Five Major Casualties of Sony’s Mishandling of Spider-Man
Monday’s bombshell announcement that Sony would be playing ball with Marvel to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nearly broke the internet, with fans jubilant that Spidey will now be able to play ball with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America.
It has also been made clear that Andrew Garfield will not return as the web-slinging hero, whom he has played in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That means it’s reboot time again, and a third actor will step into the role since Tobey Maguire first donned the leotard for Spider-Man in 2002.
It’s been a bumpy road for Sony’s Spidey franchise. 2004‘s Spider-Man 2 is still considered a gold standard for comic book superhero movies, but things took a major turn for the worse with Spider-Man 3 in 2007. The new deal with Marvel is a clear signal from Sony that they know their approach to the character hasn’t been working.
Many sacrifices have been made for the sake of running a blockbuster franchise off the rails. Here are just five casualties of Sony’s mishandling of their Spider-Man property.
It’s not even really Topher Grace‘s fault. Arguably Spidey’s most popular villain, Venom was added to Spider-Man 3 at Sony’s behest. Director Sam Raimi wasn’t feeling it, and there’s no worse sign than a director who’s not in love with the material he’s about to shoot.
With Sandman already intended to be worked into the plot, and the saga of Peter Parker and Harry Osborn that had run through the entire trilogy begging for a payoff, shoehorning a third villain in the picture meant that somebody was going to get short-changed. The climactic final confrontation needed to be with Harry, so Venom got shoved aside, but not before he gave us Emo Peter’s evil dancing. Shudder.
Character actor Dylan Baker, who has a long resume of bit parts in movies and television, is still probably best recognized for playing Dr. Curt Connors in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. Any comic book fan – or anybody who has since seen The Amazing Spider-Man – knows that Connors eventually became the villainous Lizard when he undertook experiments to try and regrow his missing arm using reptilian DNA. Baker laid the groundwork for a possible future appearance of the Lizard in Raimi’s films, and, in fact, there was talk of working the Lizard into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4.
Of course, the fourth Spidey film did feature the Lizard…but being a reboot, Sony was looking for all fresh faces, and, sadly, Baker found himself replaced by Rhys Ifans.
Even after the Spider-Man 3 debacle, Sony began development on Spider-Man 4 with Sam Raimi at the helm. Preliminary casting talks had even begun, with an eye on bringing John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway into the franchise as Vulture and Felicia Hardy/Black Cat, respectively.
Raimi knew, however, that his heart was no longer in it. As much as he loved Spider-Man (and proved that love with his first two films), he was not feeling the material, just as he hadn’t with Spider-Man 3. To his credit, he chose to bow out, rather than turn in another substandard film.
Of course, Sony was prepared for this, and had already been working on the reboot script that would become 2012‘s The Amazing Spider-Man behind Raimi’s back.
Raimi deserves credit for walking away when he knew he needed to, but, alas, instead of giving it another try and potentially going out on top, his Spider-Man legacy will be just as much about the failure of the third film as it is about the triumph of the second.
Marc Webb was handed the keys to a franchise that had already grossed $2.5 billion, based on the strength of his wonderful romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer. He was a director with a fresh viewpoint, an eye for making a romantic relationship like the one that would exist between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy work, and an enthusiasm for Spider-Man as a character.
Doubtlessly, he was also someone Sony felt they could control.
Webb’s Spidey films – particularly The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – suffered from Sony’s desire to “build a universe” with the character, one that could rival what Fox has done with the X-Men, and what Marvel is excelling at with the MCU. It’s become public knowledge that TASM 2 was heavily re-worked in post-production with an eye on building such a universe, and the final product suffered because of it.
Whether you like the Amazing Spider-Man movies or not, you have to credit Webb for cultivating a believable relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter and Emma Stone‘s Gwen, and for creating some particularly spectacular action sequences for the wall-crawler. It’s Sony’s meddling and inability to keep an eye on the film at hand while focusing on the “bigger picture” that kept The Amazing Spider-Man from being the franchise it could have been.
Say what you will about The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel, many fans will agree that Andrew Garfield was not part of the problem. While it can be argued that maybe Garfield wasn’t “nerdy” enough for Peter Parker, there’s no denying that he knocked his performance as Spider-Man out of the park.
Garfield brought the cocksure, wise-cracking attitude to the web-slinger in a way that Tobey Maguire hadn’t quite mustered. Garfield’s presence under the mask truly translated Spidey from page to screen.
Now that it’s reboot time again, Garfield gets the boot. Count me among the faction who believe that that shouldn’t have to happen.
Nonetheless, it’s fair to say this almost unprecedented new partnership between Sony and Marvel is looking for a fresh start. And hopefully, with Marvel’s help, Sony can get Spider-Man back to the top of the superhero heap where he belongs.
While the future of some of Sony’s planned future Spidey-related projects like Sinister Six and a Venom spinoff remain hazy at the moment, one thing we do know for sure is that Spider-Man will finally join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016 for Captain America: Civil War.
It somehow feels simultaneously impossible and inevitable. Either way, it’s about time.