Michael Waldron Says Writing Doctor Strange 2 Was Like Playing Frankenstein [Exclusive]

Writing a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a complicated thing by its very nature, as the writer must remember to connect the rest of the dots to the greater MCU while also doing their own thing. That challenge becomes even trickier when dealing with multiverses, and as the title implies, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is playing around with some dimension and timeline hopping. Screenwriter Michael Waldron was faced with the gargantuan task of writing a Marvel movie that ties into not only all of the other MCU flicks, but the Sony "Spider-Man" universe and potentially the Fox "X-Men" universe too. Thankfully, Waldron has some experience writing about trans-dimensional travel from his time writing on the Adult Swim series "Rick and Morty," which has plenty of weird, mind-bending silliness. 

In our interview with Waldron, he shared his excitement over working on the sequel to "Doctor Strange" and explained just how his time on "Rick and Morty" prepared him for a different kind of multiverse. 

Creation in chaos

Waldron isn't the first "Rick and Morty" alum to have a hand in the "Doctor Strange" movie adaptations, either. "Rick and Morty" and "Community" co-creator Dan Harmon famously helped punch up the script for the first film, and the Dormammu sequence still bears his trademark dry humor, even if many of his jokes were cut from the final film. It turns out that "Rick and Morty" is kind of the perfect place to hone your sci-fi storytelling skills, as Waldron explained:

"It was the perfect training ground. Because every week in that show, we take a big sci-fi concept that frankly you could probably write a movie about, you could write some kind of high concept spec about at least, and we basically blow it apart in the first five minutes of the show. Really, you've got to explain it to the audience quickly and then shift it to the background so they can get swept up in the adventure, in the rest of what's just a 22 minute episode. And so 'Rick and Morty' trained me in how to introduce these big sci-fi concepts in ways that were digestible, palatable to the audience and without getting them bogged down in the boring details."

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) uses outlandish magic to achieve his goals, and thankfully the movies don't get too lost in the details of exactly how that magic works. Instead of long explanations about power sources or mystical tomes or communication with spirits or anything, Strange is just, well, great at tapping into the strange. Part of the fun of this corner of the Marvel universe is how wacky and weird it can get, and trying to ground that weirdness in too much reality would actually do it a disservice. 

The silver lining of pandemic delays

On top of the challenges of writing a movie for the MCU and writing a multiverse story, Waldron also came on board after the original "Doctor Strange" director, Scott Derrickson, had left the project. Waldron and new director Sam Raimi had to pick up the pieces left by the original team and try to fashion them into a good movie. Thankfully, Waldron's experience in the fast-paced world of television prepared him for just this kind of crunch, though it made him feel like a different famous doctor:

"... The television background between 'Rick and Morty' and 'Community,' kind of creating out of chaos; sets you up well for working on any project this big, with this many moving parts. I wouldn't even call it surgery so much as I would call it, getting rid of one body, and pulling... And maybe it's a Frankenstein. It's not even that. We just created a new body out of parts from the board. And there was a version of the story that existed as Sam and I came on."

Raimi and Waldron took some of the pieces from the original "Multiverse of Madness" design and set about making something new from them. That's a lot of work to take on, especially when Marvel sets their release dates years in advance and there's guaranteed to be a strict shooting schedule in order to meet those release dates. Then, delays caused by the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise, giving Raimi and Waldron all of the time they needed to create their own vision for Strange:

"... When COVID came down and delayed us several months, it gave Sam and I the opportunity to say, 'all right, well, now we have the time. If we wanted to start over from scratch, what would our version of the movie be?' And Marvel was fortunately very supportive of that. And he and I set to work and kind of created our own thing."

The pandemic gave Waldron and Raimi the time they needed to create a "Doctor Strange" movie that fit their own sensibilities, without having to draw too heavily on what was already planned. With Waldron's sci-fi experience and Raimi's horror and fantasy chops, the result should be movie magic. 

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" hits theaters May 6, 2022.