After Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to wow critics and movie-goers alike, things aren’t looking great for New York’s favorite wall-crawler. But we have a few ideas for how to get the franchise back on track.
For a while there, it seemed like we’d be getting more Spider-Man movies than we could shake a web-shooter at in the next few years, but things have cooled considerably in the wake of Amazing Spider-Man 2’s massive budget and less-than-stellar box office take.
Recently, writer and producer Roberto Orci told IGN he won’t be working on the franchise going forward, and from the way he talked, it sounds like the ambitious spin-off and sequel plan might also be in question in the wake of Amazing Spider-Man 2’s sub-par $705 million global box office take, which makes it the lowest-grossing Spidey film ever:
"I don't know what their plans are for that franchise.I don't ever want to say never, but we have to figure out what their scheduling is in terms of when they want each movie. I've read probably as much as anyone else. There's a love for the Sinister Six, the idea of Venom -- there's an idea of Spider-Man's going to be one of these characters that's part of our business. He's such a popular character. Spider-Man's not going to go away any time soon. When it all happens and how and all that has yet to be determined.”
With all the cards on the table as the studio tries to figure out where to go next, we have a few ideas.
So what actually worked in the 'Amazing' reboot?
After telling a smaller origin story with 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man, the studio cranked everything up to 11 for the sequel, and piloted a strange expanded universe plan that would set up spin-off films based largely on villains such as Venom and the Sinister Six. With its myriad baddies and slap-dash story, Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a case study in excess, cram-packed with insane set piece after insane set piece that was almost mind-numbing by the time it was over.
But what made for some of the sequel’s most memorable scenes, as well as endeared fans to Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker in the first place? The small stuff. The character moments, and the great chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone. That’s what the studio lost sight of with Amazing Spider-Man 2, as they kept cramming in everyone from Green Goblin to Electro for the sake of big ole’ FX action shots.
As Hollywood keeps dumping bigger and bigger comic book movies into theaters, viewers are becoming numb to the city-destroying, world-destroying stakes we see at least a half dozen times per summer. Sure, The Avengers was filled with massive action, but it’s the “Puny God” scene, and Robert Downey Jr.’s trademark Stark wit that stays with you long after the movie ends. It’s that heart that Spider-Man is starting to lose sight of at this point.
Go back to basics, aka the comics
Though Spidey has faced his fair share of world-balancing stakes over the years, the character and format was built around smaller stories. Sometimes much, much smaller stories. Why? Because, at its heart, Spider-Man is really a tale about a geeky high school kid who gains super powers and still deals with bullies and teenage romances, all while slowly learning how to be a hero. Hollywood, here’s the important part — there’s nothing wrong with that. Fans have enjoyed those Spidey stories for decades, and many would argue Peter Parker is at his best when he can wise-crack and just focus on saving the day. You know, instead of the world. All the time.
That’s something Amazing Spider-Man actually managed to nail down, and it played to director Marc Webb’s character-driven strengths. Why the hell does Peter Parker have to always graduate high school by the start of the second movie? Give us a high school-age story that’s true to character, and dig into his extremely deep rogue’s gallery to fill things out, while keeping the focus on Parker. Not every movie has to be about the big bad and the $100 million effects budget.
Just come up with a fun, character-driven Spider-Man story — balance it with all the things that make Peter Parker such a great hero — and make that movie. It doesn’t have to feature at least six Times Square-destroying set pieces. Contrary to popular belief in the movie studio board room, that’s not a prerequisite. Spider-Man brings a ton of name cachet to the table, but the FX-laden insanity of Amazing Spider-Man 2 got away from what makes the character great in many ways.
Miniseries meets mid-level blockbuster
With Amazing Spider-Man 2, the studio arguably took the weaker components of the first film and expanded on them for the sequel. To get the franchise back on track, we’d propose Sony focus on smaller stories and keep the budget at a more tenable, mid-level range. If the movie didn’t cost $200+ million to make, then the $700 million-ish box office haul they’ve been pulling would look a whole lot better.
Spider-Man isn’t like a lot of other heroes, and it's OK to not have the entire planet in the balance in every film. We’ll cite an example: Dredd, the 2012 reboot starring Karl Urban, which kept all the massive mythos and monstrous baddies on the sidelines to tell a hyper-focused, day-in-the-life story about everyone’s favorite judge, jury and executioner. How'd it go? The film was absolutely fantastic, and a critical hit. Admittedly, the box office numbers weren’t there (though the film has since found an audience in home release), but Dredd ain’t Spider-Man.
Why not try to tell a miniseries-style story, with a mid-level film budget, about what it’s like to be Spider-Man? You could actually tell a good Peter Parker story, and still have more than enough action and stakes to keep it entertaining. Plus, with enough prep up front and a reduced (at least from the FX overload of the latest flick) post-production timeline, you could possibly shoot the project back-to-back and be on track to release a legit Spider-Man film every 12-18 months.
Spidey obviously has a lot more name recognition than someone like Daredevil or Jessica Jones, but Spider-Man is still the type of hero who could be compelling when used in “smaller” stories. So, take that small screen approach Marvel is eyeing with a big screen budget and execution (along with some quality writers), and you could string up an excellent run of Spidey films.
Which brings us to our last point…
The Sinister Six is not the answer
Seriously. Of all the spin-off and connected universe ideas that have been bounced around, this has to be one of the oddest. Yes, the Spider-Man universe is awesome, and it has a ton of cool rogues — but there’s no reason to build an entire film franchise around these bad guys. It’s one heck of a hard sell, and it begs the question: Why not just make more Spider-Man movies, instead of all these spin-offs?
I understand the studio wants to capitalize on the franchise for all its worth, but if you take Spider-Man out of the actual equation, it's not worth nearly as much. Heck, I love the Sinister Six as much as the next guy, but it’d be a hard sell to get my butt in a seat to watch them anchor their own spin-off with no Spider-Man, or just a minor Spidey cameo.
Despite the fact that Marvel Studios is making a crap load of money, Spider-Man doesn’t have to be The Avengers. It just won’t work. But, you do still have one of the strongest characters in the canon with Spidey himself — double down on what works, and figure out how to keep Peter Parker in the theater on a regular basis. If there’s any character who could create a new niche, its Spidey, and we could see an anthology-style run really be a unique approach that would allow the studio an easy way to keep him in the limelight. Plus, with additional releases, you’d have a chance to introduce more of the universe.
As Amazing Spider-Man 2’s diminishing box office returns, and the diminished critical love, has shown — something needs to be done to keep Spidey a relevant player in the crowded comic book movie field. This is our idea, what’s yours?