Is Sony Mismanaging The Spider-Man Franchise?

Part 1: Send In The B-Team

Looking at Marvel today, it would be easy to assume that they have always been as successful as they are.  Though you’d be wrong because, before they were purchased by Disney, even before they launched their movie production arm, Marvel Studios, they were flirting with bankruptcy.

To stop the bleeding, they licensed the rights to their most successful characters to 21st Century Fox, Sony, Universal and New Line (Marvel received a percentage every time a film was produced with their heroes).

So 21st Century got the X-Men and related characters (and exclusive use of the term ‘mutants’) as well as the Fantastic Four.  Sony got Spider-Man and related characters, while Universal had the Hulk and Namor the Submariner (Marvel’s Namor in terms of his abilities is similar to DC’s Aquaman, except stronger and more awesome).

But Marvel knew that no one could exploit their characters better than they could, so they threw the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’ pass.  To get a loan to build their own studio they borrowed on the strength of their remaining characters.

In other words, it was time for the B-Team to take the field, and Iron Man was released in 2008.  The movie was directed by John Favreau and starred Robert Downey Jr–an actor who at the time was known more of his drug use than his acting ability–and went on to earn almost $600 million (on a $140 million dollar production budget).

Marvel Studios was born, and they were eventually purchased by the Walt Disney Company for $4 billion dollars in 2009 (some analysts thought Disney had overpaid. They were wrong.).

Part 2: Raimi’s Spider-Man Films

As I said earlier Sony licensed Marvel’s Spider-Man and in 2002 released Spider-Man.  Sam Raimi, known primarily for the Evil Dead series of movies, was chosen to direct.  He cast  Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.  The first film cost $139 million to produce, and earned almost $822 million dollars worldwide; a very tidy profit.

Spider-Man 2, introduced Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and was considered the best in the series.  It was more expensive than the first film, clocking in at $200 million and eventually pulled in almost $784 million dollars worldwide.

Still profitable, though not quite as much as the first film.

Spider-Man 3, the last film in the series directed by Raimi, cost $258 million, and earned almost $891 million dollars.  What set it apart from the earlier films was that it featured three villains, Sandman, Venom and the New Goblin (that’s actually what the character is called on IMDB).  Raimi fully expected to direct Spider-Man 4–even after being forced by producer Avi Arad to use Venom, a character he didn’t want in the movie, or like for that matter.  In retribution he cast Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom because Arad thought he was a bad choice for the role.

Spider-Man 3 did very well, despite being the worse reviewed of the series.  Sam Raimi was apparently prepping the fourth film in the series, before his deal fell through.  As a result he was out and the entire franchise rebooted just five years later.

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‘Iron Man 3′ Review

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“Iron Man 3″ Is The Superhero Film Quentin Tarantino Would Direct, If He Had Directed A Superhero Film”

The biggest problem I had with with Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man 2″ was that the filmmakers decided to pit Iron Man against another armored character, just like in the first film (though there was also the way that they turned Justin Hammer into a Tony Stark wannabe, when in the comics he was far more threatening and a much better foil to Stark).

Shane Black seemed to learn from their mistake, because other than Iron Man himself and War Machine – now known as Iron Patriot – there are no other armored characters in the film.

What struck me as odd about the film is that it plays more like something by Quentin Tarantino, in that you get what feels like tons of dialog, with a few set pieces strategically placed to remind you why you’re there in the first place.

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New ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster

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Here’s another “Iron Man 3” poster, this time focusing on Iron Man/Tony Stark and various armored suits.  It appears that the penultimate Iron Man film (Yeah right, if this makes a much money as anticipated, I expect that we’ll be seeing Iron Man for a long while, which is when things get really interesting because Robert Downey, Jr. probably has no more than two–including this one–Iron Man films in him, I’d imagine) will follow in a somewhat different direction than the prior two entries, which isn’t a bad thing.

I have read that it adapts the ‘Extremis’ storyline from the comics, though I haven’t followed it, I cannot say how it goes.

Though what I think is a really good thing is that Jon Favreau isn’t directing, though that shouldn’t be taken as being critical of him.  I am thinking more in the sense that some new blood will bring an interesting perspective to things, and if anyone can do that, Shane Black can.

An Interesting ‘Justice League’ Development

It needs to be said that I have never been a huge fan of DC Comics.  Despite enjoying the adventures of Green Lantern and Batman when I was younger, I always preferred Marvel overall.

That being said, I don’t want their films to fail because if enough superhero films fail, it threatens all superhero films because studios go where the money is, and if enough comic-based properties fail or underperform, they’ll stop making them.

This is why when I read that Ben Affleck was rumored to be taking on DC’s venerable Justice League, I was a bit worried.

It’s not necessarily that I thought that he wasn’t capable, more than he’s never done anything on that scale before, which could result in a problem of Bergian proportions.

Though that is not to say that such a strategy cannot work.  Marvel seems to quite regularly use directors like Kenneth Branagh and Jon Favreau, who prior to Thor and Iron Man 1 & 2, had never done films on such a scale.

Which is why I am comforted by the rumor is that the Wachowskis are being considered.  This makes sense because they have proven that they not only understand epic film making (Cloud Atlas?) but can handle effects-heavy productions.

NBC Wants A ‘Revolution’

J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alcatraz) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural) have an upcoming show on NBC called “Revolution,” about a world that is forced to exist without power because of some unspecified event.

That Abrams and Kripe are working together is impressive, though Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys And Aliens) directing the pilot episode ups the prestige of the project significantly.