What lies ahead for the Spider-Man franchise?

Sony clearly has big plans for its Spider-Man franchise, but how will it pan out? Seb looks at what we know, what might happen, and more...

Now that the dust has begun to settle on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it’s about time to look forwards once more to what Sony’s Spider-franchise might have in store for us. With ambition far beyond simply producing solo Spider-Man films one after the other, the studio is apparently determined to build an entire franchise out of one set of character rights – it’s a bold stance, but one that will clearly require some creative lateral thinking when it comes to who they manage to make a hero out of.

Let’s take a look, then, at what we know about the future Spidey tie-ins, and for good measure what we can speculate about endlessly…

What’s definitely happening

A few months ago, we were under the impression that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 would be the next film out of the gates, with Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield both confirmed to return, and a planned release date of June 2016. That’s all been blown out of the water now, however, with the film being pushed back to 2018 – so it’ll now come out after not one, not two, but three spinoff films.

So the next film in the Spider-Man franchise will instead be The Sinister Six, which is being written and directed by Drew Goddard, and has a slated release date of 11th November 2016. Obviously, from the title, it will be a film focused on six Spider-Man villains, although it’s also been described by producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach as a “redemption story”. While it’s possible to speculate endlessly about which six villains will appear (and we’ll do so, shortly), no names have been announced or confirmed as yet.

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2017 is likely to be Sony’s biggest year in the superhero movie stakes, as it’s been mentioned that both a Venom movie (which may also be known as Venom Carnage) and a “female-led” film will be released at some point. The latter is being written by Burn Notice’s Lisa Joy Nolan, but doesn’t have a director or even a character name tied to it yet. And Venom will be directed by Alex Kurtzman (sans Robert Orci, who’s busy doing Star Trek and so also won’t be writing Amazing Spider-Man 3) and written by Kurtzman and Bill And Ted’s Ed Solomon.

Then we hit that 2018 release date for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which as mentioned has both Webb and Garfield locked in, but no confirmed scriptwriter as yet. Interestingly, however, neither the director nor the star are yet confirmed to have a contract for a fourth film, but Sony have announced its existence (without a release date – it was originally down for May 2018 but a replacement hasn’t yet been mentioned) nevertheless.

What might be happening

So that’s what we know. But what else can be inferred or speculated? The obvious place to start is Sinister Six, as the biggest question is exactly which characters might appear. Paul Giamatti had already mentioned that his Rhino would return in the next Spider-Man film, but now that that’s four years away, if he has any kind of contract it would seem to be more likely to apply to the Sinister Six, particularly given the way his role played out in ASM2. Conversely, despite speculation beforehand, the events of that film mean a return for Jamie Foxx as Electro would seem unlikely. And the third villain already in the mix, Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin, could go either way.

Let’s not forget the fact that the films do already have another villain in play as well, although the lukewarm reception afforded to Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/The Lizard means they might not be in a rush to bring him back. Nevertheless, it’d save having to set up another one of the six, so don’t be surprised if he does return.

There’s been intense speculation of late of exactly who the unnamed female lead character could be, with the most likely candidate probably being Felicia Hardy, aka The Black Cat. This is by virtue of Felicity Jones already having appeared (briefly) as Felicia in ASM2, to say nothing of the fact that she’s easily the most notable female character that is known to come packaged in with the Spider-Man film rights. If Sony want to keep making films about villains, she could even appear in The Sinister Six before appearing in her own film – or alternatively, given that the comics character has generally switched from criminal to hero and back depending on circumstances, she could be a full-on heroine.

Another option would be Spider-Woman, but nobody seems to have a firm handle on the rights situation of the character (while her name would seem to make her a Spider-Man derivative, she’s never really appeared in his comics, and is instead far more readily associated with the Avengers, SHIELD and Hydra), so until there’s a clear announcement either way it’s hard to know whether she could even appear.

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As for Venom, we know even less (despite knowing the title of the film), given that the character’s existence hasn’t even been hinted at in the Webb films, without even a mention of his alter ego Eddie Brock (except for in a pre-release online viral for ASM2). It’s just as likely at this stage that Venom could take the form of his current comics host, Flash Thompson.

And there’s precious little to go on when it comes to plotlines for Amazing Spider-Man 3, either. It seems more likely that the Harry Osborn story would continue there rather than in Sinister Six, and we’d expect another love interest to turn up in Gwen Stacy’s stead. But having been cut from ASM2, Shailene Woodley has already said that she doesn’t expect to return as Mary Jane Watson in the third film – although she said that when it looked like the film would clash with her Divergent commitments, which looks less likely now given the pushed-back release date.

Another notable scene deleted from Amazing Spider-Man 2, of course, concerned the possible return of Peter’s father, Richard. Given how extensively the plotline about Peter’s parents’ disappearance (and their role in his transformation in the first place) was run as a thread throughout the first two films, it would be astonishing if it didn’t finally come to the fore in the next one. Unless the fact that the scene was ultimately deleted is, in fact, an indication that the plotline is being dropped?

We would also be massively surprised if J Jonah Jameson doesn’t finally turn up in the third film, too; and equally surprised if whoever plays him manages to match up to JK Simmons’ definitive take. Actually, they should just cast Simmons again anyway – it’s not like it harmed the Daniel Craig James Bond films to carry Judi Dench over, is it?

What should happen

Speaking of what Sony should do with the films, here’s where we get all opinionated about what we’d do with them  if it were in our power. Which, we hasten to add, it isn’t. But maybe it should be.

Let’s start with The Sinister Six. It’s tempting to suggest that the six characters involved should be the six powerhouses that made up their original line-up: that is, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, the Sandman and the Vulture. But the problem with that group (and notwithstanding the fact that Electro is presumably unavailable) is that it really is just a group of out-and-out villains. And given that the Six are going to be the lead characters of the film, there has to be some level of appeal to audiences. As mentioned above, it’s already been talked up as having at least some kind of redemptive element, so you can’t just use up all of the major Spidey villains in the process of doing that.

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If we were to look to anything for inspiration, it would be the brilliant recent comics series The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, which manages to make leading characters out of a bunch of mid-list (or worse) villains as they attempt to grift and heist their way through life. None of the characters in Superior Foes are especially nice, but they’re often as hapless as they are villainous – and if a film about a team of criminals is going to work, then surely taking this kind of comedic approach would be the way to go. And in the wake of Guardians Of The Galaxy, surely nobody can claim that a funny superhero movie can pay dividends.

So if we were doing Sinister Six, we’d take Rhino (who already fits the bill quite well) and the Lizard, and pad the rest of the line-up out with similar-level characters: Shocker and Mysterio, plus the Black Cat (ready to be spun into her own film once she decides to be good rather than bad), and then perhaps one heavier-hitter who could stay as an out and out villain. Possibly the Vulture, or maybe even a Hobgoblin who gets access to the Osborn technology. Or heck, just DeHaan’s Goblin himself. You’ve got to have a flying character in there, anyway.

As for Venom, if it were us, we’d introduce him as the villain in a Spider-Man film first, before spinning him out into his own movie as an anti-hero. Of course, his film is slated to come out before the next Spidey one, but it’s hard to see just how he’ll work if introduced in a standalone film; although if Andrew Garfield can be persuaded to play a major part in it as Spider-Man (especially as we can’t believe it’ll be four years before we see him in the role of Peter Parker again), then it could work better.

As for that third Spider-Man film itself? Well, come on, it has to be about time Doctor Octopus makes a return. He’s easily Spider-Man’s best villain, and he’s too good to simply be used as part of a Sinister Six ensemble. Alfred Molina’s performance might be a tricky one to top, but it’s not impossible (to say nothing of the fact that Molina has recently gone on record as saying he’d do it again if he were asked), and given the flair that Marc Webb has shown for directing some of the more outlandish elements of Spider-Man’s powers and movements, we’d love to see him get the chance to direct a battle with Doc Ock, too.

Whatever happens, it seems that Sony are determined to ensure that we see a lot of Spider-related movies over the next five years. It’s going to be fascinating to see how Sinister Six, in particular, plays out, and what that might mean for the series in general going forwards. The battle to compete with Marvel Studios and Warner Bros/DC is well and truly on.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out now via Sky Store, DVD and Blu-ray.

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