Second opinion column on this site so welcome back returning readers. Seems my Star Trek column went down pretty well so it looks like people enjoy reading my well intentioned rants. Let’s see if lightning can strike twice.
There’s been a lot of discussion all over the internet recently about everyone’s favourite Wall-Crawler Spider-Man and his place in the universe. Or rather, what universe he should have a place in.
For those of you uninitiated, Spider-Man is a Marvel comics character so in his native medium he tends to hang around with characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, The Fantastic 4 and many other characters that Marvel studios doesn’t currently have the right to make films out of. Spider-Man’s movie rights were hoovered up by Sony Pictures many years ago when Marvel were forced to sell them to whoever wanted to buy them so that they could avoid bankruptcy in the 90s.
This has had the unfortunate knock on effect of many of their most popular characters being owned by other companies which didn’t seem like a huge issue before the release of Iron Man in 2007. Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was the first hint that we might one day see different comic book characters interact in a way resembling the frequent crossovers in comic books so it quickly became apparent that seeing Wolverine’s iconic battle with The Hulk adapted to the big screen with a massive budget might never happen. That’s just an example, there are near infinite fan favourite crossovers that can’t happen with the characters under so many different umbrellas.
When it comes to Spidey this wasn’t such a big deal in the beginning as the character is typically a loner who subsists on his own adventures most of the time. He’s perfect for solo films because his popularity has never been linked to his affiliation with a particular team. It could also be argued that Marvel Studios were forced to make the best of the characters they did own. If they had owned Spider-Man or Wolverine before 2007 then would Iron Man ever have seen the light of day? Would any of the films we’ve come to love have happened at all? In retrospect it’s great to look back at these films and be grateful that the opportunity existed to make Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk household names with some really solid films connected to their characters as well as a almost universally loved Avengers movie.
It’s only now that things are starting to become problematic. Sony rebooted the Spider-Man franchise with the 2012 movie The Amazing Spider-Man; a film that only existed because the rights were due to expire and Sony wanted to hold onto them given how profitable the character was to them. To my mind the film reeks of corporate desperation with shameless attempts to alter the origin story just for the sake of doing so resulting in a narrative that doesn’t make a whole load of sense while feeling all too familiar. It’s a shame as there was a first rate cast involved with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone nailing their parts perfectly.
The story continues on into 2014 with the widely criticised The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s a film that exists as a direct response to Marvel’s The Avengers and their Cinematic Universe in general. Sony decided that they should copy Marvel’s business model and set up a Cinematic Universe with Spider-Man at the center. Plans exist for a spinoff featuring the fan favourite character Venom, a Sinister Six film and an untitled female led superhero film all set in The Amazing Spider-Man universe.
My biggest problem here is that there is no Amazing Spider-Man universe as far as the comics are concerned. Spidey is a small part of a really massive universe with probably thousands of characters. He isn’t the center of any of it but does occupy his own corner. Venom is a popular character among comic fans but his viability as a solo film act is questionable at best. Especially if the rating given is PG-13. There’s also the argument that nobody wants to see a separate Spider-Man cinematic universe because they want him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It seemed like that might be close to coming true after the recent Sony hack which gave us insight into some internal communications concerning the character -most are linked here– and his future. To summarise it seemed that discussions were had with Marvel about featuring Spidey in their upcoming film Captain America: Civil War. Since Spidey is so instrumental to that comic book story it’s something that a lot of fans would love to see. Sadly it seems that those conversations fell apart and Sony are back to their own plans for the character.
I won’t bore you with the daily changes to their plans but it’s clear that Sony have no clue what they’re doing with him. Every leaked idea seems worse than the last and there’s a definite sense of panic and desperation as they quickly rush to find an idea that will work. I honestly don’t see what the problem is. Spider-Man is not a difficult character to adapt. To my mind he’s pretty simple as long as you keep focus on Peter Parker and the duality of his life. The core is that his secret identity causes issues in his personal life and his overpowering sense of guilt preventing him from doing anything about it. It’s not a difficult thing to put across as proven by Sam Raimi with his popular Spider-Man film series prior to the pointless reboot.
To my mind the definitive Spider-Man adaptation is the 2008-2009 animated series The Spectacular Spider-Man. This series managed to modernise the Spider-Man story in a way that feels fresh yet respectful to the decades of mythology behind him. Every episode is laser focused on Peter Parker as a person and how everything relates to him and his life. The complications are there, the guilt is there and the moral lessons are there. It’s pretty much everything the films should be now and it was replaced by the far inferior Ultimate Spider-Man that still airs now. It really is a shame and I would urge everyone reading this to check out The Spectacular Spider-Man as it’s really excellent stuff.
A recent rumour suggests that the deal between Sony and Marvel is done and Spider-Man will appear in Avengers: Infinity War Part I which basically means another reboot of the character to coincide with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. This probably means that Andrew Garfield will no longer wear the mask and that Marvel will be calling the shots as far as the character goes. I think this is both good and bad for the character as Marvel have a proven track record of making very watchable movies with their characters in them so I definitely think that Spider-Man will fare better in their hands but it would be a shame to recast away from Andrew Garfield as he does such a good job at playing Peter Parker as well as Spider-Man. He’s a fan as well so it’s great for him. I don’t think recasting would go down well with everyone. For me it depends who they get.
Sony have since denied this and continue to make their own plans that change by the day. I honestly don’t see why they’re being so difficult about this as it’s definitely something that a lot of people want. Surely giving people what they want is the best way to make money? Unless Sony want to run themselves into the ground by obstinately holding onto this character despite being unable to make him work for them.
It’s probably clear what I think should happen but I’ll summarise anyway. I think that Sony should either give the rights of Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios and let them fold the character into their existing universe so that fans can get what they want by seeing him interact with the other established characters. If they don’t return the character completely then surely they can come to some kind of arrangement that will be mutually profitable. This is pretty much a guaranteed money spinner so it really shouldn’t be this hard to make it happen.
It seems to me that the people tasked with coming up with future Spider-Man ideas at Sony are idiots who really don’t understand what appeals to people about the character. The most recent film more than proves that so why not give it to people who do get it? It seems inevitable that Marvel will get him back anyway given that Sony are determined to run him so far into the ground that they’ll have no choice but to sell him after losing so much money trying to make it work. If that’s what needs to happen then that’s fine by me. Spider-Man is, has been and always will be my favourite comic book character so to see him treated so poorly is something I find really upsetting. It’s not difficult to make a watchable Spider-Man film so I really want to see a watchable Spider-Man film be that under the Marvel Studios umbrella, the Sony umbrella or whoever else it takes to make this work.
You can read more articles from Craig at: kneelbeforeblog.co.uk