11 May 22
Thanks to the magical incantation Doctor Stephen Strange reluctantly cast for Tom Holland's Peter Parker in 2021's Spider-Man: No Way Home, we now know that it is possible for different versions of the same superhero to co-exist within the same reality. It's into this weird world that we travel in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, a new vehicle for Benedict Cumberbatch's goatee-sporting spell-spinner that has Sam Raimi, director of the original Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, making his first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The three Spider-Man films Raimi directed between 2002 and 2007 triumphantly resurrected Marvel's web-slinging wall-crawler and paved the way for both Andrew Garfield's and Tom Holland's interpretations of the character. Before that, however, Raimi was better known for 1981's The Evil Dead, a dark and bloody supernatural chiller that, together with 1987's Evil Dead II and 1992's Army Of Darkness, comprised another classic big-screen triptych.
Small wonder, then, that there is a distinctly sinister vibe to this sequel, a follow-up to the original Doctor Strange from 2016 that plunges Cumberbatch's cape-clad conjuror into scary new territory. What that entails is shrouded in mystery, but we know that it will involve Stephen's sorcerer pal, Wong (Benedict Wong), his fellow Avenger, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and a teenage newcomer called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has an amazing ability to travel the multiverse. Also along for the ride is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who'll be seen reprising his role as Strange's ally turned antagonist Karl Mordo. And there'll be a comeback as well for Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), the surgeon who helped Stephen get his life back on track after that devastating car accident he suffered six years ago.
Cumberbatch, whose return to the MCU comes hot on the heels of his acclaimed and award-winning performance in The Power Of The Dog, considers Raimi "an assured pair of hands" and "a master of this genre". "There's fun in there but there should be real thrills as well," he continues. "With the first film you're always locked into a script because it's the origin story, but there was a lot more freedom this time around." Raimi, for his part, was a big fan of Scott Derrickson's original film and how it "left the character in a great place". "Scott set up a very strong foundation with great characters and visuals," he says. "So when I found out there was an opening on the film, I thought, 'I wonder if I could still do it.'"
Thanks to No Way Home, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Marvel's series Loki, we have a pretty good idea of what the multiverse is and how it works. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, however, looks set to traverse it like never before, and plunge us into a dizzying array of alternate possibilities. The early word is that Cumberbatch will be playing multiple versions of his character, among them a sinister doppelgänger, a heroic variant based on how he appeared in the Defenders comic book series and a Strange who is at least one part zombie. What's more, if the rumours are to be believed, we will also get to see an appearance by Sir Patrick Stewart, reviving his Professor X character from the X-Men movies. You may consider our minds well and truly blown. Neil Smith
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