It looks like Sony is going to reboot the Spider-Man franchise. The speculation is that it will it will put Peter Parker back in high school. It’s been confirmed that everyone will be recast. This is not dissimular to what was done with Batman Begins.

The problem is that Batman Begins was released eight years after the last of the previous franchise and ten or thirteen years after the last Batman movie that Batman fans will acknowledge as having existed outside of some dreadful nightmare. Further, Christopher Nolan’s Batman was a significant departure from either the Joel Schumacher or Tim Burton visions for the character. What, precisely, is the new vision going to be for Spider-Man? Raimi pretty much nailed the character, insofar as I am familiar with him. Maybe a Marvel fan can correct me if I’m wrong.

At the same time, there are two reasons why this could be a good idea. The first is 3D technology is finally cracking through. Starting midway through a franchise with 3D is a bit iffy. That could be the hook even if they don’t toy around too much with the character. The second reason this could be a good idea is that Raimi burned through a good number of the Spider-Man villains, much as the 90’s Batman franchise did.

This strikes me as part of the problem with the movie franchises with the notable partial-exclusion of the latest Batman franchise: a failure to think ahead. When it comes to their principal properties, both Warner and Marvel (and/or Sony and those that Marvel signs out their rights to) tend to think of things in terms of movie and then maybe a sequel or two. I think that they really need to consider thinking five or more movies ahead.

In the first Batman movie, Tim Burton introduced and then killed off Batman’s primary adversary. In the sequel, he brought out and disposed of two more adversaries. Then two more for the third. So by the time they got to the fourth, the only villain they had on their that most people were familiar with (meaning, the one that appeared in the Adam West series) was Mr. Freeze. Had they made a fifth movie, they would have had to go with the likes of Scarecrow or Ra’s al-Ghoul!

Of course, that’s what Nolan did, but the difference is that the Burton/Schumacher series put so much emphasis on the villains that it is unlikely that either of those two would have carried the day. Nolan wisely decided that since the first Batman movie would focus on Batman, there was no need to waste a first-string villain for that film. That, combined with the fact that he keeps his villains alive*, means that they can keep making Batman movies in perpetuity, each one building on the last.

Spiderman fell somewhere in between the Two Batman franchises. While Burton really only intended to make a movie, Raimi obviously set out to make more than one. But Raimi still seemed in a hurry and things seemed kind of rushed. The Venom suit and Venom the villain could have been broken out into two movies. Venom, Sandman, and the Green Goblin all shared the screen in the final movie. There were a lot of things that they could have done to make the series more sustainable, and they didn’t. While a movie about Iron Man or Daredevil needs to get to its points and use its better villains early since the franchises are risky, the same isn’t true for Spider-Man or Batman. There’s really not much reason why they can’t just count on having a new movie come out every couple of years.

Eventually, of course, you have to concern yourself with the cast and whatnot, but I really don’t see that as all that big of an issue. First, as Batman Begins demonstrated, you don’t really need stars in cases where the character carries himself. If you want brand names, giving them smaller parts such as Lucius Fox works fine. Then, when the actors become too expensive, you can replace them. People have gotten used to that sort of thing. When you need to punch things up, you can start doing team-ups. If one flops, you know what? You can just fix what was “broken” and go from there like Marvel did with the Hulk. The number of potential stories are nigh-infinite. No reason to keep retelling the same ones and every reason to build on the characters and move forward rather than start over.

* – Okay, they got a really bad break with The Joker. But that’s not Nolan’s fault. And he did waste Two-Face. Bad move.

Category: Theater

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3 Responses to Studios Should Think Beyond The Next Installment

  1. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    1. It’s not always the case that the best movies have the best comic book villains. As evidence, I offer you Superman II. General Zod was the best Superman movie villain, but there’s little doubt that Lex Luthor was the best comic book villain. And it wasn’t a matter of casting, either; Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor, for crying out loud, and still Terence Stamp just tore it up in the sequel.

    2. Unlike comic books or even television shows, movies are hugely expensive to make and distributed in a very different format, so there are necessarily fewer of them. Where you look for 80 to 100 episodes of a TV show, the audience generally doesn’t tolerate more than 5 installments of a movie franchise. And if you compare Batman movies at a hundred million a pop with the TV show from the 60’s which must have cost all of ten grand per episode, sustainability becomes a much different priority.

    3. I disliked seeing Two-Face killed off because I thought he was so interesting; but part of what made him interesting was that he had been written into a corner by the time he descended into evil. Presenting inherently campy figures like The Riddler or The Penguin in a dark, serious, and realistic light will be something of a challenge — but I also think another actor could pick up where Heath Ledger left off in the fourth and possibly final installment of Nolan’s series. I’d be looking for a ninja-trained Catwoman next, framing a now-cast-as-public-enemy-Batman for her morally ambiguous quasi-vigilante crimes, as the solo villain for the next installment. Sadly, they killed off Batman’s love interest because that should have been her secret identity.

  2. web says:

    Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor, for crying out loud,

    Arguably, Gene Hackman wasn’t really right for the Luthor part, at least as written. The characterization they chose (ambitious grifter/schemer type with a bunch of bumbling sidekicks) doesn’t work nearly as well: the reason that Luthor’s always been the quintessential Superman villain is that he is the mental equal (if not superior) of Superman. It’s one of the many failings of the original Superman: The Movie that they picked an “actor” by sight with barely any ability to deliver a comedic line, handed the comedy over to the villain, and then well, yeah.

    Plus, the movie Luthor doesn’t have any “past” with Superman; one of the things that made Luthor so compelling a character for a long time was the fact that, underneath all the schemes and evil and nastiness, Superman was always holding back a bit (because Luthor was his past friend and Superboy shared whatever small blame in Luthor’s lab accident) and Luthor always giving it that little extra edge because damnit, this was personal. Zod worked because the character was able to give it that same level of “personal” edge.

  3. trumwill says:


    1. I’ve always disliked the pre-Byrne Luthor, actually. Good point, though. Batman Beyond is another good example of this. But I do think that, for sequels in particular, good movies help.

    2. I don’t see why the movie-going public is going to be more tolerant of three Spiderman movies followed by a reboot and three more than they would be of a series of six. I think that studios have frequently worked under the assumption that you are – an assumption aided by the fact that later sequels have generally not been very good. But I don’t think that’s really the case. If they can keep the movies good, I think that they can release as many Spiderman movies with the same regularity as James Bond movies.

    3. The Riddler from the animated series is sufficiently dark for the Nolan series. The problem with the Penguin is that they need to make him uncampy but also sufficiently different from the Danny DeVito dark version. I think it can be done.

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