Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Webslinger Woes (VOR #22)



Ahh, the Spider-man franchise. Mirroring the titular web-slinger himself, the fortunes of this property are swinging back and forth rather rapidly. Barely a day goes by without a new report on the future Sony has in store for Spidey, only for them to be quickly countered by something equally absurd.

Unlike Spidey however, the crew over at Sony are really struggling to make anything stick. When it comes to the Spider-man film franchise, they've been left well and truly scratching their heads. So, the question of everyone's lips; what now?


Things started getting a little rocky for Marvel's most recognisable character a while back. Long before the tepid reviews for The Amazing Spider-man 2 started rolling in and critics went for the studio's jugular, Spidey faced a similarly uncertain future following the lukewarm Spider-man 3.

Hmm, a strangely apt image concerning the
Spider-man franchise
Back in 2010, after Spider-man 3 had divided critics and audiences, the series was caught at a crossroads following the departure of director Sam Raimi and protagonists, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Following much disagreement between Sony and Raimi, the studio had scrapped Spider-man 4, after failing to deliver a script Raimi liked, and so on. You get the picture. You don't need me to go into detail on this, it's a fairly high-profile case study on how not to save a film franchise.

Fast forward to 2012 and he was back! Spider-man had been given a fresh lick of paint (twee indie rom-com director Marc Webb channelled previous work, (500) Days of Summer) and a hot, young cast (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone). Surely, Sony had a surefire hit on their hands.

It wasn't a super smash-hit, but 2012's The Amazing Spider-man did well enough to plough onward with a sequel, keeping Webb, Garfield and Stone onboard once more. Plans of mirroring the success of Marvel's Avengers series, Sony began making grand plans for a wide, interconnected universe that could cover all sorts of interesting Spidey characters like Venom, The Sinister Six and so on. Multiple sequels were also pitched, release dates set for instalments three (2016) and four (2018).

And then, Amazing Spider-man 2 hit cinemas in April this year. And all of a sudden, these plans had to be halted.

The cash tills were ringing, but critics were not singing. The Amazing Spider-man 2 received very mixed reviews, with many critics bemoaning the cheesy villains, the jumbled narrative and the thinly written character motivations. Among other complaints, the prevailing consensus seemed to be the film put dazzling spectacle above coherent storytelling.

Now, I know that this opinion isn't everyones. I'll even put my hand up now and admit that I really liked TASM2. Lots, in fact. I recognise I'm going against the crowd, but it's my favourite Spider-man film yet.

Despite raking in just over $700 million worldwide (from a budget of $250 million), the film was dubbed a flop. The critical drubbing damaged public opinion (for once) and the numbers were down on what Sony had hoped the film would make. It still made a butt-tonne of money, but it wasn't 'Marvel' money. Not the $1.3 billion Iron Man 3 made. Not Winter Soldier numbers.

In the US, Amazing Spider-man 2 made "only" $200 million, half the domestic gross of the first Raimi film over a decade earlier. It made the rest back overseas, but Sony were not impressed. As of writing, the film sits behind Age of Extinction, Days of Future Past, Maleficent and The Winter Solider for highest-grossing films this year.

You can also be damn sure that other films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Mockingjay and The Hobbit are going to outstrip that by the end of the year also.

So, despite all the plans put in place, Spidey is on the ropes once again. Only two years into his shiny, hipster reboot and Spidey is looking shaky. Where do Sony go from here?

Well, if you're to believe the media, he's going pretty much everywhere and anywhere. The latest rumour doing the rounds is that Amazing Spider-man 3 won't materialise until 2018, with Sinister Six still getting the go-ahead for 2016.

The other big announcement was that another film slated for 2017 would feature an all-female ensemble. Dubbed a 'top to bottom revamp", this spin-off would be the first major superhero film in a long while to put the fairer sex front and centre, but one can only wonder what characters would actually feature? Black Cat? Spider-Woman? Errr...my Spidey lore isn't the best folks...

"I cant' wait for the new Venom/Carnage crossover movie!"
- said no-one ever.
Source: Badass Digest
We've also been told that a Venom film is still in the works, albeit with an added dash of Carnage thrown in. You know, because that's what audiences really want to see. 100 minutes of Venom and Carnage tearing the fuck out of each other (the title is reportedly going to be Venom Carnage - I wish I was joking).

After having followed the various trials and tribulations of this series for the past few weeks, I have reached one solid conclusion: Spidey is MIA once more. Even if these films do go ahead, can anyone really see them doing well?

Look at it this way; how much chopping and changing to hear from Marvel? (Ant-Man director issues aside). None. And guess what, they're movies are super awesome. I mean look at Guardians of the Galaxy. What a brilliant success story that movie is turning out to be. Audiences can accept left-field characters based on obscure books if done right. Marvel stuck to they're guns, and told audiences to trust they'd do it right. And they did.

Sony could learn a thing or two from Marvel. Amazing Spiderman? I'm losing interest, fast. I was so impressed by Amazing Spider-man 2, and saddened by the poor reviews. But now, I really couldn't care less about this series. The constant barrage of rumours and conjecture has really shaken my excitement for any future Spidey films. They seem to be making changes to the plan every single week, and with each change, consumer confidence for the series takes a dent. Forget all this Venom, Carnage, Black Cat, Sinister Six bullshit. What happened to sticking to the 'grand plan'?

My hot tip: Expect "Spectacular Spider-man", a reboot of Amazing Spider-man to be hitting cinemas in 2019. You heard it here first.

4 comments:

  1. Cool write-up. To be honest, though, other than hearing about Sinister Six this week I hadn't really heard anything about the franchise lately. Then again, I try to avoid as much of that stuff as possible so that might explain it. Haven't seen TASM2 just yet, so I can't say whether or not I think it's worthy of continuing the series as is. However, I was rather lukewarm on the first one, so there's that. I'm more worried about what the big wigs in charge of bringing DC's characters to the screen are doing because they seem to have no clue. The JL Prequel: Batman v. Superman is shaping up to be a disaster with new news coming out on an almost daily basis. I said I try to avoid that stuff, but with this movie it's proven to be impossible. Every time I turn on my computer something new pops up on the screen. And it's almost always the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Anyhoo, I can go on ranting about how bad that movie sounds for days. I'll just stop here.

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    1. Haha, thanks Wendell :) I wish I could avoid the ongoing news about Spider-man, it seems to be all over my Facebook news feed and stuff. I tried to link off to a few of the sources in the article if you want to check them out for yourself :) Good on you for steering clear though! My recommendation would be to see TASM2 and judge for yourself - it is an improvement over the first ASM (in my opinion) and does have a lot going for it. Not sure why critics bashed it as much as they did, but they're not wrong in saying the narrative is tangled at times.

      As for BvS:DOJ (as I'm choosing to call it), I have very mixed feelings on where that one is going to go. Introducing Wonder Woman was sketchy, but Cyborg and Aquaman?! There's just way too much going on there. I have a regular JLA news/opinion column I've been doing, so maybe I'll have to get back to that soon with the latest updates :)

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  2. Yeah, my own interest continues to wane as it concerns this series. I'm not opposed to a Venom spinoff, but what are they even suggesting a Sinister Six movie to be? Is that NOT going to be a Spider-Man movie itself? I dunno, but the fact that they're already jumbling things around by delaying ASM3 isn't a good sign. I know it'll never happen, but damn, Marvel/Disney just needs to make Sony some really, REALLY nice offer to get the rights back or something, because Sony clearly doesn't know what to do with the license anymore...

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    1. Agreed - seeing Garfield mix it up with Downey Jnr in an Avengers/Spider-man crossover would be the best thing ever. Time travel, alternate dimensions - I don't care Sony, just make it happen! :D I really have no idea where that Sinister Six movie would go either, let's be honest - who the hell is going to be the hero? Is it just going to be two hours of six villains being villainous?!

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