The madness has begun! Earlier this week, members of the press, including The Nerds of Color, were invited to partake in the press conference for the highly anticipated Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The cast of the next MCU chapter, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, writer Michael Waldron, director Sam Raimi, and Marvel Studios president and producer, Kevin Feige, were all present to walk everyone through the secrets of the multiverse, and question everyone’s dying to know: who’s more powerful? Doctor Strange or The Scarlet Witch?
The first question was for Feige, who was asked what it was like releasing Multiverse of Madness on the same week of the 20th anniversary of his earliest production, Sam Raimi’s original 2002 Spider-Man film.
“It’s surreal, and as you say, yes, particularly surreal that, that it’s full-circle with Mr. Raimi,” began Feige. “I was a young producer who just felt lucky to be in the same room with him. And now, I’m an old producer that just feels lucky to be in the same room with him.”
Raimi was then asked what the challenges in putting together the film given the script and timing constraints were like, given he’s considered the godfather of modern superhero filmmaking.
“Well,there were really a lot of Marvel movies being made when we made the Spider-Man movies with Kevin,” Raimi replied. “Kevin was also working, I think, on the X-Men movies… And the Iron Man movies. So, Kevin and his boss, Avi Arad, were already developing the Marvel Cinematic Universe even back then. So, I was very fortunate to get that directing job. I loved Spiderman. And yeah, I’m glad it had a moment in helping be one of the first MCU movies.”
When asked about the differences between making a superhero film today versus back in 2002, Raimi stated, “the technology has changed. And it’s just become a lot easier. But mostly he technological difference that really enabled me to work on this movie so effectively was Zoom. The modern telecommunications system. I could speak, you know, tens of crewmembers at once. We could show a storyboard from an artist. The editor could bring up a piece of the cut. We really had great communication audio/visual. And you were able to speak to a hundred people at once. It’s fantastic. But, as far as the most important thing that changed? The thing that didn’t change is how I want to answer your question. The most important thing is having great actors, like these two. Like this gentleman. Like this young lady. And them knowing that the most important thing they can do is within themselves. That’s how people connect to our superheroes. And these are great actors. And they know what it’s like to be a human being. They’ve got a vast set of experiences that they’re not afraid to pull into their performances. And they also know their characters very well. These three at least have played their characters for so many years now in so many important Marvel movies. It’s great to see that knowledge of their characters that they had in this film. Because what they meet is the Multiverse. And in the Multiverse, it’s basically a mirror. And they meet altered versions of themselves. And these actors are so good, they know they just have to change the slightest aspect of their character’s personality to make an interesting conflict with the alter-self.”
Cumberbatch was then asked about how Doctor Strange, as a character, has evolved from something of a supporting role to a new leader in this current phase of the MCU, and whether or not his character has changed in those ways:
“Yes and no, because he’s quite a maverick,” began the Oscar-nominated thespian. “He’s quite an outsider. He doesn’t immediately strike you as a leader, despite his prominence in the MCU at this moment. And that’s what makes him really interesting. And conflicted, I think as a hero. As, you know, Sam alluded to, it’s the humanity that keeps people coming back for more. And I think we see in the film an iteration of somebody who we’ve seen very omnipotent, very, um, creative and sort of omnipresent and all the omnis… and yet, we haven’t really understood what the cost of that is. What it is that’s fueling that. Both him as a person, but also within this mysterious realm of sorcery and magic. So, this one is about examining that and finding his flaws, his faults, his humanity, as well as his strengths. And renewing our understanding of him and deepening our understanding of him. So, as far as a leader goes… this is sort of, I would say, more of a self-examination in the way that Sam described. Of holding up a mirror to him through this incredible narrative structure we have of a Multiverse of other selves, than it is examining what his potential is to lead. But, I will say this, he’s far better at being a collaborator, at working with others, at realizing he can’t always be the one to hold the knife and control all himself. So, those are pretty leaderlike qualities, I’d say. But he’s evolving. There’s that.”
Opposite Cumberbatch is Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch. Olsen’s character has grown in popularity exponentially since last year’s WandaVision. She was asked if her approach to the character in Multiverse of Madness was different than her previous iterations.
“Yeah, I mean, I feel like in the previous films before WandaVision, I took up a lane for storytelling that was more grounded in sincerity, love, loss, grief,” said the actress. “And with WandaVision, I got to become like, anything and everything and really, really grow her into a woman. And leading her to accepting that she is this mythic woman. And that that is her destiny. And I hope that in this film people see that continuation of her acceptance of who she is. The journey that she has taken to get to this moment. I feel like she has way more clarity now than ever in this film.”
When asked who would win in a battle between Strange and Wanda, Olsen coyly responded, “I think we all know who would win.”
To which Cumberbatch replied, “She’s pretty all-powerful, let’s be honest. “
After the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang Chi, MCU staple Benedict Wong was asked what it was like being the poster child for the Wong Cinematic Universe (WCU).
“Thank you, yeah. It is the WCU. Is that what [Kevin] told me?” began Wong. “As I say many times, as a comic book fan and having collected all the Marvel comics, to be on board I’m just, you know, living this dream really, as the kind of nerd that crossed the line, you know. And gets to play with these amazing actors and auteurs and writers and producers. So, you know, it’s just a win-win for me.”
Newcomer Gomez was then asked what it was that her character America Chavez would be bringing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the world of Doctor Strange.
“One thing that was so important to me was that, you know, this is a very adult movie,” she said. “There’s lots of adults in it. It’s very, you know, heavy. And so, I wanted to make sure that America still had that youthfulness and still had that ‘fake it ’til you make it,’ you know, resilience. But, when you’ve got some crazy stuff happening, it’s a little hard. But I think one thing that really helps is that she is 14, which is younger than she was in any of the comics. So, I mean, that really helps, you know, in writing a new introduction which I think Michael Waldron did beautifully.”
Writer of Multiverse of Madness and showrunner of Loki, Waldron was asked how he was able to keep to the core story while sticking to the mythology of the MCU and introducing new elements and characters.
“Well, we just got the script done and just stuck to it,” Waldron joked. “Well, look, I had the great benefit, yeah, of kind of inheriting the bulk of these characters. And so, I think that that was what certainly centered me creatively. You know, Stephen, Wanda, Wong, obviously America is a new character that Xochitl was originating, but in a lot of ways, I was just a steward of these characters on the page and so, you know, there was a lot of opportunity to collaborate with these tremendous actors who know them better than I could. And that, I don’t know, as the script evolved, which it very much was all the time, you’re really refining it and I guess, yeah, it’s leaning on the people who have been doing it even longer than we have in this individual chapter. It’s a real team effort putting this story together.”
Raimi jumped in to say, “The script was oftentimes minutes before. And, you know, the actors are very creative… They know their characters better than anybody. So, they’ll recognize in playing of the scene this is untrue. This feels like a manipulation or could it be more real. And we’d make changed in the moment trying to riff on that very good idea. And then when you’ve got great team members as a director, you really wanna pull the best of their ideas together and make something better than you could’ve made on your own. And that’s exactly what working on this movie was like for me. Great actors, great ideas, a script that was constantly changing. But it was a very lively process. Not only that, but the other movies that we have storylines from, some were being made concurrently or had just finished. Like WandaVision had just finished or Spider-Man: No Way Home was also shooting. And our movie referenced those films. We had to have meetings with the director saying what does Doctor Strange know by the end of No Way Home? Does he even remember the multiverse? I mean, we have plenty of questions that Michael had to take into the script in the moment and take their changes and that change rippled through our movie. You know, it’s probably for a writer like improv is for an actor. These movies are reacting, making up, changing things, and you have to be in the moment and take it in and go with it.”
And go with it they did. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a crazy, weird, fun installment in the MCU canon. And while it may not be the game changer in terms of MCU-altering stakes many anticipate it to be, it’s still a well crafted, terrific stand-alone Doctor Strange story, and above all, a true Sam Raimi picture!
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters today!