Filmmaking mastermind Sam Raimi is credited with helping define modern-day superhero films through his efforts on the original Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, and as he stepped up to direct his first MCU flick in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, one of the genre’s biggest offerings to date, he certainly hadn’t forgotten what was at the core of his earlier success.
With expectations of bigger and bolder visuals, cameos and more at an all-time high following Endgame and more recently Spider-Man: No Way Home, Raimi stresses it was important to hone in on a “grounding mechanism” early on.
He tells Supanova that for this film it was “identifying the human being within that superhero – or superheroes, as the case may be”.
“And finding that which we can relate to, like the flaw that makes them vulnerable so that we understand that there’s a connection between them and us, and then telling a story that has to do with that aspect of them, you know, their weakness,” Raimi explains.
For Doctor Strange, it’s that his ego is a little too big.
“Maybe that’s because he’s insecure way down deep and it’s a facade that he puts up so that you don’t know that,” he ponders. “But that’s the way in for me, and it’s how to connect with the audience, by having them identify that human quality, so that they see some of themselves in that character.
“If that can happen, and you can tell a story that has to do with that – and this story does, it’s a little story of how he learns a bit of modesty and he’s not the only one that can help, he learns to listen to others.
“But whatever the case, whatever the character and whatever the humanity or the aspect of the humanity that you’re dealing with, if you can make that connection with the audience, I think it doesn’t matter how big of a canvas you’re painting or how wild the science fiction or crazy the fantasy, I think the audience will stay with you for that ride.”
Benedict Wong, who returns as MCU favourite Wong, points out that humanity for his character is “the level of greater responsibly” bestowed upon him as the Sorcerer Supreme.
The UK actor, who sits alongside newcomer Xochitl Gomez (America Chavez) during a media junket in the lead-up to the film and jokingly refers to Phase Four as the “WCU”, adds that extra responsibility comes in the form of “the duty and care that he has for his students, who he’s constantly protecting and mentoring”.
“He’s the wiser one and Strange is the wayward one,” he adds. “That’s kind of the relationship dynamic he has.”
Gomez continues, “With America, I really wanted teens to feel that they could relate to her, especially with me being 14 when I shot the film and also America being 14. You know, it’s a real teenager playing a teen and I wanted teenagers to be able to look at it and be like, ‘I would do that same thing too.’ It’s just wonderful.”
Raimi gushes over the talent of the cast (which also includes Benedict Cumberbatch as well as Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams and more alongside a rumoured list that spans days) highlighting that not only did he have the opportunity to direct the impeccable Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez, but different variants of beloved characters, with Doctor Strange and co visiting other universes (America Chavez has the ability to travel between universes).
“It was very exciting because they’re such good actors and they came into this job with their characters completely developed,” Raimi enthuses. “I mean, Benedict [Cumberbatch] has played Doctor Strange in his own movie and then probably in six other Marvel movies, so he knows that character, and he really knows him inside and out so that it was a great opportunity to let him tweak just a little side of that character and see him reflected back to himself.
“Because he knew the character so well, he knew if he changes just one or two aspects of himself, he would really meet an entirely different person in the multiverse, and I think that’s why it was so great having these super developed actors who knew their characters so well. They were able to tweak them and develop other versions of themselves because of that.”
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is in cinemas now
LEAD IMAGE: Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’