Doctor Strange is returning to the big screen in 2021’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme will have a new face behind the camera when his next adventures begins production.
Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson surprised just about everyone with the January 9 announcement that he was leaving Multiverse of Madness due to “creative differences” with Marvel Studios. His exit occurs mere months before cameras were expected to begin rolling on the film, prompting plenty of questions about the circumstances behind his sudden departure and what it could mean for the character’s much-anticipated second solo feature.
Although Derrickson’s exit will certainly have Marvel Cinematic Universe fans pondering what might have been for years to come, it also leaves a big question hovering over one of the studio’s biggest upcoming projects: Who will Marvel find to replace Derrickson?
Looking back on Marvel’s past directorial directions, what we know about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, these five filmmakers each seem capable of casting exactly the sort of spell the Doctor Strange sequel needs.
A frequent collaborator with Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish co-wrote the script for Ant-Man with Wright before the latter’s exit from the film way back when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy. Although there still might be some bad blood there, there’s no denying Cornish’s fit for a film like Multiverse of Madness.
His first feature was the criminally underappreciated sci-fi horror film Attack the Block (featuring future Star Wars actor John Boyega and future Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker), and his latest project was the similarly underappreciated fantasy adventure The Kid Who Would Be King. Both films put his knack for blending humor, horror elements, and imaginative action sequences on full display, as well as his ability to draw the most out of his talented cast members.
Like many of the directors Marvel has chosen over the years, Cornish isn’t a household name at this point in his career, despite making some well-respected films both as a director and writer. Multiverse of Madness could easily become the project that changes that in a big way.
If Marvel is looking to follow the same path with Multiverse of Madness that made Derrickson seem (and prove to be) such an inspired choice, horror filmmaker Gary Dauberman feels like a more than appropriate successor behind the camera. After writing and co-writing a long list of well-received horror films including It (and It: Chapter Two), the Annabelle films, and The Nun, Dauberman made his directorial debut with 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home — a well-reviewed installment of the demonic doll franchise that earned him quite a bit of a praise from horror fans.
If Dauberman’s resume sounds familiar, it’s because it has a lot in common with Derrickson’s own pre-Doctor Strange profile. Both directors cut their teeth in the horror genre as writers, then directors, and if Marvel wants to try replicating the success of Doctor Strange and what Derrickson brought to it, Dauberman seems like an obvious choice. His involvement would also seemingly make Derrickson’s proclamation that it would be Marvel’s first horror movie more plausible, given his affinity for dark, terrifying film fare.
It seems unlikely that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Godzilla director Gareth Edwards would have the ability to jump right into a project like Multiverse of Madness, but stranger things have happened in Hollywood, and it’s hard to ignore just how perfect he’d be behind the camera. He’s only directed three feature-length theatrical films, but they’ve all been hits in one way or another. There was the moody, creature-fueled, cross-country travelogue of 2010’s Monsters, then the massive, city-stomping spectacle of 2014’s Godzilla, and most recently, the franchise-expanding war drama of 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Not only do these projects show his skill at crossing between genres and finding ways to surprise us, but they — particularly Rogue One — suggest he can work within the structure of an established franchise. Few movie sagas are as tightly controlled as Star Wars, but the MCU might be a close second. Edwards is already familiar with the Disney environment, and Multiverse of Madness could be a tantalizing opportunity for him to test the storytelling possibilities of yet another universe.
Warner Bros. Pictures’ first choice to direct Wonder Woman, Michelle MacLaren eventually left that film due to … wait for it … creative differences with the studio. The reason for her departure reportedly involved plans for the project that were much, much grander in scope than what the studio envisioned for the character’s solo debut. That sort of epic vision would be right at home in a film like Multiverse of Madness, which promises to blow open the MCU and would likely give MacLaren the freedom to go big in the way that origin stories generally aren’t able to do.
No stranger to genre fare, MacLaren has made a name for herself as a director on Westworld, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, and even won a pair of Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on Breaking Bad. She’s long past due for a big-budget film that lets her showcase her considerable talents as a filmmaker, and Multiverse of Madness feels like exactly the sort of film she can knock out of the park.
Vincenzo Natali first attracted attention for his innovative (and memorably gory) 1997 sci-fi horror film Cube, and he continued to mine the dark potential of science and technology with projects like 2009’s Splice, as well as episodes of Orphan Black and Westworld. He’s shown a knack for tapping into our collective unease with humanity’s darker side in episodes of Hannibal he directed and most recently brought Stephen King and Joe Hill’s In the Tall Grass to Netflix as a haunting — and incredibly disturbing — feature-length adaptation.
All of that just goes to show that if Marvel wants to go all-in on creepy horror flavored by modern sci-fi and supernatural dread, Natali could be an inspired choice to fill the director’s chair on Multiverse of Madness. Natali is already a well-known director among fans of arthouse and festival genre movies, so Marvel could earn some substantial cred by giving him the reins (or as much of the reins as they’ll allow) on a project like Multiverse of Madness, and his dark, surreal aesthetic could be just the right ingredient to make the film something special in the MCU.
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