Will Sony's plans for a Spider-Man movie universe work out?

Feature Seb Patrick 29 Jan 2014 - 05:50
The Amazing Spider-Man

Post-Avengers, superhero movies are all about shared universes, but will that work for Sony's Amazing Spider-Man franchise?

Shared universes have been a major feature of superhero comics for almost as long as capes and thought bubbles, but it's only relatively recently that they've become anywhere near as notable a feature in superhero movies. In the first wave of comic book films, 1984's Supergirl was the only example of a spinoff from an existing franchise, while the best-forgotten Batman and Robin hinted at the existence of Superman in what was little more than a throwaway joke.

In the post-X-Men era, meanwhile, the Spider-Man films remained resolutely standalone, while even X-Men Origins: Wolverine was more the only available route for the producers to continue after X-Men 3 than it was a genuinely separate story strand. The fragmentation of Marvel's character rights across various companies, and the stagnation of DC's film efforts (with the exception of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which by its very nature resisted being part of any kind of superhero universe) meant that each individual set of films was very much able to keep itself to itself.

But with the arrival of the Marvel Studios cinematic universe and the buildup to – and eventual payoff of – The Avengers, all of that has changed. The most successful superhero movie franchise of all time, it's not just a possible new approach to the genre: it's practically become a mandatory approach. As such, those studios that only have their hands on a particular set of characters are suddenly chomping at the bit to set up their own shared universes, even if it means thinking creatively about which areas of the property they can exploit.

The current rush to start new movie universes is so frantic that Sony, despite only having kickstarted their Amazing Spider-Man reboot two years ago, has already announced far-reaching plans for a seemingly mammoth slate of films and associated spinoffs. It was already clear that the first Amazing Spider-Man was intended to be the leadoff for a series – hence the hints about Norman Osborn, and post-credits sequence, that bore little to no relation to the actual plot of the main film itself – but the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems to be setting up several distinct elements that can be spun off in different directions.

We're still yet to get a clear picture of exactly how The Amazing Spider-Man 2's three villains – the Rhino, Electro and the Green Goblin – will fit into the film, so much so that Sony hasn't even actually officially announced that Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn is actually going to become the Goblin, merely hinting at it in early-release posters and trailers. It seems unlikely that all three will be focused heavily, however – certainly, most of the pre-publicity seems to centre on Jamie Foxx as Electro – so the likelihood is that the others are in more minor roles, to be set up for future films.

As far as those future films go, despite The Amazing Spider-Man 2 being three months away, a further two films in the main series have already been announced as having ethereal future release dates (3 in 2015, and 4 in 2017). It seems likely that several elements from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will lead directly into the third film – although obviously we'll have a better idea of exactly which ones once we've seen the movie. The second film, however, even bears the tagline "His greatest battle begins", suggesting that the battle in question won't actually be concluded by the end of its running time. The likelihood would seem to be that the exponential increase in villain activity will have grown yet further by the time the second film ends, creating a threat so large that it'll take a further two films to tell the story of Spidey overcoming it.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of Sony's attempt to build an expanded universe out of the Spider-Man franchise is that, at present, the webslinger and his support cast are the only group of Marvel characters that it actually has the rights to. And while the character has possibly the best rogue's gallery in comics (Batman's enemies might be more famous to the casual punter, but Spidey's are an altogether more fun and rounded set, and almost all relate to him in some way, whether thematically or for direct story reasons), the rights to his world don't really come with a lot of other heroes (although there hangs a question mark over whether characters introduced in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, like Bombshell or indeed the replacement Spidey himself Miles Morales, are part of Sony's package).

This would explain, at least, why the so-far-announced plan for what we're calling the "Spideyverse" seems to revolve so heavily around villains. The only films that have so far been announced as actually starring a hero are the third and fourth Amazing Spider-Man films, with the other two on the slate being Venom and The Sinister Six.

Let's deal with Venom first. While initially introduced as a Spider-Man villain, the character was popular enough with fans that he was eventually upgraded to "anti-hero" status, even scoring his own occasional miniseries. Spider-Man 3 showed just how difficult it was to convincingly work the symbiotic monster into a movie setting, however – so it's a pretty bold step to announce a solo film even before The Amazing Spider-Man films have successfully brought him to the screen in the first place.

While you would expect Venom to be introduced in one of The Amazing Spider-Man films as a villain before being spun off into his own in a more anti-hero/vigilante kind of role, perhaps one route to go down – if they do indeed want to make him a "hero" capable of leading a film – would be to use the current comics' incarnation, in which Peter's former schoolmate Flash Thompson wears the symbiote and carries out wet work for the government, rather than the traditional Eddie Brock, "grudge against Parker" version.

After all, it seems unlikely that of the four films announced, fully two will have out-and-out villains as their lead characters – and there seems to be no way the Sinister Six film could go other than to present its titular bad guys as… well, as bad guys. Perhaps the bigger question with that film, though, is which characters will be featured. The original Six were made up of Electro, Mysterio, the Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter and the Sandman – but it's not unreasonable to suggest that it'll be a different lineup in the movie, as much as we'd absolutely love to see Mysterio finally make his big-screen bow.

It seems a pretty safe assumption that the three villains featured in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will make up half of the lineup – leaving three further spots to be filled. That's a lot of characters to have to introduce in one or both of the two remaining Spidey films, but a clue as to the fourth member could lie in the casting of Felicity Jones. Her character in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 remains unnamed, but it's hard to shake the suspicion that she might be playing Felicia Hardy – also known as the Black Cat. Having Felicia as one of the Six would bring a much-needed female presence to an otherwise sausage-heavy lineup, and with her more ambiguous moral nature she might also be a useful character to steer the film's narrative in a more sympathetic direction.

It would be astonishing, meanwhile, if Otto "Dr Octopus" Octavius didn't make his way into the new film continuity somehow. As arguably Spider-Man's greatest foe (yes, we said it, ahead of Norman Osborn – after all, did the Goblin ever successfully steal Peter's body for a year, as Ock has done in the recent, and brilliant, Superior Spider-Man series?) Ock is easily a strong enough character to carry a film of his own, and would be a prime candidate for introduction in one of the "main" films before potentially playing a major role in Sinister Six. On the other hand, the fact that he was so strongly portrayed by Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2 would possibly make it difficult for anyone else to come in with a definitive take – a problem already demonstrated by the fact that the Amazing films have yet to go near J. Jonah Jameson, so great is the shadow cast by J.K. Simmons.

As to the remaining slot, though, it's anybody's guess. We'd bet on a mid- or lower-tier villain like the Vulture, the Sandman or Shocker – someone nice and straightforward who can fill a slot without eating up too much screen time on character development. Of course, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Rhys Ifans' Lizard will make a reappearance, either – although the lukewarm reception to his role in the first film may count against him.

Whoever ends up being on the Sinister Six team, it's undeniably something of a risk to try and make a superhero film that's entirely based around villains. But it also represents an opportunity to do something new – and as pretty much all the other heroes Spidey tends to hang around with have their rights tied up elsewhere, it's just about the only option. In the meantime, once Amazing Spider-Man 2 is released we'll have a better idea of just how well these assorted villains are being handled – and if they are indeed as sufficiently interesting to carry their own films as Sony thinks they are…

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I really, really wish that Sony, Fox and Marvel could do some sort of cross licensing deal.
Spiderman is always going to get tiresome without some of the major Marvel characters popping up - Thor, Wolverine and Iron Man to name a few.
And The Avengers universe, collectively and the single character movies would be so enriched with the X-Men characters.
I'm not as up to speed with the comics as I used to be but remember hundreds of intertwined story arcs.
I know that eventually Marvel will probably regain control of all their characters- I think the Punisher and Blade are back within the fold.
But I don't want eventually. I want it now.

I think it would actually be really weird and quite a hard sell to see other pre established marvel characters turn up in a spidey film. It sounds great in theory but can you imagine how invasive it would be to see the already over used Wolverine drop in or have Robert Downey Jr swagger onto set. Can't really see it working?

Maybe it could work if there are hints of the existence of these characters beforehand, like the particle accelerator mentioned in news reports in 'Arrow' leading to the birth of the Flash, the Wayne Enterprises satellite in 'Man of Steel' and all the Easter eggs and references in the proper Marvel cinematic universe.

Yeah there are still plenty of Spidey and Avengers crossovers in the comics, remember one not long ago when the sinister six took mind control of some Avengers (including Iron Man, Cap' and Wolverine I think) and turned them against Spidey and Black Widow in an unlikely team-up with Mysterio. Very entertaining.

I worry that such crossovers will never happen on screen now though, if they were going to cross over their universes they would have needed to do something about it by now - the Avengers are basically celebrities in the MCU, people know about 'public menace' Spider-Man in his world and mutancy is a pretty big deal in X-universe, but none of them have ever mentioned eachother... very tough to bring it together!

It would help but it's all a moot point anyway seeing as while they are successful franchises in there own right the corporations are never going to allow a crossover to happen. Maybe that's a good thing, last thing anyone wants to see is an infinite crisis movie!

Easter eggs and cameos are the way forward for it. I can see your point, but the problem isn't Iron Man - it's Downey himself, he would, I agree be a scene stealer.
But spidey would slot in easier the other direction I feel.

I somewhat feel the same way. I actually wouldn't mind a major crossover involving one or two of the franchises combined (like an adaptation of 'House of M' or anything good which involves X-Men and Avengers working together). It's not only the different corporations which make it, in my opinion, impossible and/or undesirable at this point, but also the fact that the franchises actually feel very different. The 'X-Men' franchise being very, very incoherent in terms of continuity, and 'The Amazing Spider-Man' universe not recognising the events of 'The Avengers' (both based in New York) within its canon make it almost impossible to being them together into a cohesive story.

Aye, the wilful omission of other major marvel characters in X-Men/Avengers/Spidey due to the rights fiasco nearly makes them seem like completely separate universes.
It would be very jarring, but Marvel does think long-term, I can see it happening in the inevitable reboots once the current cast are changed.

exactly what I was trying to say only far more eloquently put.

I wouldn't hold your breath for these Spider-man spin-offs. They'll probably just reboot the series again when it takes a mis-step.

Heard a theory that The Amazing Spider-Man could be placed chronologically a few months after Avengers Assemble, hence the need for ten cranes on one street - they were rebuilding the city to fix the destruction caused by the Chitauri invasion of New York!

Cool theory, but yeah, sadly I think a crossover is about as likely as the PS4 and the X-Box One liking up or Apple making a computer with Microsoft.. Would love to be proved wrong though.

Considering how poorly directed and written the Amazing Spider-Man was, I wouldn't hold my breath... Although Sony did manage to produce 6 Resident Evil movies...

Who has the rights to the Kingpin now?

So Amazing Spider-man 3 is out next year? Wow. I thought it was 2016 then 2018 for No4!

You're right - typo, my bad, not the DoG eds!

"The original Six were made up of Electro, Mysterio, the Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter and the Sandman "

So Sandman was in the original Sinister Six twice? What was the other version, a sand based clone? Think you'll find the Vulture was the sixth member.

Being daredevil and Spidey's villain, I think he can be used by both, a la Witch Hazel and Colloidal Silver.

just on the part about the shadow that J.K. Simmons has cast over the JJ role... why not just cast him again?

I can't imagine how anyone else could fill JJ's role...J.K. Simmons WAS him. Feel sorry for the guy that eventually get's cast as JJ...

The only way I can see that happen might be the alternative timelines I think will be introduced in Days of Future Past, or more likely in Avengers 3 Thanos will have god-like power and open up portals to alternative universes e.g the universe with mutants or the universe with Spider-Man...

The Lizard will surely be in the Sinister Six

Never going to happen. Not while Disney own Marvel.

Spidey works well in fantastic four stories and vice versa so that could be a good route to go down....

I also thought that about Amazing Spider-Man. I would have been happy with a simple news report on the radio in the background... "The mayor continues to seek damages following the battle of New York."

"Electro, Mysterio, the Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter and the Sandman"
So good they featured him twice!

... isn't the Spider-Man franchise ONE universe? please stop trying to compare every single thing to Marvel, there have been sequels, spin-offs, sidequels and whatever long before Marvel merged different franchises into one team-up

What about Spider Girl and Spider Woman?

Why is that?

They should cast Vince McMahon, as he basically is JJ.

Yes, the MCU and The Amazing Spider-man could be in the same universe. Heck, they even wanted the OsCorp tower in The Avengers and Sony is working very closely with Marvel on TASM2. However we've got the Stark Tower problem. In TASM Parker is clearly seen on the roof of the Met Life buidling, which in the MCU is the basis of Stark Tower, but with no Stark Tower. Same goes for the skyline shot in the TASM2 trailer. However it would be beautyful if Spidey where actually LEGO Marvel style skydiving from the SHIELD helicarrier in the trailer.

Yeah, Sony don't care about miserable joy-vacuums like you, apparently.

The Amazing Spider-Man and the MCU could theoretically happen. Heck they even wanted the OsCorp Tower in The Avengers.
The X-Men/Fantastic Four are with Fox and have a very distinct separate universe. I wouldn't want the current series to come near the MCU, but I still hope the new F4 crashes before filming to return to Marvel.

Beyond that Marvel has every characters movie rights back I believe. However, I heard things that Nemor is still with Universal, but they aren't anti Marvel Studios, at least if The Incredible Hulk is anything to go by.

I thought they where seriously concidering that. I mean, why not?

In regards to the rights to Marvel properties such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, etc, being owned by other companies, does anyone know just how long these deals last by any chance? I know they have to produce x amount of films every x number of years to retain the rights, but do these deals have any sort of set length to them or are they just set to run indefinitely?

Ya know what I'm thinking?

Spiderman TV Series, in the vein of Smallville or Buffy.

There's not much in the new films that we haven't seen before so I think a TV series could be a good way to go.

Marvel is a strong follower of the multiverse theory. (As is DC by the way. -> Flashpoint Paradox!) The MCU universe is designated as Earth-199999, TASM universe is Earth-120703 (at the moment), X-Men/F4-reboot universe is Earth-10005.

Travelling thourgh the parallel universes is possible. The Earth-616 (Marvel mainstream comics) superhero team Young Avengers in the comics has visited MCU's Earth-199999 off screen. However I think that it is unlikely the currect X-Men movie franchise will at any point crossover with the MCU. And Marvel Studios might write itself into a corner with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver when they do get the X-Men movie rights back.

Altough a good idea they special/visual effects needed for the webslinging might not be possible on a TV budget. (If animated it's a different story of course, but I don't think you mean that.) Even the movies have a hard time doing it.

Those are unrelated to Spider-Man and are with Marvel Studios for future use.

Yeah, CGI would be a slight issue. Could cause Spiderman to look terrible when swinging about as they would need to have him fully animated wouldn't they?

Ah well, there goes my dream...

Yep, that's why 'Smallville' had the 'no flying' rule, which was weird because Superman did fly in the 90's 'Lois & Clark' series. However, let's wait and see what Agents of SHIELD, Arrow and The Flash are cooking up.

I'm yet to see any of SHIELD, is it worth checking out? I was a bit put off the fact it looks like a police show rather than a comic book super hero world?

Well, it's one heck of a grey area for those who are not the lawyers of Marvel. But what we know:
1. The movie rights of a character revert back to Marvel if the studio hasn't done anything with the character on screen for a certain amount of time. This was the case with TASM and is the case with the Fantastic Four reboot movie.
2. The movie rights of a character revert back to Marvel when the studio doensn't want to do anything anymore with the character anymore. This happend with Blade (New Line), The Punisher (Lionsgate), Daredevil (Fox) and Ghost Rider (Sony).
3. Marvel/Disney can buy back the movie rights of a character. This happend with the Hulk, who was originally with Universal.
4. The movie rights revert back after a number of outings. I read that this might be the case with Fox's X-Men. I believe they had a 10 picture deal. They are already on their way with 'Days of Future Past' being number 7, 'Apocalyps' number 8, 'X-Force' number 9 and the possible third solo Wolverine as number 10. However this is really foggy!

Plus: DC Comics doesn't have this problem because they are bought by Warner meaning they are all with Warner Bros. Pictures/Television.

About that, I want you to read very carefully what I'm going to write, because some hater could highjack this thread.

There is an immense amount of online hate for the show for some reason. I have seen the series so far and yes in the first episodes the production really needed to find its footing. Don't give up! Things are getting better and DC's 'Arrow' wasn't really good in the beginning too. There are some interesting things coming up like a full episode guest appearance of Thor's Lady Sif and a four episode arc with Agents John Garrett played by non other than Bill Paxton. Also the last episodes of season 1 are rumoured to connect with 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'. (Which might be problematic if you live in Britian where Channel 4 is going to air those eps far behind the premier date of Cap 2.)

I meant to say 'season 1' because there is definitly going to be a second season. I know that they (the internet) is crying out that AoS is a ratings flop. Don't be fooled, because it's not! It's one of ABC's top programmes and is number 1 in the male demographic (which is very important for commercial income, think razor and car commercials).

Just reporting an error here: "The original six were made up of Electro, Mysterio, the Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter and the Sandman"

You've got Sandman twice. The sixth member was Vulture.

Otherwise great article, looking forward to see what comes of all this.

The only problem with retconning the Avengers story into Spiderman would be the inevitable "where was he?" question.

Although to be fair Marvel are having to tackle that 'where are the other Avengers' issue in all their standalone movies anyway now! 'This is American business, not superhero business', 'SHIELD aren't answering my calls' etc. As for Spidey not turning up in Avengers Assemble, I think you could get around it. Especially is ASM1 is set after AA..

In short It is really disappointing show which seems afraid of its comic roots and suffers heavily from too many studio influence. The action and dialogue are weak and sometimes truly cringe worthy.
Really want to like this show and the last episode was probably the best so far so there is still some hope, but if you have a 2013 show in the MCU and it feels like the A-team , than there is room for improvement to say the least.

Given how light the Spidey franchise is on heroes for Spidey to team up with, I'd be ok with Venom as "The Wolverine" of the franchise, and giving him his own movie is probably a good thing, setting up Venom takes a long time to set up.
In my opinion, Raimi needed to wrap up the Goblin trilogy (as I see it) before going into the Venom arc. Overlap by having Peter in the symbiote suit to take down Hobgoblin, sure, but Venom's arc in 3 was completely unnecessary because it was so rushed. Forget the Spiderdance, the worst part of Spidey 3 is Eddie Brock asking God to kill Peter Parker. Aside from the stupidity of treating God like a hitman, we've never really seen enough of Brock's relationship with Parker to make that kind of mind set work.

Whoever ends up as Venom, we need to see him as a person (related to Parker or not) before he puts on the suit or it's meaningless.

I don't think a full on crossover film is on the cards yet but if 'Avengers 3' shows that these three universes all exist - but as separate entities - it could sow some seeds for something in the future, but crucially without messing up things for each universe.

Also, I assume it's in Marvel's interests for the Spider-Man and X-Men films to do well so having them cameo in Avengers3 would be a massive boost.

Like I said, the first season of 'Arrow' became very good at THE END. Give Agents of SHIELD some slack. They've made the first half of the season without public commentary, now they are making the second half and they can take the comments with them to improve the series.

The F4 are with Fox and are to be incomperated in the X-Men movie universe. For this reason Spider-Man cannot interact with the movie incarnations of the F4.

This is pretty much moot as the movies won't get made by Sony or Sony alone... very, very soon Disney is gonna start making the plays for these universes directly to the boards of the studios involved... Once that Star Wars/Avengers 2 money is flowing then they can name a figure and the entrenched management like Rothman and Donner will be out of the picture. These "universe" plans are simply their way of trying to delay that day or making it that Marvel/Disney use some of their stuff in some kind of partnership deal rather than ripping it up and buying them outright for figures their boards will not be able to refuse. A2 and Star Wars are going to make SO much money that it's not if but WHEN... and Disney will probably be cheeky and try for Bond too...

What about transformers? Don't forget Spider-Man was in issues 1-4 of the comics. Who thinks we should let Bay near any of the MCU/sony/fox movies?

I like your thinking but it is massively unlikely to happen. 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' is cutting out X-Men like Roque to fight overcrowding. Imagine what would happen if those three Earths, as Marvel calls them, meet up in one movie.

I think a Spiderman Universe could work, though it wouldn't be my preferred one. With no gods, no interdimensional beings or cosmos-spanning threats, it could be more grounded, more street level and "real" than, say, the Avengers Universe.

I noticed that too, was just about to comment.

We know that Electro is definitely there, and Doc Ock and Vulture have been teased in the trailer. Kraven will be in the tie-in game. Not sure if they'll be willing to use Sandman again after the last time they tried to use him. Mysterio could be an interesting character to use, as long as they go down the no powers route.

I agree with others - the various studios are missing a bet. They should make Spider-Man, X-Men and Avengers the same universe, with crossovers. Mind you, at the rate Disney is buying up properties, in a few years they'll probably own Sony anyway.

Are we taking fro granted that The Amazing Spider-man 2 will be a massive hit? Globally The Amazing Spider-man it was the lowest grossing Spider-man film, which is perhaps to be expected for a reboot. Is this take on the character one that everyone will want to revisit? I'm not saying it will be a flop by any stretch but I think it has the potential to have a mediocre box office. There was a fifth Batman film planned before Batman and Robin happened.

Wasn't the Metropolis reference in Batman Forever?

A long time in the future maybe instead of 'Avengers 4' we could have Avengers vs X-Men? A small team of X-Men and a small team of whoever is the current Avengers at the time crossing over...

Just give us planet hulk!!!!!

All I want is for Miles Morales to eventually become Spider-man

There may have been a metropolis reference in Batman Forever but in Batman and Robin Batman quips "This is why Superman works alone"

Well, 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' is for 2015 and if they keep the room between Avengers movies three years this means 'The Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet(?)' is for 2018 and a possible Avengers 4 for 2021. A lot can happen between then and now.

And given that 'Superman Returns' is something of a sequel to the Reeve movies, there was a mention of Gotham City at the Metropolis airport I believe. Maybe the 90's Batman is in the same universe.

Well, if Bay could blew up the Sony Spidey movie so they crash and burn and the rights revert back to Marvel...

I'm hoping they increase the amount of films in Phase 3 up to at least 6 as well, along with the Netflix shows and other TV shows...

I've no idea who that is :/
I say go with J.K. Simmons or perhaps Alan Arkin, he is probably too old for it now though :( Needs to be someone with great comic timing.

Surely if anything is 'beyond the realm of possibility', it IS beyond the realm of possibility that Ifan's Lizard will be in the Sinister Six. I actually didn't mind his role, and I'm not ruling it out on popularity grounds. But the human aspect of the character is very much not a villain, let alone a crook interested in Sinister 6 style heists. And the lizard side of him is more into rampaging than $$$.

Not to mention that it would be utterly out of character to have him reuse the formula; he's presented as a tragic figure being taken over, not a villain in himself. Come on, the 1st film ends with him (in prison) refusing to help a goon working for a certain villainous character and telling the goon that he 'had better leave that boy alone'.

the money raking studios should look at the fan base of marvel and other such things and get together on joint movies and maybe they would also reap the benefits too

Haha yes... that would be fantastic! So long as he gets to walk about a lot with the strut! :)

This article kept my attention longer than the last Spidey film. Hopefully more interesting villains will improve the next few outings for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

That is indescribably stupid.

Just wait and see we can't see the future.

+I think I remember they were going to add Oscorp no matter what... IDK it was a long time ago.

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