There’s trouble afoot in the multiverse. Well, in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” at least. Last night, reports spread (and were later confirmed) that Scott Derrickson, the man who directed “Doctor Strange” and was tasked with helming the aforementioned sequel, has left the production, just months before the film was said to begin production. This leaves a massive hole in the world of ‘Strange’ and puts Marvel Studios in a particularly uncomfortable position.
So, what’s Marvel Studios going to do next? Obviously, the studio needs to find a replacement for Derrickson and do it fast. Someone that is willing to come into pre-production late, with no time to do a massive rewrite, and make sure filming can still happen on schedule (Lord knows the release date isn’t going to change). And while many people might think that 5 months is plenty of time to find someone, change the film a bit, and begin filming, they’re actually dead wrong. Don’t delude yourself, Marvel Studios needs someone who can come in and play the hand that was dealt and get ‘Multiverse of Madness’ going.
With that in mind, don’t expect some surprise announcement that some big-name director is signed on to bring ‘Doctor Strange 2’ to life. On social media, already, names like Jordan Peele, Phil Lord & Chris Miller, Mike Flanagan, and others have been offered up by fans as possible replacements. None of those are realistic, at all. Sorry folks, but this isn’t the opportunity for Martin Scorsese to quickly sign up to do a Marvel flick. Instead, we need to take a more realistic, calculated look at who Kevin Feige might want to call up and interview for the job.
Everyone needs to look at what happened when Edgar Wright left “Ant-Man” before production got going. Marvel Studios went out and hired Peyton Reed, a director that wasn’t high in-demand (no offense, whatsoever) that could come in, work with what was given, and turn in a fun, action-packed film. And that’s what happened. “Ant-Man,” while not the most ambitious or well-executed Marvel film, still turned into a modest hit and kickstarted a franchise that is now going into its third film (with Reed still attached).
And let’s be real, there aren’t many people out there that call “Doctor Strange” their favorite MCU film. Derrickson is a fine filmmaker and likely did the best he could, but the first solo film is simply one of the most middling Marvel films over the last decade, leaving plenty of room for improvement. (It’s fine, but how many of you are rewatching it anytime soon?) Just looking at how the mystical Doctor was handled in “Thor: Ragnarok” (probably the best use, yet), “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame” proves that there’s a good character in there somewhere and Derrickson didn’t necessarily allow for Strange to rise above simple tropes.
With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at five filmmakers that we think would not only be realistic choices for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” but would also be pretty great options to help the character move into A-list MCU status.
In a time of need, Marvel Studios might just want to go with someone they know can do the job. Well, they must think that about Kimberly Peirce, if the reports of her being on the shortlist for “Black Widow” are any indication. And her recent history behind the camera surely suggests that Peirce could be a welcome addition to the “Doctor Strange” sequel. While she hasn’t had a feature film since 2013’s “Carrie” remake (not the best, but did have some decent horror in it), Peirce has been a regular fixture behind the camera on incredible TV series such as “Halt and Catch Fire,” “I Love Dick,” “Dear White People,” and “Kidding.” And let’s not forget that 20 years ago, she was the filmmaker behind the acclaimed “Boys Don’t Cry.”
If Marvel Studios doesn’t sign her for this film, then Kevin Feige and Co. really need to get her locked down for something else.
Daniel Sackheim might not be a household name, he’s been a rockstar TV director for decades, dating back to series such as “ER,” “Law & Order,” and “The X-Files.” And his recent stuff has shown that he still is one of the premier directors working on the small screen. Over the last several years, Sackheim has directed episodes of “Jack Ryan,” “True Detective,” “Ozark,” “Better Call Saul,” and “The Americans.” His most recent job has been on the Jordan Peele-produced genre series “Lovecraft Country,” coming to HBO.
Sackheim hasn’t directed a feature in over 15 years, but he’s definitely the type of director that can work within a rigid studio system where the producer rules all. And to be perfectly honest, what is the MCU if not the most expensive TV series ever produced?
A year ago, people were putting Sophia Takal atop their lists of some of the best young directors working in film. Sure, the recently-released “Black Christmas” might have dulled the roar just a bit. But let’s not forget that Takal is still one of the best up-and-coming filmmakers around. And guess what? Her recent work has been in horror and thrillers (she helmed the Hulu film “New Year, New You” from Blumhouse), which seems to be the direction that ‘Multiverse of Madness’ is going in.
Even though “Black Christmas” might not have had the best reviews and a stellar box office run, Takal has proven that she is a force behind the camera and someone that can work on an accelerated schedule (those micro-budget horror films don’t have the world’s easiest production cycles). If Marvel Studios is willing to take the chance, the gamble might pay off handsomely.
Jackie van Beek
If you haven’t seen “The Breaker Upperers,” then you’re missing out on one of the most hilarious films to be released in the last few years. And if you have seen “The Breaker Upperers,” you may be thinking “What the hell does that have to do with ‘Doctor Strange?’” Well, dear reader, the aforementioned comedy breakout film was co-directed by none other than Jackie van Beek, who is one of the best up-and-coming filmmakers around hailing from the land of New Zealand. You know who else comes from that country and has directed one of the best Marvel films to date (featuring Stephen Strange, no less)? None other than Mr. Taika Waititi.
And before you think I’m just lumping two people from the same country together based on geography alone, you need to understand that van Beek and Waititi have a relationship that suggests that he might be someone to endorse her abilities. Not only is Waititi an EP on ‘Breaker Upperers,’ but van Beek also helmed multiple episodes of the incredible “What We Do in the Shadows” FX series.
If Marvel Studios wants to try to mimic the success of “Thor: Ragnarok” with the new ‘Doctor Strange’ flick, then van Beek might very well be the woman to do it.
Yet another TV director that might not be a household name, but should be, Stephen Williams is someone that desperately needs to be given a feature film, pronto. His recent work includes episodes of “Westworld,” “Counterpart” (look at the synopsis at this one), “Ray Donovan,” and “Bloodline.” But perhaps the biggest reason why he’s included on this list is for his late-2019 work on HBO’s “Watchmen.”
Listed as one of Paul Schrader’s best “films” of 2019, Episode 6 of “Watchmen” is regarded as not only the best entry in a stellar season of TV, but one of the most stunning episodes of television released in the last decade or more. And while much of the credit for TV greatness goes to writers and producers, you just have to watch 5 minutes of Episode 6 of “Watchmen” (focusing on series of intense flashbacks) to know just how incredible Williams’ directing is. Not only that, but he’s also the man behind the camera for the season finale, which somehow brought the end of one of the most complex and wild TV series of the last year in an incredibly watchable and enjoyable fashion.
Will Marvel Studios choose any of the five directors listed above? Who knows? We surely don’t. But given the track record by the studio (focusing on filmmakers with TV background and low-budget indies), these seem like all strong choices. And given the shortened production timeline for the incoming helmer, Feige and Co. are going to need someone that can handle the pressure and work well within the system. The folks listed above would likely all be able to do the job, and do it really well.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is set to debut in theaters on May 7, 2021.