The Spider-Man Movies: What Went Wrong

Tom Butler - do not use
·Senior UK Writer

The comic book movie world awoke to momentous news today. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had finally come to an agreement that would allow Spider-Man to join forces with The Avengers on screen.

This means that the Web-Slinger will first appear in a Marvel Studios movie, most likely in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ alongside Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther before appearing in his own solo movie, produced by both studios, in 2017.

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But where did things go so badly wrong for ‘Spider-Man’ that led to Sony Pictures handing over one of its crown jewels to a rival distributor?

Lets pick apart this tangled web.

The reboot came too soon

Sam Raimi’s original ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy raked in billions for Sony at the box office. Even 2007’s ‘Spider-Man 3’, considered by many to be the worst in the trilogy, took £585m for the studio.

Raimi began developing a fourth film in 2008 but this was eventually canned in January 2010. Sony Pictures announced it would instead reboot the franchise in 2012 with ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ using a new cast and crew. 

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“Too soon!” the fanboys cried… and they were right. The decision to reboot Spider-Man just five years after the release of the last Sam Raimi film, may have made sense creatively, but for audiences it was way too early to start all over again, especially when they’d become so attached to the old cast. 

Many think it was Sony’s contractual obligation to release a film rather than relinquish the rights that forced their hand.

The origin tale… again

One of the major complaints leveled at ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ was that it covered the same ground already handled by Sam Raimi’s films.

It may have had a new cast, a new love interest, a revised origin, and a new antagonist in the shape of Rhys Ifans’ Lizard, but it just felt like déjà vu. Peter’s skirmishes with the school bullies, his transformation into Spider-Man, the blossoming first love, the death of Uncle Ben… it all just felt like we’d been there before.

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If Sam Raimi had done a bad job first time around, it would have made sense, but his first two ‘Spider-Man’ films are great, so why bother provoking comparisons? We know who Spider-Man is, what’s wrong with starting a film with the character fully formed? It never harmed Indiana Jones.

The wrong director

Marc Webb is undoubtedly a really talented filmmaker. His debut feature ‘(500) Days of Summer’ was a distinctive and wholly original indie rom-com, but was he the right man to take the reins of a billion dollar, visual effects driven action franchise? In retrospect, probably not. 

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The scenes between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy are genuinely delightful – being a real-life couple probably helped – but the action sequences never sang as sweetly as they did in Raimi’s films.

Name a memorable action sequence from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. It’s tricky. With Raimi’s it’s easy to pinpoint the Thanksgiving parade, Doc Ock’s transformation, the train top scene, even 3’s cluttered showdowns achieved an epic sense of scope and scale.

Both ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ films just pale in comparison.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 was just a set up for other films

The major problem with ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ was its preoccupation with world building.

Panicked by the success of Marvel’s Avengers films, the studio decided that it needed a wider interconnected Spider-Man universe to compete. It wanted super-teams and spin-offs and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ would be the springboard from which to launch these new franchises from.

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So, instead of a simple sequel we got a 2-hour long advert for another film – ‘Sinister Six’, Sony’s proposed super-villain team up movie. What people wanted was more of Spider-Man, instead we had to trudge through set-ups for countless superfluous characters on the promise that it will all come good in a few years time.

The irresistible rise of Marvel

Spider-Man is the number one character in the Marvel comics’ world. He sells more comics and merchandise than any other character in their stable, but its movie arm Marvel Studios has never been able to capitalise on his success on screen. Fans want Spider-Man to join the Avengers. They don’t care who owns the movie rights, in fact, we’d wager the average man on the streets isn’t even aware of the ongoing rights dispute.

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Marvel’s success means that moviegoers expectation levels for superhero films are now sky high, and Spider-Man couldn’t compete. The Avengers films are literally taking money out of Sony’s pockets, so if you can’t beat them… it seems they’ll have to join them. Better to reap a portion of a fortune than nothing at all.

Sony Pictures in trouble

It’s fair to say that Sony Pictures has had a tough time of late following the whole ‘The Interview’ debacle and the subsequent hacking scandal and a series of high profile flops including ‘After Earth’ and ‘White House Down’.

Sony exec Amy Pascal, who oversaw all five ‘Spider-Man’ films to date, has always promised to keep a firm grip on the ‘Spider-Man’ rights for the studio, vowing to never give them back to Marvel. 

She recently stepped down from her position at Sony following the hacking scandal, but will stay attached to co-produce the new Spider-Man film with Marvel’s Kevin Feige. You can’t help but wonder whether this new deal would have happened had the Sony Pictures ship not been rocked so violently in the wake of ‘The Interview’.

It’s easy to look back at Sam Raimi’s departure now and pinpoint that as the moment that Sony Pictures Spider-senses should have tingled.

However it was a series of poor decisions and lack of foresight that scuppered Spidey’s chances.

Welcome home Peter Parker, you’ve been missed.

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Image credits: Disney/Marvel/Sony Pictures