On Monday, screenwriter Robert Orci revealed he was no longer involved with the “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise and frankly, that raised some eyebrows. Granted, Orci has enough on his plate as he will be making his directorial debut with “Star Trek 3,” but the “Transformers” and “Star Trek” screenwriter was supposed to be part of a “brain trust” to guide the Spidey franchise at Sony Pictures. And the question has to be asked: has Sony changed its plans after “The Amazing Spider-Man 2?”
After promising to improve upon the tepidly received 2012 reboot, “ASM 2” received worse reviews, earned less than its predecessor domestically (by over $60 million to date) and barely earned $200 million after a $91.6 million opening (think about that for a second). Moreover, while most franchises' overseas grosses are growing as markets such as China and Russia explode, “ASM2” has barely surpassed the first Marc Webb film outside the U.S. And again, it just has to make you wonder if Sony is reconsidering its “Spider-Man” plans.
Keeping that in mind, HitFix took the current state of the franchise to the hoop with another edition of 3 on 3.
Which writer or director should Sony Pictures hire to give the “Spider-Man” universe new life?
Gregory Ellwood: Obviously, someone who could finally get the tone right would help. Maybe someone who could deliver a visual look that doesn't seem like a watered down version of Sam Raimi's films. Whoever it is, it would help if they were actually fans of the character or comic book series. What about “Attack the Block's” Joe Cornish? Would Edgar Wright ever contemplate coming into the middle (or end) of a franchise? Maybe “The Raid 2's” Gareth Evans? Or “Cold in July's” Jim Mickle? Dare to dream.
Drew McWeeny: What a weird problem for a studio to have. I think it's safe to say that Spider-Man, as a character, is one of the most beloved movie superheroes ever. The reaction to the Raimi trilogy was amazing, and they did a lot of things right when hiring the team behind the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. But there's a fatigue that's set in now, and if they're going to make the character and the series feel relevant again, there are two ways to do it. First is hire the biggest gun possible. Hire someone bigger than the franchise. If we're dreaming, then let's take a page from Spidey's long history of big-screen-almosts: James Cameron. If you told the general public that James Cameron was making a Spider-Man movie, I think the sky's the limit in terms of expectation. The other way to do it is to roll the dice on something crazy. Hire Gareth Evans and put Iko Uwais inside the suit for the motion-capture fight scenes and make a movie in which the Kingpin's put a hit on Spider-Man and you have a ticking clock and Spider-Man has to beat the living shit out of about 500 of the craziest fighters, assassins, and thugs New York City has to offer. Never take the mask off once. Never show Peter Parker at all. You can hire anyone you like to do the voice.
Kristopher Tapley: If Sony is going to stay the course here, maybe it's time to find a visionary. The material needs to feel new again. Sam Raimi was a fanboy who brought his love of the character to the fore. Marc Webb has been a commercial voice who did a lot for Spidey's on-screen romance. But I think the franchise needs someone who will look at the material with a different set of eyes. I, for one, would be fascinated to see what Baz Luhrmann would cook up. But if a certain amount of commercial gloss is desired, then I'd be interested to see what Doug Liman would do, or Chris Miller and Phil Lord (who have developed a nice situation at the studio with their “21 Jump Street” franchise).
Can a movie from the villains' perspective such as “The Sinister Six” work?
Gregory Ellwood: I'm not so sure. One of the reasons comic book readers are fans of The Flash's Rogues Gallery (his version of the Sinister Six) is because those villains are actually just super-powered criminals. They aren't hell-bent on taking over the planet. Instead, they just want to rob some banks, steal some precious cargo and make some money the easy way. There isn't one character in the Sinister Six who fits that mold. Traditionally this has been one evil group. Even if Spider-Man still comes in and saves the day, do audiences really want two hours of seeing a story completely from a bad guy's point of view?
Drew McWeeny: Absolutely. Just depends on how it works. There's something almost fiendishly brilliant about the notion of a movie where the hero only shows up in those moments where his paths cross with the bad guys. Showing all the work and all the planning and all the friction that goes into creating a shared plan to kill a superhero seems like a movie we've never seen, and at this point, I'm all for filmmakers starting to shake up the idea that we have to follow established templates. The audience has seen enough superhero work now that we can break the mold and take chances. They get it. It's as ubiquitous as the Western by now. Superpowers, secret identities, super villains… you can shorthand that stuff. I hope “The Sinister Six” actually turns out to be great.
Kristopher Tapley: Honestly, I think it could. If only because the superhero genre has become so saturated lately, so beholden to formula, that something like that would really shake up the status quo. Anything fresh at this point is bound to pique curiosity. Then again, the “Sinister Six” of this particular franchise hasn't been very well established at all, so it would be a blind bet on audiences showing an interest in a host of characters they haven't been able to get to know on screen just yet.
Would Sony Pictures let Marvel Studios help get “Spider-Man” back on track?
Gregory Ellwood: What may be good for a franchise, character or brand may not work with the numerous Hollywood egos at work here. Franchise producer Avi Arad does not seem like someone willing to cede creative control to his former cohorts at Marvel Studios. Marvel may discount making any deal with Sony in the hopes that they will eventually let their options on the character lapse. Moreover, any deal that finds Sony Pictures giving a share of the profits to their one-time billion dollar franchise in exchange for spearheading the project may not sit well with Sony's increasingly contentious stockholders. Making a good movie is tough to do. Making a deal that could satisfy everyone at this table would be much tougher.
Drew McWeeny: It sounds like Sony has maintained a fairly friendly and open relationship with Marvel Studios, but it also seems like they're reluctant to give up any genuine creative real estate on this one. Sony wants to call the shots on “Spider-Man,” and more power to them. It's their property at this point. But if they could figure out how to do that in a way that makes Marvel happy enough to invite the character into the larger Marvel movie universe, then everyone wins. The audience, the studios, the character. Watching Andrew Garfield play a scene as Spider-Man opposite the cast that's already in place as the Avengers would be positively delightful, and it seems like everyone involved should be scrambling to make that happen.
Kristopher Tapley: Would they? It's hard to say. Certainly there is more of a possibility there than any Fox/Marvel partnership vis a vis “X-Men.” But they absolutely should consider this option, and do whatever convincing needs to be done to the Sony shareholders, make whatever deal is valuable enough to breathe new life into this character. Because while I don't think “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has been quite the disaster it's been made out to be in the media, it's clear that separated from the Marvel Universe, in the walled-off confines of Sony, the character has stalled as a cinematic concept.
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