggest something of a perfect storm on the Phase 4 horizon, making Raimi’s history with Marvel films and the full circle quality of the selection something of an elephant in the room.
Why, of all directors, Raimi?
This storm takes on additional meaning considering despite their 11th hour deal that kicked the can down the road, Marvel and Sony still have something of a Spider-Man dilemma to solve over the next decade.
Now, we’ve already detailed what we think the Multiverse of Madness’ May 7, 2021 release date signals about the film that may make it more than just your typical sequel. And adding Raimi to the mix does nothing to dispel those previous assumptions.
But that theory is a good starting point to break down an admittedly crazier theory.
So let begin by cataloging the factors:
1. If Marvel is going to dive into a multiverse, it seems likely they’re not going to do it half-assed.
In 2020, the MCU’s greatest asset is the MCU itself and not any one character or franchise. It’s a safe assumption Madness was placed on the first weekend of May date (originated, by the way, by 2002's Spider-Man) because it’s going to dive fully head-first into the multiverse, which in comic book vernacular means alternate versions of their biggest characters and concepts. And not for nothing, that’s a premise they’ll also be mining in Disney+’s What If…? A show, by the way, maybe-not-so-coincidently scheduled to debut in the … wait for it … summer of 2021.
2. Sony has - in near parallel fashion to Marvel Studios - opened the door to one of Marvel Comics' most successful multiverse concepts - the Spider-Verse, which includes aspects of the Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy Spidey and continuity.
3. Marvel Studios very intentionally left their Tom Holland-Spider-Man in something of an existential crisis: His secret identity has been revealed to the world, endangering both himself and perhaps most importantly everyone around him like Aunt May, MJ, and Ned.
After Marvel Comics revealed Peter’s secret identity to the public in 2006’s original Civil War, they were astute enough to realize they needed a genie to put that back in the bottle. Tomfoolery designed to convince the world a ruse was somehow perpetrated would have been inadequate considering Peter Parker was (and still would be) Spider-Man and under suspicion for the rest of his life.
Marvel had to dip into the mystical-magical to undo it. In 2007’s “One More Day” storyline, Peter and Mary Jane made a hard deal with the devil … or Mephisto, in Marvel terms … to make the world literally forget he was Spider-Man.
The MCU needs something of that ilk to undo what Spider-Man: Far From Home did at its conclusion - which was to reveal Peter’s identity to the world. Similarly, any explanation relying on the notion that Mysterio’s albeit doctored video would be discredited to the general public would seem inadequate considering Peter Parker was a non-public entity in the MCU beforehand and … oh yeah … the Vulture independently knows his secret identity as well.
4. Despite the fact Marvel and Sony agreed to one more MCU Spider-Man sequel (maybe-not-so-coincidentally on July 21, 2021) and one more MCU appearance in addition to that, the studios still have to mutually work out Holland’s long-term Spider-future.
Sony almost certainly would like Holland’s Spider-Man to eventually serve as the connective glue of their burgeoning shared Spider-universe, leaving both a needed means to make that narrative transition for Sony and a hole to fill for Marvel Studios.
Now mix that all up together, whisk in Raimi’s potential surprise and S.O.P.-busting involvement and one last factor, and you got a recipe for a fairly tidy solution that may satisfy moviegoers and tickle fangirl and boy bones.
That last factor: 5. Marvel Studios may be entering the nostalgia-friendly phase of their existence.
No one can argue the success Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios has had building a brand new cinematic world. One could say they’ve achieved ultimate success. But almost all storytelling eventually reach the phase by which they start culling their own history to shape new stories and Marvel Studios has recently signaled they’re beginning to embrace their past, even pasts they didn’t engineer themselves.
J.K. Simmons’ surprise return as J. Jonah Jameson in Far From Home should not be overlooked as the studio’s willingness to integrate fan-favorite Marvel movie story elements of the past authored by others.
Reviving the Blade franchise in the MCU with Mahershala Ali is another indication Feige knows Marvel’s well-remembered cinematic forefathers have value to the current Marvel Studios.
So … and you’ve waited long enough … having Tobey Maguire return in Multiverse of Madness to eventually replace Holland in the MCU is a crazy notion we should all maybe not dismiss out of hand.
Still with us? Here’s how it would work (and remember, Sam Raimi is directing this), Multiverse of Madness introduces multiple Marvel alternate realities, perhaps realities including mutants (stories for another day) and the Raimi-Maguire Spider-reality.
Having established that in Madness … and this is of course assuming the details to be worked out between Sony and Marvel … then in the Spider-Man sequel that immediately follows two months later Spidey can perhaps seek out the one person in the MCU he knows who can help protect himself and his loved ones - Doctor Strange (which, by the way, also has comic book precedent).
Through a Star-Trek-ish pseudo-science explanation, Strange can perhaps reveal that he can’t just move Holland-Spidey and his loved ones into a near-identical parallel world in the multiverse where no one knows his identity, but that Peter has to take someone's place in that world and that same someone has to take Peter's place in the MCU world. Hence, a fully-mature Tobey Maguire heroically agrees to the swap, who could then assume something approximating Tony Stark’s place as the MCU’s elder genius inventor, and perhaps even public superhero, maybe even with shades of Marvel Comics’ ‘Parker Industries’ storyline of a couple of years back.
So Sony gets the younger, MCU-raised Spider-Man to anchor their own universe and a marketing boost to the original trilogy still in their catalog and Marvel Studios gets the nostalgia-fueled, still-beloved older Spider-Man to fill a narrative void and get a near-certain box office boost to Madness in the Multiverse for their troubles.
Hmmmm… that’s so crazy, it just might work.