With the output of Spider-Man : Homecoming this July 12, the weaver will have been featured in 6 films, with 3 different actors, in only 15 years. After Sam Raimi’s trilogy and Marc Webb’s diptych, why is Sony, in collaboration with Marvel Studios, re-launching the franchise once again? Explanations.
In just 15 years, the Spider-Man character will have had the right to 6 films and 3 different actors on the big screen thanks to Sony’s adaptations. This juicy license brought the studio nearly $2.5 billion in revenue from its first three films alone – at a time when superhero feature films did not consistently reach the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office receipts.
This July 12, the arachnid hero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the pages ofAmazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962 returns to the big screen with Spider-Man : Homecoming. A new reboot… only 5 years after the one already initiated by The Amazing Spider-Man.
Why is the weaver starting from scratch for the umpteenth time? Will this reboot be the right one to ensure the longevity of the movie franchise? Elements of response.
For Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi had to deal with the demands of Sony, who imposed the character of Venom on him.
Before founding his own film studio, Marvel began selling the rights to his rich catalogue of characters in the 1990s. The X-Men was purchased by 20th Century Fox – which continues to operate them – and the Spider-Man was woven at Sony. These agreements offer, in exchange for a validation right from the Maison des Idées sur la production, a systematic renewal of rights in the event of a new project launched within a given period of time.
After the trilogy directed by Sam Raimi in the early 2000s, which was crowned with immense popular success, the idea of a fourth feature film still directed by Raimi was put forward after the almost billion Spider-Man 3.
But the creative differences that had already marked the production of the third opus – Sony having imposed the character of Venom on the director – resurfaced. This time round, the studio refuses Le Vautour as the main villain, on the pretext that he doesn’t sell enough toys. Sam Raimi, far from being discouraged, is forcing his way into the studio. But the latter finally prefers to make a clean sweep of the past: he cancels the fourth opus to go on a reboot with Amazing Spider-Man,
Entrusted to Marc Webb, a little known director but noticed with the very nice (500) Days Together, this new version aimed at adapting some of the plots of the comic book seriesUltimate Spider-Man, by Brian Michael Bendis, which features a young, dynamic Peter Parker, who has to juggle between teenage problems and superheroic confrontations.
In fact, The Amazing Spider-Man finally turned out to be a mashup between Raimi’s dramatic sensibility and some rather cosmetic novelties to make people accept the new origins of a character everyone already knows.
Far from the adolescent atmosphere of the series Ultimate, Amazing Spider-Man presented Andrew Garfield in the role of Parker, alongside Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy – central character of the comics and relayed in the background of Spider-Man 3 – and facing one of the emblematic enemies (and unseen in theatres) of the weaver: the Lizard.
However, while the film has earned the modest sum of $757 million worldwide, public and fan reviews are extremely mixed. The disappointment of being confronted with a reboot so soon after an excellent trilogy is strong. This first misstep will aggravate the crisis surrounding the management of the license.
Marc Webb’s young-but-not-really-joking-but-even-shadow Spider-Man has not been as successful as expected.
When The Amazing Spider-Man is released in the summer of 2012, Marvel Studios continues to climb the ladder. After the success ofIron Man, Thor and Captain America – as well as a nice takeover by Disney – the film branch of the comic book publisher has definitively laid the foundations of its shared universe in the cinema, definitively concretized by the first Avengers by Joss Whedon.
Sony is then late, with a strong license but which makes it difficult to create a universe all around. However, by starting the production of a Amazing Spider-Man 2, the studio is considering the development of a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, where projects such as a Sinister Six film, another Venom and a feature film featuring female characters from the weaver’s universe are planned.
The strategy will be totally abandoned after the release ofAmazing Spider-Man 2: The Fate of a Hero in 2014. The second opus directed by Marc Webb greatly disappoints the public – between the treatment of the evil Electro and his catch-all script – and pays less than the previous one, with “only” 700 million at the world box office, the worst score of a licensed film.
At the same time, Marvel Studios and Disney met a colossal and rather unexpected success with the unknownGuardians of Galaxy. This is something to make Sony’s bigwigs think, especially Amy Pascal, who was at the time vice-president of Sony Pictures and responsible for the weaver’s licence.
In November 2014, Sony’s hacking of the web will allow the public to discover tens of thousands of emails on the web. They reveal many internal exchanges and some projects under discussion.
Among them are exchanges between Amy Pascal and Doug Belgrad, president of the studio, the latter arguing that a rapprochement with Marvel Studios “would automatically create a ton of profit for Sony by reinvigorating the character. “Revelations that will push Sony, until now in simple negotiation with the opposing party, to find an agreement to launch the weaver on the big screen for a third time.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 repeated Spider-Man 3’s mistake of wanting to put too many bad guys in one movie.
These leaks are a new blow for Sony, which, in addition to falling further and further behind in the development of super-licenses, finds itself with a number of scandals on its hands, notably that of the latent racism of Amy Pascal, who was forced to resign as vice-president to remain solely responsible for the Spidey license. She will negotiate directly with Disney and Marvel Studios for this new version.
Marvel Studios is then well aware of the fans’ desire to find a younger hero and, above all, of their desire to leave Peter Parker behind to put forward another alter-ego under the mask of Spider-Man with Miles Morales, a character created by Brian Michael Bendis in the Ultimateuniverse, which is Hispano-African.
The movement is supported by Donald Glover, who has been campaigning since 2010 to play a black Spider-Man in movies. Only the conservatism of Sony and Amy Pascal will calm the desires of Kevin Feige, producer and director of Marvel Studios. A compromise is then found with the introduction of a brand new and very young Peter Parker in the person of Tom Holland, but leaving room for stories and secondary characters that may (perhaps) bring Miles Morales to the big screen in the long run.
The deal includes an appearance by Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War as well as two more in the upcomingAvengers releases and, most importantly, the production of two new films, entirely financed by Sony. In this partnership, Marvel’s film branch only recovers the rights to the toys.
After Civil War, Spider-Man : Homecoming goes into production, with director Jon Watts at the helm. A choice that may remind us of Marc Webb in his day – minus the arachnophile pun – since this new director has never directed a big-budget film.
The will is then to adapt a good part of the atmosphere of the Ultimate Spider-Manseries with a high school hero more joyful and joking than the two previous versions. Tom Holland, who made his remarkable debut in Civil War, puts on the costume again and this time avoids a plot about the hero’s origins, already twice staged on the big screen.
And it would seem that the formula is the right one, since in just a few days the feature film has earned nearly $257 million worldwide – even before its release in several European countries.
The new (and third) Spider-Man on the big screen, played by Tom Holland, in Homecoming.
The combination of Disney/Marvel and Sony could well herald a stable future for Spider-Man, with both parties having an interest in it. But one problem remains: who really owns this Spider-Man?
Sony, encouraged by the very positive critical feedback on Homecoming, has already relaunched its idea of a Spider-verse with the announcement of a project Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer (Welcome to Zombiland) with Tom Hardy as the headliner, while the insistent rumours of Silver & Black films and the cursed Sinister Six project have been revived.
These speculations caught Kevin Feige off guard, while providing some confusion about the terms of the contract for the “sharing” of the rights of Spider-Man. If, technically, Sony keeps the rights, and therefore can make Tom Holland appear in any project around Spidey, this can hardly be done in practice because it would have to be understood that Venom and other characters are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). A situation that is not part of the deal, nor of Feige’s desires, since he will not have the same creative influence on this type of project as he did for Homecoming and its sequels.
It’s easy to imagine that both parties will have to sit down to renegotiate a contract extension or at least settle this little dispute, which has come to the fore in the middle of a promotional tour. However, with Sony and Amy Pascal back in a strong position thanks to this collaboration, it is possible that the two companies may disagree on the subject.
Nothing at the moment seems to be moving in that direction, but it is a possibility to be taken into account. Especially since Marvel Studios has been very clever in introducing some elements around Miles Morales in Homecoming, allowing them to leave Tom Holland to Sony to get his own Spider-Man in the MCU.
The future will tell us a little more about the decision taken by the two studios. But one thing’s for sure: Spider-Man seems to be back at the top of its popularity, and it is hoped that these big money and positioning conflicts will not spoil this comeback.