Doctor Strange 2 Director Sam Raimi on Making Marvel Return After "Awful" Spider-Man 3 Reception

"I didn't think I would be doing another superhero movie," says Spider-Man trilogy director Sam Raimi, who returns to superhero moviemaking with Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Raimi, back in the director's chair for his first feature film since Oz the Great and Powerful in 2013, replaced Scott Derrickson after "creative differences" spurred the Doctor Strange director to exit in early 2020. The Kevin Feige-led Marvel tapped Loki head writer Michael Waldron to pen the start-from-scratch sequel for Raimi, who revisits the Marvel universe despite an "awful" reception to his 2007 trilogy finale Spider-Man 3

"I didn't know that I could face it again because it was so awful, having been the director of Spider-Man 3. The Internet was getting revved up and people disliked that movie and they sure let me know about it. So, it was difficult to take back on," Raimi told Collider. "But then, I found out that there was an opening on Doctor Strange 2. My agent called me and said, 'They're looking for a director at Marvel for this movie and your name came up. Would you be interested?' And I thought, 'I wonder if I could still do it.' They're really demanding, those types of pictures. And I felt, 'Well, that's reason enough.'"

Raimi, who name-dropped Spider-Man co-creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's second-most famous Marvel creation in 2004's Spider-Man 2, said of the sorcerer superhero: "I've always really liked the character of Doctor Strange. He was not my favorite, but he was right up there with the favorites. I loved the first movie, I thought Scott Derrickson did a wonderful job, an incredible job. So, I said, 'Yeah.' They left the character in a great place. I didn't think I would be doing another superhero movie. it just happened."

Despite a worse reception than 2002's Spider-Man and its 2004 sequel, Spider-Man 3 grossed $894 million in 2007 and was the highest-grossing Spider-Man movie until the release of Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019. 

Raimi said in a 2009 interview that he "didn't really have creative control" over the oft-scathed Spider-Man 3, where "different opinions" with producers led to the inclusion of a fan-favorite character that Raimi — a childhood fan of the classic Lee, Ditko, and John Romita Sr. Spider-Man comic books — admitted he didn't "understand": Eddie Brock's Venom (Topher Grace) in his live-action debut. 

Spider-Man franchise producer Avi Arad, since a producer behind Sony's solo Venom blockbuster franchise, later accepted blame for frequently-reported studio meddling that "forced" Raimi to include Venom in Spider-Man 3. The movie was "awful," Raimi said later, telling Nerdist in 2014: "I messed up with that third Spider-Man. People hated me for years. They still hate me for it."

"I tried to make it work," the Evil Dead director said at the time, "but I didn't really believe in all the characters. So that couldn't be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man. If the director doesn't love something, it's wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it."

But Feige, who worked with Raimi as an associate producer on Spider-Man and as an executive producer on its two sequels, has since credited the fan-fav filmmaker for influencing the 25-movie Marvel Cinematic Universe that brings back Raimi-verse villains like Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And in Doctor Strange 2, the Spider-Man filmmaker gets to "put his Sam Raimi stamp on Doctor Strange, on the Multiverse, on Marvel." 

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"Everything we do at Marvel Studios is from the point of view of the audience, and how do we make the audience feel one way, or how do we evoke an emotion out of an audience? I really feel like I learned that from watching Sam on the Spider-Man movies," Feige recently told Rotten Tomatoes. "I was just very lucky to be there working for the former head of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad, and just watching. Watching Avi, watching Laura Ziskin, the producer of that, watching Amy Pascal, who ran the studio at the time, and particularly Sam Raimi put those movies together."

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters on March 25, 2022.