Including tone, casting and whether Sony will retain enough creative control to muck the whole thing up. Oh and why I think the new films should be set in China.
So Spiderman is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First, in some of the franchise existing films and then in his own standalone adventure.
The perceived failure of Sony’s Amazing Spider Man franchise seems to have forced the studio to share its licence to the character with the studio behind the Avengers, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy etc.
However, exciting this news is (and indeed gratifying – I can’t be the only one pleased to see Sony’s bland and cynical efforts sputter to an end) it still leaves me with a lot of questions.
1. Which Marvel films will he appear in?
The standalone film will come out in July 2017. If he’s to appear in another Marvel film before then that leaves three options: Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange or Guardians of the Galaxy 2. We can be reasonably sure it will be Civil War: Spiderman was a big part of that story in the comics and fitting him into a story about space or magic would be a strange choice.
We can assume he’ll then be in Avengers: Infinity War otherwise this whole exercise seems pointless.
2. Who will play Spiderman?
The indications are that Andrew Garfield is out. I think that’s a mistake but hey ho. Fan casting is not my forte, so I won’t engage in it here. However, I’ll be interested to see who gets picked because this will be a good indication of the direction the films are going in.
3. Which Spiderman will we see?
There are actually two Spidermen in the comic. As well as Peter Parker, there’s also Miles Morales. Opting for Morales as their Spiderman would certainly allow Marvel to put space between their films and the ones that have gone before. However, it is unlikely. If Spidey is appearing in a Marvel film before his own one, it’s unlikely he will be getting an origin story. Therefore, they probably wouldn’t have a chance to introduce audiences to Morales.
4. Who write/direct the standalone film?
There’ll obviously be no shortage of people who want this gig. But this is a challenging proposition and Marvel will have to choose carefully.
5. What tone will that film have?
Both the Raimi trilogy with Tobey Macguire and the Amazing Spider Man films with Garfield were in a similar playful register. That does seem like the natural tone to adopt when dealing with these stories. Nonetheless, do we want to see it for a third time. The fact the character is probably being introduced in Civil War which is likely to be gloomy suggests perhaps they might go for a darker tone. But I don’t know how much appetite there will be Nolaned up Spiderman. So my guess is they will go in the opposite direction for the stand alone film and go for something closer to the action comedy of Guardians.
6. How willing will they be to retrace their steps?
They’re probably not doing an origin story. Nonetheless, they will need to decide how much of what we’ve seen in the previous films they want to revisit. Will we see another Green Goblin? Aunt May? Mary Jane? Gwen Stacey?
7. How will this affect the defenders?
An interesting complication to all this is that Marvel has teamed up with Netflix to produce a number of series following more ‘street level’ heroes operating in New York. Assuming they continue to set Spiderman in New York, common sense indicates he would be tripping over these characters? But these series look a lot darker and more adult than anything Marvel has done before which would rather jar with the likely lighter tone of Spiderman.
8. How many times can they blow up New York?
We saw it take a pounding in the Incredible Hulk and the Avengers. Are we going to see it being trashed again in standalone Spiderman films.
Might it be better to relocate the character. This would have been hard before because until recently only New York really had enough skyscrapers to make the swinging from building to building thing work. Now he could easily find plenty to swing between in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Dubai. A move to one of these cities might even enhance the films’ international appeal.
8. Who will call the shots?
Generally speaking in films it is the director who has creative control, while in TV the need to gell different episodes into a coherent whole means that power goes to the producer. Superhero franchises are something of an anomaly in this regard because they too require maintaining coherence over their different parts. Therefore, the greatest power in the MCU is not Thanos but producer Kevin Feige. He will, however, be co-producing the standalone film with Amy Pascal of Sony. What’s more the agreement between the two studios states that Sony retains ‘final creative control.’ So in the case of artistic differences who prevails?
9. Why is Amy Pascal anywhere near this project?
Speaking of Pascal, she seems to have landed on her feet after being sacked from her role as head of Sony studios. There she presided over not the leak of a huge cache of leaked emails (including ones in which she slags off the studios talent) and the debacle over the Interview.
It was also on her watch that Sony conceived of the Amazing Spider Man franchise as a way to keep using its licence to make films featuring Spiderman and prevent control reverting back to Marvel. So it’s odd that having exhausted considerable audience in this endeavour, she is now involved in a Marvel Spiderman film, the very thing they were supposed to prevent.
10. Are Sony’s spin-off plans dead?
I doubt there are many people excited about the prospect of a Sinister Six film let alone an Aunt May one! Nonetheless, Sony might still wish to milk its property by seeking out opportunities to give secondary characters their own films. This becomes an even less attractive prospect if these start using up slots that could be used for other Marvel movies. Lets hope the agreement between the two studios gives Marvel the ability to bury this idea.
11. Will audiences accept a third Spiderman in 10 years?
Macguire’s last outing in the red and blue spandex suit was in 2007. When Garfield made his first outing in 2012’s the Amazing Spider-Man a lot of people felt there was too short a gap. What wonders will they think upon seeing a third reboot of the character appearing just two years after the Amazing Spider-Man 2?
This plus the fact that we’ve now had three mediocre Spiderman films in a row, means that Marvel may well find audience goodwill to be seriously strained.
12. Can the MCU get too large?
If Marvel Cinematic Universe is becoming a crowded place. It already contains the Avengers and standalone films for its members, Guardians, the Defenders, Agents of Shield and Agent Carter, and is now adding Spiderman and any spin offs that flow from it. At what point does this all get too much for them (and indeed audiences) to handle?