Editorial: Why Spider-Man Swinging Home to Marvel is Good News
by Dan Marcus
February 10, 2015
After the news broke that Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had finally come to an arrangement on the Spider-Man franchise, Alex wrote an editorial about how he wasn't excited. I can't help but disagree. First of all, let's take a moment to soak in how utterly exciting it is that Spider-Man is back home – in a sense – with Marvel. It happened. It finally happened. After years of fans wanting it, two lackluster Spider-Man movies (that fans didn't want) and a studio leak that all but got fans' hopes up with discussions of a talk between Sony and Marvel – the studio behind The Avengers will finally be helping shape the cinematic future of Spider-Man. I can't help but spin this as great news for for Marvel, Sony and Spidey's fans alike.
This has to be a "best of both worlds" scenario for all involved. For Sony, they can still retain the rights to the Spider-Man character but bring in people who really know how to tell a good superhero story on film. For Marvel, they can finally bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe fold. For fans, they finally get their wish of seeing one of their favorite comic-book characters interacting with the rest of Marvel's pantheon. Best of all, fans finally have a chance at getting an actually good Spider-Man movie for a change. After three consecutively lackluster films, it's about time Spider-Man got a good movie again.
To truly appreciate how great this news is, one simply has to look back at the somewhat tumultuous last eight years of the cinematic Spider-Man legacy. Spider-Man made his silver screen debut in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man in 2002 starring Tobey Maguire as the webslinging hero. It was hailed as a great cinematic achievement and the highest grossing film of that year. With 2004's sequel Spider-Man 2, Raimi made what is arguably one of the best superhero films of all time. Even nearly fifteen years later and Spider-Man 2 still holds up – no Spider-Man film has yet to top it. The series then started to swing downhill with Spider-Man 3. There are plenty of reasons for why that film floundered – one of them being the movie's producer Avi Arad forcing the villainous Venom on Raimi, who outright disliked the character.
Sony Pictures, the studio that's owned, financed, distributed and overseen the creative development of the Spider-Man franchise since 2002, was planning on moving forward with a fourth installment in Raimi's series until Raimi walked away. Just five years after Spider-Man 3, Sony rebooted the series with The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield as the titular webslinger. While reviews were mostly positive, fans were less than enthused - although it earned a respectable $760 million at the worldwide box office. For the most part, fans seemed irritated that we were getting a reboot of the character so soon after the Tobey Maguire version. What's worse is that The Amazing Spider-Man promised to be different than its predecessor, but felt very worn and familiar – rethreading the origin story that audiences already saw in Sam Raimi's film.
Whatever small goodwill the Amazing Spider-Man series had – including some excellent chemistry between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – last year's sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, threw that all into a blender and hit the highest setting possible. While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did decently at the box office – earning a little over $700 million worldwide – it was still less than the previous film and continued what has been a steady decline for the web crawler at the box office. Throw in some mixed reviews and a fanbase that was growing more and more detached and you can understand why change was imminent. However, change for the sake of change doesn't mean anything. Why get excited for this new Marvel/Sony collaboration? After all, didn't Sony reboot the character just four years ago?
While this new version of the Spider-Man character will still be owned by Sony – who will continue to finance and distribute the solo films – this version will be creatively spearheaded by Kevin Fiege and Marvel Studios. This is the same Kevin Fiege that has helped redefine the superhero genre (and yes it is a genre now) by producing every Marvel Studios film of the last several years, starting with 2008's Iron Man. Even though the Marvel Studios movies aren't perfect, for the most part they know how to deliver the hits when they do. Think back just five or ten years ago –no one would have thought a successful film version of The Avengers could become a cinematic reality.
Not only that, but Marvel has pulled off the herculean task of a successful, practically seamless cinematic universe, where characters appear in multiple films across different franchises – creating a shared space that feels occupied and real. In a way, Fiege and Marvel Studios have done the unthinkable – they have adapted, to the best of their ability, the comics to the screen in a way we've never seen before. Who would have thought just ten years ago Iron Man would be sharing the same frame as Captain America or Thor? Well, it's happened. Marvel is continuing that tradition of defying expectations with this new arrangement. Who would have thought just five years ago that Spider-Man would be sharing the same frame as Iron Man or Captain America? In a couple years' time, you won't have to imagine anymore.
There'll be plenty of people that will bemoan yet another reboot of Spider-Man and you can't really blame them. This will be the third incarnation of the character in 13 years. By the time the new Sony/Marvel Studios Spider-Man solo film comes out in 2017, it'll be just three years after the last Amazing Spider-Man film. However, with that said, we don't know what kind of reboot this is going to be. The Hollywood Reporter seems to be the only source confirming that Andrew Garfield is not expected to reprise his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, which is truly disappointing. As underwhelming as the Amazing Spider-Man movies were, Garfield was a highlight. It'll be a real shame if he doesn't come back, but The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was slated to be his last turn as Spidey anyway. Garfield is currently 31 – and he'll be pushing 34 by the time the new Sony/Marvel Studios Spider-Man film is supposed to come out. That's fairly old for a character that in the comics is known for being a teenager in high school.
So while it is sad that Garfield won't be returning, there are still plenty of awesome possibilities that could make up for it. For example, what if Donald Glover was cast as the wall crawler? Glover had a surprising amount of fan support – including Facebook campaigns to get him cast – while Sony was looking for its new Amazing Spider-Man. Avi Arad, the franchise's notorious producer (who will jump onboard the new film as an executive producer – in what is probably a significantly reduced role), once said he never saw Miles Morales ever becoming Spider-Man during his tenure. Now that Arad has been presumably pushed to the sidelines, it is safe to assume Morales is now an actual possibility. How exciting would that be? Everyone talks about wanting more diversity in their superheroes. By thinking outside the proverbial casting box or by eventually going with Morales as Spider-Man, the franchise now stands a true chance at becoming fresh and vibrant again.
After all, the lack of vibrancy and the creative staleness is what fans most complained about when it comes to the previous two Amazing Spider-Man movies. They didn't take enough chances. They were creatively running on fumes. What's exciting is that Fiege has always been very smart about choosing great filmmakers. Look at his track record: Jon Favreau for Iron Man, Joss Whedon for The Avengers, the Russo brothers for Captain America and James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy just to name a few. I'm sure whoever Fiege helps pick for the new solo Spider-Man film will be just as talented and right for the character. Even though Marc Webb is a very gifted filmmaker, it was no secret he was being hindered by Sony's past studio regime and Avi Arad and Matt Tomlach as producers.
The Amazing Spider-Man was originally touted as "The Untold Story", but much of that untold story was exorcised or re-arranged in the final edit, resulting in a film that was misshapen and uneven. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffered from studio interference and terrible writing. With a brand-new creative team – and Fiege's backing and support – this can only mean Marvel bringing on a team that love and respects the Spider-Man character. Not only that, but a team that also has the talent and grit to make a good movie. When you hear Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - writers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – talk about the character it is clear they have a love and passion for him. Spider-Man needs the kind of creative team that has a deep admiration for the source material but also knows what they are doing. If anyone can find those that exhibit that delicate balance for Spider-Man, it's Kevin Fiege.
After all, Kevin Fiege is the man that turned a comic-book about obscure, barely known outcasts into one of the biggest films of last year. By now, we shouldn't be doubting Feige and Marvel Studios but trusting that they know what they are doing. Spider-Man needs some new creative threads to combat the spandex fatigue that's been plaguing the character for the last couple years now. While it might not be an overnight success, Marvel is smart to re-introduce Spider-Man to new audiences in a Marvel film before its new solo adventure. While there are many Marvel films to choose from between now and 2017 (although Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man are probably unlikely candidates), it's safe to assume our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will probably make an appearance in the next Captain America movie, Civil War. If the idea of Spider-Man spinning quips at Tony Stark doesn't get you foaming at the mouth with excitement, then you might be as cold as Captain America before he was thawed.
Let's be honest: It's an exciting time to be a Spider-Man fan – but also a fan of comics and comic-book movies in general. Marvel Studios just made the impossible suddenly possible – just like they have time and time again. Something tells me by July 28th, 2017 we'll all by sitting in that theater, anxiously waiting this new era of Spider-Man to start. Are you excited about Marvel's plans on working with Sony for a new Spider-Man film? Excited about Spider-Man sharing the screen with the Avengers? Sound off below!