A few weeks ago, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal hinted at expanding the Spider-Man universe, and I’ve been saying for months that the company’s superhero strategy rests on supervillains since they only have one superhero, Spider-Man (creating a superhero from scratch is apparently verboten). Their only option is to dig into Spidey’s vast rogues gallery, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do. Last night, Sony outlined how they plan to compete with Disney/Marvel, Warner Bros/DC Comics, and 20th Century Fox (X-Men and Fantastic Four).
Hit the jump for more details on the studio’s plan.
First, Sony re-iterated that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 writers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinker would return to handle the script for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 with the hope of bringing back director Marc Webb. The studio is presumably pleased with what they’ve seen from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so they’re bringing back its writers. Sony also has the benefit of tacking “From the writers of Transformers and Star Trek” to trailers should the studio choose to do so (technically true although Pinker isn’t credited with those movies; he has a heavy TV background with Fringe, Lost, and Alias). Whether Webb returns or not, the studio has already mapped out a fall production date for a June 10, 2016 release date.
Even if Webb doesn’t return to direct the third installment, he’s still part of a “brain trust” that includes Kurtzman, Orci, and Pinker, writers Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), and producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad. Their job is “to develop a continuous tone and thread throughout the films.” In short, the spin-offs have to look like they’re in the same universe so the vibe you get from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be consistent. If you don’t like the feel of the Spider-Man universe after the upcoming sequel, you’re going to be in for a heap of disappointment.
Part of expanding the universe will be Kurtzman, Orci, and Solomon handling Venom with Kurtzman directing. This is great because I couldn’t care less about Venom. He’s a boring character whose purpose is to define Spider-Man. He’s an ugly, unhinged representation of both Spidey and Peter Parker, and his weakness is loud noises. If you’ve seen People Like Us, you know that even with complete reign over story and direction, Kurtzman and Orci have nothing to offer.
The only interesting part of the spin-off plan is The Sinister Six, and that’s because I have faith in Goddard. He’s the only one attached to write the movie, and he also might direct. Granted, we don’t know what villains will comprise The Sinister Six, but at least Goddard has demonstrated an intelligent grasp of genre. Venom feels like pandering (if you’re going to do a single-character spinoff, why not someone like Black Cat? Oh right, she’s a girl. BOOOOOO women) but The Sinister Six could be a breakdown of the superhero genre like The Cabin in the Woods was a breakdown of the horror genre.
But ultimately, there’s not a lot of diversity here. Yes, it’s more, but that’s the point Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros. are missing. Quantity is much easier than quality. They look at The Avengers and see a bunch of superheroes. That’s why you stuff Batman and Wonder Woman into the Man of Steel sequel because giving Superman another solo adventure isn’t enough. And I’m looking forward to X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it’s also being sold on more mutants, although the main plot just looks like the X-Men: First Class crew plus Wolverine, and I’m fine with that. Of course, that’s still not enough, so Fox recruited Simon Kinberg to try and meld X-Men and The Fantastic Four.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will have more characters, but that’s because the previous films laid the foundation for everybody else. Every main character in The Avengers was introduced earlier in Phase One. That was a clearly defined plan, and the plan allowed for diversity and careful build-up.
And perhaps Sony is now laying out a plan beyond “more super-powered characters from comic books”. Perhaps The Amazing Spider-Man 3 exists to help set up Venom and The Sinister Six, and those movies will tie back to The Amazing Spider-Man 4. It’s nice to be hopeful, but let’s not ignore the financial reality. Fanboys want to see the characters they like in comics on the big screen. And disturbingly, I think they may like the build-up more than the final product. They want to argue over every single piece of casting. They want to see every single set photo. They count down to trailers. And as a movie site, we’re absolutely culpable in this teaser culture. We’ve made the build-up more important than the pay-off.
I hope Sony’s plan works. I really do. I don’t like going to bad movies. I like being pleasantly surprised. Maybe The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 4, Venom, and The Sinister Six will all be great films. But right now, back in the boring present where all we can do is speculate, it’s just looks like a plan to keep up with Marvel, and that’s not enough.