‘Doctor Strange 2’: Sam Raimi Showed ‘Real Hesitancy’ Over Undead Subplot

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness marks Marvel’s first venture into horror, and the studio couldn’t have picked a better director to helm the sequel. Sam Raimi came to Doctor Strange 2 with prior experience in the genre, having worked on the Evil Dead franchise and other horror hits.

But believe it or not, Raimi’s history with the undead isn’t what inspired zombie Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In fact, writer Michael Waldron revealed that Raimi was hesitant to pursue that particular storyline.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.]

Stephen Strange has a zombie moment in ‘Doctor Strange 2’

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From several unsettling Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) moments to campy jump scares, the horror Sam Raimi injects into Doctor Strange 2 is evident from the jump.

Of course, one of the most noteworthy horror elements appears at the end of the film. Stephen Strange is forced to dreamwalk into his own decaying corpse, resulting in some fairly gross visuals. And fans were quick to connect Raimi’s previous projects about the undead to zombie Doctor Strange.

But as it turns out, calling back to his prior work wasn’t Raimi’s idea. Writer Michael Waldron says the director was reluctant to include an undead subplot in the Marvel movie. In fact, Waldron was the one who proposed it.

Sam Raimi was hesitant about the undead subplot, Michael Waldron says

Director Sam Raimi at the premiere for 'Doctor Strange 2.' He's wearing a white shirt, black suit, and black tie and smiling at the camera.
‘Doctor Strange 2’ director Sam Raimi | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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Michael Waldron penned the script for Doctor Strange 2, and the writer did so with Sam Raimi in mind. Speaking with Polygon, Waldron admitted that he came up with the idea for zombie Doctor Strange — and that Raimi wasn’t immediately on board:

“I had watched all his movies. I tried to really get an ear for the dialogue in his movies, because I wanted it to feel like a Sam Raimi film. But Sam, to his credit, had no interest in coming in and just playing the hits. Sam did not come in and say, I need you to give me a zombie. And in fact, when I presented the idea of Dead Strange to him, there was a real hesitancy on his part, because he didn’t want it to seem like he was just saying I want to do my Sam Raimi thing.”

Obviously, the two eventually agreed on Stephen’s undead dreamwalk. But Raimi’s reluctance makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that he didn’t want Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to come off as silly.

Sam Raimi didn’t want ‘Doctor Strange 2’s horror to be ‘goofy’

During an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Sam Raimi discussed his approach to Doctor Strange 2‘s horror. He told the outlet that he didn’t want to lean too heavily into humor, moving away from the comedic tone that the Evil Dead franchise maintains:

“We were trying to have fun but not be too funny. So it was a different kind of tone that I was going for; not really like those Evil Dead movies, which are kind of goofy. But I do like over-the-top visuals, and I think the audience for this movie had a big appetite. I think they came in to see some fantastic things, and we all tried to rise to the occasion.”

With that in mind, it makes sense that Raimi wouldn’t embrace writer Michael Waldron’s suggestion at first. However, the pair seems to have made it work with his vision. And Strange’s actions set up an interesting arc for the character moving forward. His dreamwalk fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely. Hopefully, we’ll see more horror elements from future multiverse stories.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently playing in theaters worldwide.

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