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Should Sony Be Making Spider-Man Spin-Off Movies?

Recently, Sony and Columbia Pictures announced that in addition to Amazing Spider-Man 2, 3, and 4 it would be making two other films set in the world of Spider-Man: one starring Venom and one featuring the Sinister Six. This is a bit of a financial risk since the second film of the series has not even come out (although the trailer was released last week). Amazing Spider-Man made $752 million worldwide, so it was very successful. Still, I think we should ask whether these spin-offs are a good idea.     Marvel Studios’ strategy of building interconnected movies has proven very successful, though many were skeptical at first. Would audiences really want to see a solo Captain America or Thor movie? The answer has been proven “Yes!” and so now most new superhero projects involving Marvel or DC characters have a “universe” quality to them.   The sequel to Man of Steel will have at least Batman and Wonder Woman (and probably other Justice Leaguers). X-Men: Days of Future Past will have a cast combining X-Men: First Class and the original three X-Men movies. There is even rumors that 20th Century Fox, which owns the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, might be trying to find a way to connect those franchises after Josh Trank (Chronicle) reboots the FF with The Fantastic Four in 2015.     So it’s not surprising that Sony is trying to get more out of a character with a profile as big as Spider-Man. However, their task is more challenging. Unlike the Avengers or X-Men or Fantastic Four, Spider-Man is a single character, so Sony has decided to use villains to expand the “Spider-Man universe.” So far, there really hasn’t been a movie attempted that’s been primarily based on super villains. We’ve had anti-heroes like The Punisher or Jonah Hex turned into movies (rather unsuccessfully, I’d add), but never straight-up villains.   It’s possible they will try to make Venom into more of a hero. Venom has been hosted by a number of characters, and in the Marvel comics recently its host has been Flash Thompson. He’s been using his abilities to be a hero, becoming a member of the Secret Avengers and then the Thunderbolts. So depending on whom the producer and writers decide to make the Venom symbiote’s host, they could make Venom a hero or villain.     With the Sinister Six, though, they will definitely have a team of villains leading the movie. The announcement of this movie also raises a number of questions. Many suspected that Amazing Spider-Man 3 would be the big battle between Spidey and the Sinister Six. Would the villain team’s inclusion make a solo movie seem redundant? Would audiences be eager to watch a movie revolving around a team of super villains? Would Spider-Man appear in a Sinister Six movie? Perhaps we’ll get some other villains introduced in ASM 3 and the whole Six wouldn’t form until their own movie.   The Sinister Six first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 in 1964. The first incarnation of the group was organized by Dr. Octopus and featured Electro, Vulture, the Sandman, Kraven, and Mysterio. Later versions of the group featured some of the same characters as well as newer ones like Hobgoblin, Shocker, and Venom. So which characters will appear in the movie version?     Chances are that the lineup will be somewhat different. We already know that Electro and Rhino will be villains in Amazing Spider-Man 2 and a triptych-style movie theater poster indicates that some version of the Green Goblin may also make an appearance. If one watches the new trailer closely, we also see a shot with armors in cases, including ones that appear to be Dr. Octopus mechanical arms and a pair of flying wings for the Vulture. Since Curt Connors survived the end of the first Amazing Spider-Man movie and seems to be involved in some way with other villainous characters, there’s a decent chance Lizard could be one of the Six. That already gives us six, not including Venom (since he’s getting his own movie, it seems likely that he wouldn’t also be in a Sinister Six movie).     Sony has brought in a number of reputable writers, directors, and producers for these projects. The team of Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (Fringe, Star Trek Into Darkness, Transformers) were brought in to work on the script to Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 3 (along with Jeff Pinkner). Kurtzman and Orci with will write the Venom movie with Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Drew Goddard (who was recently named as showrunner for the Marvel-Netflix show Daredevil) will write The Sinister Six movie.     Spider-Man is one of my favorite superhero characters and I thought the first Amazing Spider-Man was well done. I also have enjoyed many of the shows/movies made by the new talent brought aboard the Spider-Man movie franchise. However, I still think these particular spin-off choices are risky and not guaranteed to succeed. I think it might have been wiser to make a Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman movie (albeit without the S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hydra background) than those with villains Venom or the Sinister Six. Perhaps there is a way to make these movies work – and I hope they do – but I worry that movie executives are tossing interconnected movies out there not to build more complex and compelling universes but to build ticket grosses.


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