EDITORIAL: Building The Sony Cinematic Universe Around SPIDER-MAN
The Avengers proved that the formula works and in the aftermath, key figures at Sony, Fox and Warner Bros. have talked about building their own shared universe for their superhero franchises. Fox and WB have obvious options but what about Sony and Spider-Man?
In the wake of Marvel's The Avengers $1B+ box office gross, all of Hollywood's major film studio's are reassessing their strategy towards their respective superhero characters. Through the X-Men, Justice League and Spider-Man - Fox, Warner Bros. and Sony are actively developing secretive plans for their own shared cinematic universes. At first glance, Warner Bros. would appear to be the biggest rival to Marvel as they have an impressively large stable of characters to chose from however, you shouldn't overlook Sony as they could become a serious competitor with a cinematic universe primarily built around the Wall-crawler and to a lesser extent, Ghost Rider.
Earth's Mightiest Spider-Friends
If you think the banter between a wisecracking Tony Stark and a straight-laced Steve Rogers is hilarious, imagine the laughs to be had in a similar combination of Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. Of course, Sony would need to reboot Ghost Rider so that he's a closer interpretation of the source material - a no nonsense, objective driven badass that dishes out major punishment, not someone that pisses fire and has a weird cackle. But the Brimstone Biker is definitely no Captain America, he'd be a closer parallel to Thor as an outsider who has the responsibility of protecting humanity from planet-level threats. For the femme fatale of the group, Silver Sable, who first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #265 (1985) is a pretty close approximation to Black Widow. Both are tough, extremely skilled hand-to-hand fighters that more than hold their own in a world filled with super powered beings. Relying only on extensive training and a gadget or two, bother fighters usually leave their opponents the worse for wear. Sable even has a close approximation to S.H.I.E.L.D. in her Wild Pack and larger Silver Sable International team. Her mercenary outfit is often charged with protecting key objects and people which is a concept that readily lends itself to a wide-range of superhero typologies. Going down this route would also allow her to one-up her Avengers counterpart as the cross film entity who eventually brings our diverse collection of heroes together. Chtylok, a 25-foot tall half-cow, half-chicken monster is an 'interesting' character who's origins are tied to Spider-Man. He may look a bit ridiculous but he has strength on par with the Hulk and comes with the added bonus of flight. Appearing in only one Spider-Man arc, the character is ripe for reinterpretation - a more menacing design, maybe a human alter-ego and you easily have your unstoppable powerhouse. For comparison's sake, we need a Hawkeye for the group. Clint Barton had little character development and was more of a sacrificial plot device who had some cool scenes in the final battle. Sony could pretty much insert any hero to fill his place but Hobbie Brown aka The Prowler would be ideal for the final spot as he too is a longstanding Marvel superhero that rarely gets his due.
Spider-Man: Source Code
Sure, plenty of superheroes have alternate versions of themselves but Spider-Man's offshoots are probably the most recognizable to comic book fans. From clones to alternate timelines and even parallel dimensions, over the years Marvel has created a Spider-Man for everyone to love. You want a minority Spider-Man? Check. You want a Spider-Man from a distant future? Check. How about a dark and gritty Spider-Man that also eats brains? Check and check! Of course, you need an entity to bring all these different iterations of the webslinger together and that role fits Madame Web perfectly. Admittedly, a similar concept played out in the 90's animated cartoon and in the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions but there's no reason a live-action adaptation couldn't take its ques from both which saw Web reimagined as more of a cosmic deity. Such a blueprint also opens the door for a return of the Sami Raimi franchise. Imagine Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire suiting up together and leading a team comprised of Miles Morales, Ben Reilly, Miguel O'Hara and Eddie Brock (or maybe a Dane DeHaan Harry Osborn) - that's box office gold!
Avenging Spider-Man Or....Marvel Team-Up
The above ideas are (excuse the pun) pretty sensational but then again, sensational worked pretty well last summer for Joss Whedon. However, if Sony wanted to play it safe, they could opt to stick closer to the more prevalent aspects of the Spider-Man mythos and develop spinoffs for Venom and Black Cat, two fan favorite characters that would have immediate buzz amongst fans. That would mean a smaller cast of heroes sure but also a smaller chance of confusing the larger portion of the movie audience that doesn't read comic books. Plans are already in place for a Venom movie with director Josh Trank and there's also unconfirmed rumors swirling around Felicity Jones' role in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Theoretically, with just three characters, each would be more fully developed before they all 'assemble' in a team-up film. And with the shades of gray in Venom's character, you might not necessarily need to sacrifice screentime for the introduction of a villain as an out of control symbiote would be plenty for the Spider and the Cat to tackle.
The Sinister Six..Seven...And Twelve
Every hero has a chief adversary. Captain America has Red Skull, Iron Man has The Mandarin and Thor has Loki. But when you start moving down their rogues list, it's not long before you arrive at the likes of Porcupine, Melter and 4-D Man. Not so with Spider-Man; if Batman has the best and deepest rogues gallery in DC Comics then Spidey definitely holds that title for Marvel. While the likes of Carnage, Green Goblin and Kingpin (yes, Sony has the rights!) are enough to give Spider-Man fits on their own, together they cause considerable mayhem, especially when it's to form one of the many iterations of The Sinister Six. Based on the latest tease from director Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 might already be heading in that direction with the introduction of the super criminal asylum, The Ravencroft Institute. Typically, Spider-Man manages to eek out a win against this villainous group on his own but there's really no reason to limit the number of roster spots at six. When this has occurred in the pages of Marvel Comics, Spidey has often had to call for backup, which would create a need for Venom and Black Cat. It's true that Spider-Man has some interesting and colorful villains but none are really at the threat-level of a Thanos. That's where Ghost Rider can show his importance to the Sony execs; Mephisto and Blackheart were woefully underdeveloped in the first Ghost Rider film. They are two of the biggest baddies in Marvel Comics and represent a threat that would overwhelm anything Spider-Man could throw at them. Such villains would be ideal for either the Multiple Spider-Men or Avengers-esque blue-prints mentioned above. And let us not forget that the Wallcrawler has had his own dealings with Mephisto in the past; maybe instead of undoing a marriage perhaps he wishes for a certain neck to be unsnapped?
THE SONY CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
"Believe it or not, Kingpin was on loan to Daredevil" - Avi Arad
"The truth is [Venom] also deserves his own movie." - Matt Tolmach
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