[23 July 2014]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Apparently, the future of a certain Marvel mainstay is currently “up in the air”. No, not any character from the Avengers or some of the second tier offshoots like the Guardians of the Galaxy. Not even proposed players like Ant-Man or Dr. Strange.
While the X-Men chug along mightily and Disney continues to distribute the wealth to its multi-franchised property, Sony has stumbled—big time, according to reports—on where Peter Parker and The Amazing Spider-Man should go next. There are even rumors that the franchise may be dead, having dropped significantly since the studio decided to reboot the webslinger shortly after giving Sam Raimi and company the boot.
According to reports, Roberto Orci, who split with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman earlier this year, made some vague yet morbid statements about the material he is no longer involved with. According to his supposedly insider speculation, the future is not bright for the genial teen crimefighter. Now, if you read the actual quote, it’s hard to feel that Orci is doing anything other than distancing himself from a process he’s no longer part of while concentrating on keeping the fledgling Star Trek dynasty (he’s writing and directing the trequel to J.J. Abram’s lens flarred updates) from imploding in his inexperienced face. For all he knows, Peter Parker and his pals are gearing up for another stab at big box office relevance.
Of course, that hasn’t kept the wags from tailing, so to speak. Every Internet site with a genre or comic book angle has taken apart Orci’s non-comments and turned them into the death knell for this property. Some have even gone so far as to add their own spin (including an intriguing link to Harry Potter), news they’ve gleaned from hours scouring the web, and have come up with the following conclusion: Spidey is dead.
The Sinister Six and Venom spin-offs? Viable, but still not 100 percent. Citing dwindling revenues from around the globe and the overall dissatisfaction with Marc Webb’s overstuffed sequel, the pundits are predicting that Sony will shelve Spider-man, at least for now, until they can decide the best way to retool their reimaging. And this is with Parts Three and Four already greenlit.
For a while, it looked like everything was aces with the newly revamped character. Webb, whose previous work was more centered around character than action sequences, brought a weird RomCom level of lightness to the otherwise mythos of heavy pen and ink pastiche. Sure, the choice of villain for The Amazing Spider-Man was kind of lame (The Lizard? Seriously?) but Webb hit all the other beats right on their confused adolescent superhero head.
By the time the first film was over at least most in the fanbase felt the update was on the right track. It was no Raimi, but then again, the Evil Dead genius was what Sony was scrambling from, not something it hoped to recreate.
Granted, there were murmurs, disgruntled disagreements across the board (some liked new Parker Andrew Garifield, others didn’t) while a few found the return to a more high school level Spidey both sensational and/or stupid. The cast and crew did everything right. They appeared at Comic-Con, found favor on social media, and even tweaked their own appreciations during press appearances. Amazing 2 was set up to be a sensation.
Instead, it turned into a nightmare of nuances. Opening weekend returns were (over)analyzed, global box office beleaguering the point. Critics crucified the film, mostly for taking a more (and More and MORE) is better approach to the narrative. They nitpicked the number of villains, the set-ups for future installments, and the lack of emotion.
Now it seems like Sony is in a quandary, as well. There’s no telling if Orci is simply screwing around with fanboy obsessives or if his words are being reconfigured to reflect the feelings of those reporting them. In either case, the studio has a significant problem. The buzz is already writing Spider-Man off without a single sentiment of support from those who wanted the franchise reworked in the first place. Orci’s opinion about Sinister Six and Venom makes sense, since both of these are new ideas, not ones recycled by five previous films. They also replicate the 800-pound gorilla in the screening room—Marvel—without having to mimic the company’s carefully laid film foundations.
And thus we’ve hit on the problem plaguing Spider-Man (and the adversaries over at DC, for that matter). Marvel went to bat for its properties, prying most of them away from confused studio suits and charting their own unique course. Over time, over tenuous casting and directing choices, over several first rate introductory origin stories, Marvel crafted something ‘must see’. It’s the reason Joss Whedon and The Avengers sit as the number three film of all time with well over a billion dollars banked (a billion and a half, to be exact).
The same can be said for X-Men. Its characters were slowly and meticulously built up to the point where films such as this year’s Days of Future Past play like a warm revisit with old friends.
Not Sony. Not Warner. These companies want to skip the hard part, establishing the material, before jumping in with both feet, all toes, and a pair of your mother’s army boots to add as many characters to the concept as possible. Over the last few months, we’ve been hearing almost daily reports about the icons being forced into the already elephantine Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice Whatever while early suggestions for Spidey Three and Four (which, as we said, were set-up a while ago) saw the same level of character inclusion.
Such a “too many cooks” conceit would kill your average title, but superhero films are flexible. You have to set up the situation correctly, however before you start counting your scratch. Marvel did this. DC and Sony have not.
Of course, what most fans want is for Peter Parker’s days outside the confines of Marvel proper to end, bringing him back into the Kevin Feige controlled fold and into future Avengers endeavors. Of course, that will never happen, but it’s a nice idea. And, once again, Orci could be talking out of his ass. There’s been no confirmations or denials from the studio, and it’s safe to say that, if Pacific Rim can get a sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follow-up should be a gimme.
Spider Man is still a very popular character. Clearly, the problems with a certain webslinger start from the very tippy top. Without an understanding of what makes movie franchises endure, we could indeed be seeing a very limited return for a reconfigured superhero.