Spider-Man's on-screen future hinges on smart studio decisions

Commentary: In order to preserve the beloved character's legacy in film, Sony, Spidey's parent company, should transfer ownership rights back to Marvel Comics.

With the announcement of the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man playing key role in that graphic storyline, much buzz has gone around about what will become of Spider-Man in terms of his involvement with Marvel and his future films.

Spider-Man has been the face of Marvel Comics since he debuted in the Amazing Fantasy comic anthology in 1962. It doesn’t seem that way now, given The Avengers and the rise of b-grade characters like summer’s box office hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Summer’s box office flop was indeed The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It did not last more than one week atop the box office, while Guardians held the top spot for more than a month.

"Sony should give its rights to Marvel solely because the character deserves that much respect."

With the inconsistent success of Spider-Man, the character’s current parent company, Sony, should give its rights to Marvel solely because the character deserves that much respect as he is the third greatest comic book hero of all time, according to IGN, just behind Batman and Superman.

According to Deadline.com, while the franchise has grown overseas, domestic success has softened. Director Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films were pretty much equal in terms of domestic and international numbers, but Spider-Man 3 (2007) saw its domestic gross peak at 37.8 percent, while its overseas figure hit 62.2 percent. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) had lower numbers at home, and its sequel continued to sink, ending up below 30 percent -- but climbing to 71.4 percent internationally. Comparatively, Marvel made $2.5 billion in domestic alone even before Guardians.

Spidey’s web needs to get untangled.

Sony has owned the rights to the character since his first cinematic debut in Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002. The character fell into the “Raimi effect” of trilogies: solid, campy, campier. Just watch the Evil Dead franchise for some reference. Spider-Man 3 was the lowest point of the character’s cinematic history and has left a dark shadow since. It took the studio five years to reboot.

Andrew Garfield brought the humor to Spider-Man that we know and love while interpreting a more 1980s version of Peter Parker: hipper, cooler, but still a nerd juvenile who is isolated. Tobey Maguire represented the traditional Parker from the 1960s but lacked conviction in the role. Making a smart move to go with love interest Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane Watson, The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb understood the complications of romance and chemistry especially with his work in (500) Days of Summer. This added to the already relatable hero, and the romance is one of the strongest parts of Webb’s both films.

In 2014, Sony dropped the ball again. The sequel packed too many villains and not enough development for Parker, and the mystery of his parents, the key story to the first one, became expendable.

The issue now concerns Sony's plans to bring out a Spider-Man-related film every year. So far, there is a Sinister Six film (a group of Spider-Man’s rouges gallery) that has been announced. Sony also wants to come out with a Venom and Carnage (other villains) film, a Spider-Woman film, and there's a rumor of an Aunt May film. (Are you serious?)

Given, the last one is a rumor, but Sony seems to be going the route of bringing in as much money as they can with these spinoffs since the Spider-Man films did not receive as much praise as they hoped. Sony should learn from the mistakes that 20th Century Fox made with the Wolverine spinoffs of the X-Men franchise.

Marvel does not need spinoffs with their characters because they establish them with great content to work with, such as their storylines and the effect they have in the larger scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man is presently confined to the streets of New York City, but he has such a larger role in the Marvel Universe. In comics, he provides the adolescent thought process of the group and gives humor that is much needed in a group filled with older heroes who have more jaded views of hope. Having that juvenile character among, say, Iron Man and Thor is so unique because people his age are usually sidekicks, such as Robin and Bucky Barnes. More than anything, it brings another point of view.

Spider-Man has the largest rouges gallery alongside Batman and The Flash. The under-utilization of Spider-Man’s enemies could be the biggest sin that Sony has committed because it is such a goldmine filled with great stories. The one-dimensional performances of The Lizard and all villains of Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 have tainted it.

Like Spidey’s, the majority of these villains' powers originate with scientific accidents or the misuse of scientific technology, which pushes his already impressive intelligence. But many of them also have been struck with tragedy and they haven’t been interpreted correctly on the silver screen; there's Norman Osborn’s (Green Goblin) campy split personality disorder in Spider-Man and the super quick hints of Maxwell Dillon (Electro) being a “nobody” along with his fixation on Spidey in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. These type of issues need to go to greater depths to care about these characters.

Spider-Man has a cloudy path ahead, and hopefully Sony and Marvel can cut a deal of some kind. Sony has the power but seems to lack the responsibility to deliver consistent quality films of Marvel’s No. 1 guy. Seems they can’t live up to the motto.

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