Hanging By A Thread: Marvel Studios’ Problems With A Spider-Man Movie
It should have been greeted with more fanfare. Way more. The big bad Sony Pictures studio who pretty much locked up the rights to everyone’s favourite wall-crawling red and blue superhero – Spider-Man – had reached an agreement with ‘can do no wrong’ Marvel Studios to allow his appearance in their upcoming slate of self-built Marvel Cinematic Universe and even agreed to co-produce a new Spidey movie which takes place in said universe. So then why is every step or soft tread in the same direction being met by distain by fans?
To be honest, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a good Spidey movie so you would have thought people would be holding street parties when Marvel got their hands back on him. Instead, it feels more like a stern ‘where have you been?’ and a massive amount of grumbling as we now have to accommodate that bloody geek Peter Parker back into the fold. Spare a thought for what Marvel Studios can actually do with the character, since we’ve exhausted all his big plots, villains, powers and character arcs already.
The modern history of the Spider-Man rights are intriguing. Whilst you could say Sony have treated them as well as you could say a rally car driver would treat your Rolls Royce, there is still merit in their time on the franchise. Sam Raimi at the helm managed to capture the spirit of Stan Lee’s teen superhero balancing his real life beyond the costume and there was some pretty sweet work done with the villains, before he got his hands on Venom… actually, he got away with making the dire Spider-Man 3 and there are countries undiscovered where liking that film is punishable by being forced to watch Jupiter Ascending on repeat for infinity. Whilst he made the totally unnecessary reboot Amazing Spider-Man, I’ll give Marc Webb some credit – he managed to come the closest with balancing the angst, troubles & wisecracking comedy of the wallcrawler. Shame when a subtle balance is required for the angst levels, the only option was overdrive.
From the less than stellar U.S. performance of Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony Pictures were at a bit of a crossroads whether to proceed with another Spidey only flick, or do they go all out and try building a shared universe like Marvel Studios but just with Spidey characters? Whilst option 2 was explored, when one of the potential ideas coming close to being green lit was a movie just about Peter’s beloved Aunt May, you have to wonder what cowboys were riding this franchise into the ground. Marvel apparently kept knocking at the door and made numerous offers for the poor guy as Sony stubbornly kept hold of the rights with no clear directions or plans to spark revival in the guy again. Until the announcement that an agreement was made allowing Marvel to use Spider-Man in possible Captain America: Civil War or Doctor Strange and the two studios co-producing another Spidey singular outing with ties to the MCU. A triumph? It may be, but the events since have not done Marvel any favours in the start of an uphill battle to win fan approval and interest again.
The news/rumours that Marvel are hinting at what they are planning to do, have done little to spark interest since. After stating they’re ditching popular Andrew Garfield from the role (which is a crime in my opinion – he made it his own and balanced the angst & comedy decently) and looking to recast the role – ideally with a teen actor – people were tepid to it. On the verge of running into a third actor to portray Peter Parker’s alter-ego is bad enough within a 15 year time limit, but there was worse to come. Everyone I’ve talked to and the reaction on social media has completely dumped on Marvel’s rumoured idea that we have to have a Spidey back in high school. Again. For the third time. I don’t really understand this forced notion that Marvel Studios themselves MUST do a high school one. Given in comics history, Peter has spent far more time out of high school than when he was first created and is now an adult struggling with adult problems, as well as balancing his costumed act. It seems backwards to go back to the teen years of a hero when we’ve spent far more time identifying with him now. Marvel seem to have adopted a snooty attitude of “Well our version will be the best one” but doing the same old act for a third time is not interesting to anyone, no matter how good it is. Oh and my interest in a potential origin film (they must be considering it if we’re going for the high school angle) is completely dead in the water. We’ve seen it twice already and the backstory to go with ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ can go die in the fire.
There’s a thought that Marvel Studios are doing a lot to accommodate the wall crawler, and it may come at the expense of it’s self built Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel have brought up their individual characters as something special, to the point where even film studios who thought they were worth nothing now realise their titular solo movies are big business. Imagine what price Marvel could name for the rights of the billion dollar grossing Iron Man alone? Utterly insane money. There is some resentment that as cinemagoers we’ve seen Marvel build something pretty special with it’s own unique shared universe, and crowbarring in Spider-Man would interfere with their plans. I mean we’re getting a sixth film and they’ve all but confirmed he will turn up in other movies. It’s coming at the expense of other potentially more interesting films. I’m not happy that I’m waiting longer for Thor: Ragnarok for a film I may not have no interest in seeing. I haven’t got a clue what plot they could adapt or untouched villains he could fight either without getting really into the B-list. From here, Spidey just feels like an exhausted character by his own self and he’s only being used as a crutch for other heroes.
At this point, even in Marvel’s hands, I doubt we’ll get that perfect Spider-Man we all want which gets everything about the character right. Why? Well, because we’ve seen them already. Granted spread out over five movies but we have. A weird Frankenstein-esque cut must exist on someone’s hard-drive where some over enthusiastic university film editor has stitched together one which captures the good webslinging, the action set pieces, the quips and the key core of Spidey as the hero who wants to do well, who gets knocked down continuously in his private and costumed lives but gets back up and goes again. I’ve seen that done five times already over the last 13 years – I am in no real rush to see it again in anyone’s hands.
What’s weird that 10 years ago, fans would have given anything to see Spidey get involved in the Avengers world building, but after Sony’s reasonable misuse of the character and franchise, people are treading softly on the approach of a new Spidey movie. Even if its in the hands of his originators at Marvel. On the supposed evidence proposed so far, I feel that even with Marvel Studios’ midas touch this could be a step too far for them, as the tired and worn out Spider-Man is eyed for a second reboot in less than 20 years; a scary statistic. I want to be enticed and made to see a new Spider-Man movie, not view it with utter distain and feel its work to get behind.
You still have time Marvel & Sony. Surprise me. Make that comic where Peter kills Mary Jane with radioactive sperm into a film. That would be money.