Sony's got a tough road ahead of them.
One of the most depressing but predictable things to happen this weekend was the backlash that has already begun regarding Sony's idea to possibly make a woman-driven “Ghostbusters.” While I'm used to seeing knee-jerk reactionary responses from people who show up in comments sections, I was taken aback by Mike Fleming's response on Deadline. If he meant it as a joke, it's tone deaf, and if he's serious, then he's more of a caveman than I expected.
At this point, I feel like I've turned a corner in terms of my own feelings about casting, especially when it comes to these big fanboy properties. I am fully onboard at this point for disruption of the status quo. Female Thor? Great. Black Spider-Man? Bring it on. An all-female Ghostbusters team? Suit up, ladies, and let's see what you've got. If it makes white dudes angry because they feel like they're having to share their toys, then I'm all in.
That is not to say that I think those things will all automatically make for good movies. As with anything, it will come down to script, casting, the direction… the overall execution. I am not particularly dying to see a “Sinister Six” film, but I trust Drew Goddard as a writer/director, and I'm certainly willing to watch him take a swing at something that, at the very least, won't look just like every other superhero movie. Likewise, if Sony is seriously considering a “female driven superhero movie” that will jump off from their current “Spider-Man” movie universe, then I'd walk into that curious and ready to watch someone try something different.
One of my biggest complaints about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that the entire film felt like a trailer for other movies. The introduction of Felicity Jones as “Felicia” felt like they were dropping clues about the introduction of Black Cat, an ongoing foil for Peter Parker in the comics. She's basically Catwoman, a thief with a conscience. The easiest guess here would be that they introduced Felicia so they could spin her off, even though they didn't do anything in “ASM2” that indicated she is also Black Cat. She was just some random girl working for Harry Osborn.
But while Black Cat would be the easy choice to make, it seems likely to me that they're going to try to do either Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl. They'll have to work hard to set that up, and since this new incarnation of the Spider-Man world seems to all be centered on either Peter Parker directly or Oscorp as the source of all evil, it feels like they'd have to anchor everything to that.
I still think Sony's Spider-Man game plan is reductive and threatens to burn down the entire franchise, but I'm not surprised to see them working towards a female-driven superhero film. Marvel's working to figure out the same thing, and I would be shocked if Warner isn't also making plans to try to figure it out. In the end, if the studios don't want “Catwoman” or “Elektra,” they have to realize that they have to approach these as A-level events, the same way they do with the main films in the franchise. You can't make them on the cheap and cut corners and expect that audiences will embrace them. Whatever this movie is, I hope Sony treats it like just as much of an event as any of the other “Spider-Man” movies they hope to make.