It was one of the most praised parts of the Infinity War saga that the Russo brothers managed to put so many characters in their duology and not make it a total mess. Managing an ensemble of characters on screen is a very tricky task that many directors will never be capable of doing. To be fair, they don’t have to. Each director has its own strength and working with a bunch of actors or working with a script that relies on chemistry between various ensemble members are not really necessities to be a good director.
The next installment in the Doctor Strange possible trilogy is also a team-up movie with an array of heroes and villains having cameos and full-fledged roles in the movie. As the name of the ambitious movie suggests, Doctor Strange will travel across the multiverse possibly meeting dozens of established and new MCU characters. It can be very hard to give everyone something to do while not turning the story into a mess of interconnected plotlines and backstories.
It was hinted by Marvel execs that Doctor Strange 2 may be the most exciting film in the 4th phase of the MCU. Many fans are already calling it the “post-Tony-Stark era”. Without Iron Man, the franchise definitely has to find a new leading character and Benedict’s Cumberbatch Doctor Strange is certainly one of the most promising candidates. Fans were not overly excited (at least not universally) about having Captain Marvel leading the team and Tom Holland is still too young to be the true leader of the Avengers.
It is actually a good move to center the whole Phase 4 around a beloved character played by a universally respected actor with so many accolades, you can’t really put them in a single sentence. However, the ambition may very well be the downfall of the whole movie since Scott Derrickson wants to turn the movie into horror and also have a bunch of MCU characters show up in the film. After his concept was announced, he stepped down due to unspecified reasons and Marvel had to start searching for another director to helm the movie.
Some fans and critics noticed that since the Civil War, every single Marvel movie is a mini-Avengers adventure with at least some team-up happening somewhere in the plotline. It is definitely a fun way to cater to diehard fans who just love seeing Thor and Loki fighting side by side against Hela or Spiderman having a chat with Iron Man. Now, Doctor Strange 2 promises to add even more characters to the mix and turn it in The Avengers 4.5.
Some speculated that Derrickson decided to step down because of the pressure that handling so many characters would put on him. Joss Wheedon said that introducing so many new heroes and characters into the MCU in the Age of Ultron was quite a hard task and made the movie less coherent and well-paced as he hoped to. Jon Favreau also voiced his concerns over adding too much stuff into the movie. Even Russo brothers talked about the immense stress of writing a story that would give dozens of characters something to do in the movie.
Doctor Strange 2 can be one of such projects where the desire to set up more upcoming movies will inevitably lead to an inferior experience. Recently, there were rumors that Scott Derrickson approached Natasha Lyonne and offered her a role in the movie. Currently, the rumors are that Sam Raimi is talking with the Marvel execs to possibly direct the upcoming Multiverse of Madness.
What is really worrisome is that Doctor Strange 2 has to be a massive success for Marvel to keep going with their seemingly unstoppable money-printing machine. They need to make Doctor Strange good and set up Benedict Cumberbatch to lead the franchise for the next decade or so. At the same time, they have to introduce more characters and cosmic threats at the same time. However, Sam Raimi is known for his excellence in telling compact stories that usually do not involve an ensemble of characters. His most famous work in the comic book movie genre is Spiderman 2 which was a simple yet effective story about a lone hero searching for his place in this world. Will he be the best of choices for a movie that has much bigger ambitions?
Why does Doctor Strange have so much pressure on him? Well, other upcoming movies will not set up anything for the future of the MCU. The Guardians of Galaxy vol.3 is far away. Shang-Chi will be a story with low stakes that introduce a new character that does not have cosmic powers. The Eternals also will be introducing a bunch of new heroes without any room for setting up heroes and villains from other stories. Captain Marvel is also very far away and, as mentioned previously, fans do not like the idea of a team led by Marvel.
Doctor Strange is the only good solution for Marvel. It makes sense both in terms of business and within the universe. Strange is a powerful mage that fights against immortal foes and supernatural monsters. He is wise and can definitely lead the team. However, the ever-expanding army of superheroes needs enemies to fight and a journey through the multiverse is a perfect way to establish a new big threat capable of overshadowing Thanos. Maybe Dormamu will return? Who knows!
The script is more or less ready. The characters that will appear in the movie are decided upon (Marvel usually has an overarching plan for such things). The general concept is already confirmed. So, the only thing left is to find a capable director who will actually risk filming a very ambitious motion picture that will have more stars than the sky on a clear night. Is Sam Raimi a good choice? Probably, not. Nevertheless, the production must start as soon as possible after the coronavirus quarantine is lifted. There is not much time left!
What we do know is that having an ensemble of characters is often detrimental to the quality of the movie. Too much stuff is not always good.