CS Soapbox: Why Tobey Maguire HAS To Be in Multiverse of Madness
Last month saw the devastating departure of co-writer/director Scott Derrickson from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but yesterday saw some exciting potential as Sam Raimi, the man behind the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, has entered talks to take the reins. While this seems great in having another horror director take over, Raimi taking the job would also open up a new possibility: bridging the MCU with other Marvel properties, namely his previous web-slinger series.
Okay, before you go jumping down my throat with where does the line end, I’m going to tell you right now it doesn’t. While it’s had more time to set things up than the decade-long film franchise, the CW’s Arrowverse has proven that as long as you have people interested and even an inkling of idea, any kind of crossover madness is possible, namely a certain DC Extended Universe star making an appearance in its small-screen counterpart in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The first, and most obvious, choice for tying universes together would be to bring back Tobey Maguire for one more go of his most iconic character Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. When we last saw his iteration, he had just fought the alien symbiote Venom, former friend Harry Osborne aka New Goblin and Flint Marko aka Sandman. Raimi had plans for a fourth film in which he would have to face off against the likes of the Vulture and Black Cat, as well as a potential fifth film with Dr. Curt Connors, aka Lizard, as the villain, but after creative differences with Sony, he left and the franchise came to an end.
While Maguire has worked to move on from the role, it would be nice for Raimi and the 44-year-old star to bring back his iteration for one more film that would give the character, and fans, closure on the role. Even if we don’t get anything more than a cameo exploring Maguire’s Parker retiring from crime-fighting, it would be the best way to honor what came before and how it helped set up what is now dominating the box office.
In addition to Maguire, the film could also bridge the gap between the now-cancelled Marvel Netflix series and the films, as the stars have all expressed their desire to see their characters make their way to the big screen alongside key MCU figures. It would even be possible to bring back prior iterations of characters such as Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, Thomas Jane’s The Punisher and Eric Bana’s Hulk, though chances are the former would likely not return to the role while the latter has never stopped expressing interest in reprising the role.
As Marvel Studios is busy trying to figure out how to properly bring Fantastic 4 to life on the big screen, Raimi could also try and take the multiverse opportunity to bring back Chris Evans for his first major comic book character of Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch. Though the films he was in were not very well-received by critics — or fans for that matter — it was his first breakout performance in the comic book genre and he did receive some positive for his work and it would be a fun twist to see Evans return to the MCU in a different fashion.
One of the biggest opportunities the multiverse setting offers that Raimi should fully take advantage of would be to bridge the gap between the MCU and Sony’s Marvel Universe, which started with Venom and is set to continue with Morbius and Venom 2.
Now look, I’m not franchise-building expert, nor even as well-versed in the comic books as Kevin Feige himself, but I have a plan for all of them: look at the title of the movie. As I mentioned before, the CW has literally taken advantage of its multiverse every chance it gets, from crossover events to minor cameos, so to bring all these characters into the film, all Raimi and crew would need to do is explain it as the titular sorcerer traveling to different versions of his own universe.
Strange wouldn’t even need to have full-on interactions with each of these characters, they could appear on billboards or TV interviews or even just passing by him on the street. He could even arrive in the midst of some chaos that these versions of the characters are working to stop, be it the Fantastic Four battling some cosmic threat and Johnny stopping to question Strange on who he is or Jane’s Punisher being in the middle of wiping out a gang only to have Strange try and advocate for no killing.
While these cameos would be a fun treat for the fans, the most important effort Raimi and Co. could do with the multiverse opportunity would be to bridge the MCU and SMU. In the first trailer for Morbius, there’s a moment in which he passes by an image of Spider-Man on the wall with the words murderer plastered over it, while also featuring a cameo at the end of the trailer from Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture. To some, this may seem like the universes are directly tied in, as Spider-Man: Far From Home ended with Tom Holland’s iteration of the web-slinger being framed for the death of Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, however, there’s one key detail in the image that requires further investigation: the picture of Spider-Man is from Raimi’s trilogy, not Holland.
Venom was a bad movie, I’m saying it, and the storytelling in it proves Sony could take a lazier route and say the universes were connected all along and not to think too hard about the image, but as a fan, I’d like to see something more unique than that. Given that Vulture, nor Morbius, ever appeared in Raimi’s trilogy and it ended with the death of Harry, who appeared to be a hero to the public prior to his demise, some people may see Maguire’s Parker as a murderer and have chosen to label him as such, and that the vampire sometimes-hero-sometimes-villain origin film is set in that universe.
But, you might cry out, Venom died in Raimi’s trilogy, how could the second installment in the SMU put itself in a separate universe from its other film, which is already unclear as to where in the universes it sits? Well, reader, you’ve got me on that one, and that’s both the pro and con of multiverses in comics. It’s a tool that can be used for exciting crossovers and revivals of characters but is also a tool that can be exploited in the same manner that can breed lazy storytelling.
Part of the issue with the Arrowverse is their stakes always feel relatively low as some characters are frequently revived through the multiverse, namely Tom Cavanagh’s Harrison Wells, who has frequently been brought back in different varieties after previous versions were killed or left. If Sony chose to work with Marvel to utilize the multiverse to bring Venom back to life in Rami’s Spidey-verse in the form of Tom Hardy and then bring Morbius in, it would only further convolute the storytelling and create stakes that no longer feels exciting or original.
But, perhaps I’ve also overthought the issue, perhaps Sony will just choose to explain that the image behind Morbius is an image of Holland’s web-slinger and that Venom and the vampire are in the same universe as each other and the MCU. Or perhaps they’ll say Venom and Morbius are not in the same universe as the MCU just yet, but that the seeds are there and the Madame Web film in development could help officially bridge the two. Although with a Tom Holland cameo having been filmed in the symbiote’s first outing and the two studios’ new deal coming just in time for production on the sequel, chances are high he appears in some capacity in this year’s Venom 2, which continues raising questions.
As I said before, I’m no franchise-building expert, but the easiest — and laziest and convoluted and so on —way to explain the connection would be they were always in the MCU and that they were never deemed large enough threats for the Avengers to handle. With Tony mostly living in New York after the first Avengers, Steve always looking for the next mission, Thanos causing chaos, so on and so forth, the hijinks of Venom in San Francisco was probably low on all of their radars.
Sony could also use the “we were always connected” explanation as a way to satiate fans’ complaints that Venom’s look came from imitating Spider-Man in the comics by explaining that since they were always in the same universe, the symbiote saw the web-slinger at some point and thus chose that appearance. After all, Venom was captured by the Life Organization and held for over six months before Eddie Brock encountered it, so it could be explained that both it and Riot saw Spider-Man on national news at some point during that time and therefore chose that appearance for when they bonded with Eddie and Carlton Drake. It’s not a great explanation by any means, but much of Venom was already bad storytelling that didn’t sit well with critics and many fans, so why not use a bad explanation to satisfy fans wanting a more faithfulness to the comics?
Raimi taking over the reins on the Doctor Strange sequel is perfect for the horror-tinged concept of the film and given his previous comic book trilogy being from the same publisher, it would be great to see him take advantage of the story to bring back his web-slinger, alongside other prior iterations of popular Marvel characters. Even if he doesn’t, though, let’s keep our fingers crossed Marvel lets him do whatever wild and terrifying things he wants to do with the project.