It's been a long week for Marvel Studios. The Australian Bush Fires may have delayed filming on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, people can't decide whether or not Hawkeye is being delayed, and Scott Derrickson formally stepped down as director of Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness. Since the film's announcement at SDCC, Feige has been vocal in touting MoM - as it will henceforth be referred (I like the acronym, call your mother) as a different kind of Marvel film,
"I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a horror film, but it is, as Scott Derrickson — our director — has pitched it, a big MCU film with scary sequences in it," he continued. "The way, when I was a kid in the ‘80s, Spielberg did an amazing job. There are horrifying sequences in Raiders [of the Lost Ark] that I would, as a little kid, [cover my eyes] when their faces melted. Or Temple of Doom, of course, or Gremlins or Poltergeist. These are the movies that invented the PG-13 rating, by the way — they were PG and they were like, ‘We need another [rating].’ But that’s fun, it’s fun to be scared in that way and not a horrific, torturous way, but in a way that is legitimately scary because Scott Derrickson’s quite good at that. But scary in the service of an exhilarating emotion.”
Less than a day later, it was being widely reported that MoM would be the MCU’s first horror movie by the small, but vocal part of the internet that believes that hard R rated films should be made by a studio created for children, about a character whose original fan base was college kids on acid. It was never in doubt that Doctor Strange’s sequel could be scarier than anything we’ve seen before in the MCU, especially if the rumors are true and Nightmare ends up being the movie's villain. But much in the same way that Ant-Man's movies are never true heists, the Thor movies aren't real Shakespearean drama, and The Winter Soldier is as much a "political thriller" as a Muy Thai match with C-SPAN on in the background, Doctor Strange was probably never going to be a true horror movie. And that’s okay. By the time MoM hits its projected release date of May 7th, 2021, we’ll have already seen two super horror movies in James Gunn’s Brightburn, and the oft-delayed The New Mutants. But the chances that a big studio like Marvel not having this tone set with their director going in is close to zero, and the fact that Derrickson is remaining on as executive producer supports conjecture that the split was, in fact, amicable. More likely, as supported by a series of recent tweets, Derrickson was unhappy with the studio’s time table, even going so far as to tweet that "Studio release dates are the enemy of art." This wouldn't be the first time a director has been at odds with Marvel's timetable, but with roughly five months left until production begins, here are five more people who could don the director’s cloak. James WanPatty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World, and ended up directing Wonder Woman. James Gunn was fired from Guardians Vol. 3, and is now in the process of directing The Suicide Squad. James Wan directed Aquaman, so it only stands to reason that Marvel should poach him for the Doctor Strange sequel. You take one of ours, we take one of yours, Untouchables rules. No matter what you think of Aquaman, its billion dollar box office (no, really), or the bizarre “Africa” sampling by Pitbull (No. REALLY), it’s hard to argue that the movie had some genuinely creepy elements. The creatures of the Trench were so unsettling that there’s already rumors of them getting their own spinoff, because why the fuck not. Sam Raimi A choice that’s sure to get me bullied off of Film Twitter, Sam Raimi is arguably most famous for kicking down the door to the modern superhero genre with Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, then putting that door squarely back on its hinges with Spider-Man 3. But before he was shooting one hundred and fifty six takes of Tobey Maguire catching his lunch, he was behind the camera of Evil Dead, a grueling horror experience not at all undercut by the humor of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. This wouldn’t be the first dip in any of Marvel’s pools for Raimi, who has already helmed three live action comic book properties and was in charge of Spider-Man 3 -- at the time, the most expensive movie production in history. We know that Raimi is willing to play studio ball because we got Venom and not Vultress, which makes him a safer bet than popular choice and fellow auteur (yeah, I said it) Guillermo Del Toro. If you’re willing to accept that for some reason Doctor Strange has traded in his sling ring for a 1973 Delta Oldsmobile 88, then Raimi is the way to go. Karyn Kusama Perhaps the most left field choice on this list, Kusama burst onto the scene with 2000’s Girlfight, but her biggest credit to date is arguably 2009’s cult classic Jennifer’s Body. And anybody who can make 2009 Megan Fox legitimately upsetting has earned their place in the clubhouse. While not quite the fear-ection fare that Kusama honed her craft with, MoM would be the perfect Marvel project for someone who claims they revisit Rosemary’s Baby once a year. Kusama brought stunning visual to Aeon Flux, but is on record as saying she would never work again on a film where she didn’t have final cut. Though the MCU gives their directors more freedom than they once did, I can't see Kusama getting along with the studio who reportedly told Lucrecia Martel not to worry about the fight scenes in Black Widow. Eli Roth When discussing Eli Roth, it’s easy to skip over his horror beginnings and jump straight to the part where he goes yardo out to fuckin’ Lansdowne Street on a Nazi’s skull with a baseball bat. But outside of Inglorious Basterds infamous Bear Jew, Roth is the twisted mind behind Hostel, The Green Inferno, and that fucked up leg shaving scene in Cabin Fever. Interestingly, of the people on this list, Roth has the most recent foray in PG horror with 2018’s The House with the Clock in its Walls. The House is an expertly crafted narrative with daring visuals, is probably what I would say if I had seen that movie. Roth is slightly higher profile than the choices that Marvel has made lately, but if you’re going to go outside on the norm on any property, Doctor Strange is the one to do it on. Jordan Peele The overwhelming online opinion is that Derrickson left the project because Marvel wouldn’t let him make the horror movie that he wanted. As much as I love the MCU, I’ll be the first to admit that the movies are fairly samey. The lighthearted undertone of the MCU is the reason why you can talk about it with your ten year old cousin. If Marvel truly wants to do a scary movie with a humorous undertone, the first name in their Rolodex should be Jordan Peele. Peele is both a horror and comedy verteran, having cut his teeth in the early aughts on MadTV and re-teaming with his MadTV partner Keegan-Michael Key for the wildly successful Key and Peele. Peele won a Saturn Award for directing the superbly creepy Us, and took home an Oscar for 2017’s Get Out. Double dipping in the macabre, Peele currently serves as the host of CBS’ Twilight Zone reboot. As a bonus, if Marvel decides to deep delve into the good Doctor’s weird Lovecraftian lore, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, are we going to need a good anger translator.