Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the most anticipated films of 2022, but whether or not there will be a rated R version released to the public has yet to be confirmed.
A Reddit post dating back to 2020 posited the idea that the film might garner an R rating, rather than the PG-13 rating that its predecessor received.
More recently, an article published last month by Maxblizz contended that two versions of the movie exist: A PG-13 version, and an R-rated version that lasts more than three hours.
An R-rated Multiverse of Madness isn’t entirely out of the question given the subject material. Doctor Strange stories are one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s darker entries, after all, and the second trailer showed terrifying monsters and evil versions of Strange — leaning more into those horror elements than ever before.
From what we know about the upcoming film, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) seemingly turns to the dark side as Strange tries to stem the tide of the multiverse’s chaotic descent. If the movie follows the cataclysmic events from Doctor Strange’s What If…? episode, they could be pushing the darkness present in the MCU even further.
The episode “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” went to some very heavy places. In an alternate universe, Dr. Stephen Strange gives into grief when his girlfriend, Dr. Christine Palmer, dies. Strange goes to Kamar-Taj and becomes a master of mystic arts and learns how to manipulate time by studying the Eye of Agamotto. Strange then attempts to save her using the Eye, but fails and has to seek more power at the Lost Library of Cagliostro. He grows power-hungry, consuming magical beings and studying these dark arts for centuries.
O’Bengh, the librarian, eventually splits him into two versions of himself, one an evil reflection referred to as Strange Supreme, and the other a Strange who accepts Christine’s death. The two battle it out and Strange Supreme wins, but when he finally brings Christine back, she’s disgusted by his transformation in a Twilight Zone-like twist. His actions rip reality apart, leaving him to live alone in a small pocket of the universe. It’s not exactly the standard superhero happy ending.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said in 2019 that Doctor Strange 2 wouldn’t necessarily be a horror film and that it would just have scary sequences in it, but that was before Sam Raimi was helming the project. Apart from the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, Raimi is known for his horror movies. The Evil Dead is rated as NC-17, and other Raimi-led projects like Army of Darkness, Evil Dead, and Evil Dead 2 all have R ratings.
Reports of extensive reshoots for what’s colloquially known as Doctor Strange 2 led many to believe they were including more character appearances — including the rumored Patrick Stewart-as-Professor X rumor that Sunday’s Super Bowl reveal seemed to confirm. It’s also possible, with extra shooting, that Raimi could have also overseen scenes fit for an R-rated version.
However, Disney’s now the steward of a superhero brand that relies on family-friendly dollars. The first Doctor Strange movie was PG-13 and grossed over $677 million worldwide, and interfering with the formula for the sequel might prove too risky.
Between the upcoming Disney Plus series Moon Knight starring Oscar Isaac, and Mahershala Ali’s Blade, the MCU will lean more into horror, and perhaps even violence, than established MCU fare — though we did last see Doctor Strange in a quite family-friendly Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Even if an R-rated version doesn’t release in theaters, there’s still a chance it’ll be available in some form, whether on Blu-Ray or as a streaming option.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to be released in theaters on May 6.