MARVELOUS DA7E 84: The Business of Spider-Man

– by L-R


IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME HERE: Welcome! This is my weekly column where I talk about superhero movie news, rumors and speculation. But you picked a dry week.

THIS WEEK:  GETTIN' DOWN TO BID-NISS. The business of Spider-Man means he probably won't be black. The business of Sony exes out some producers and the business of posters suggests Spidey is closer than we think.

Let’s just start with the acknowledgement that what we really really care about with superhero movies these days probably has nothing in common with the people who are making it and what they find important. You can see this in almost every interaction about fan “reaction” or “expectation” when it comes to stories and characters. Profitability makes the ugly side of business rear it’s head and that side has absolutely nothing to do with art.

Yeah, I said it. The people producing the blockbuster superhero movies might dilute themselves into thinking they are making art, but they’re making a slick, enjoyable product.

Which isn’t to say we’re doomed. After the Oscars slagged off superhero movies for seemingly no reason (outside of wanting to feel like THEY were making art, which they sometimes do by accident), good old Guardians of the Galaxy-director James Gunn got onto Facebook to set the Awards Season snobs straight:

Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I've already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians. What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films.
I've made B-movies, independent films, children's movies, horror films, and gigantic spectacles. I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity. And then there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they've taken from the works of others. In all honesty, I do no find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film.
If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we're dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a "serious" filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.

Such is the balance between people who have the skills to make movies and the companies that have the money to make product - together they tug at something and mold it like clay until it can serve both purposes as a product and a film.

Now, before we talk about the business of Spider-Man, a small disclaimer: making movies is bonkers. I had my own tiny music video production company back in the day (dear children, one used to be able to sell those things), and I’ve done a fair amount of industry research and you always run across stories of movies getting put in the most ridiculous situations. Sometimes those situations work out for the best (like Harrison Ford’s casting as Indiana Jones), sometimes they are the most horrible things you’ve ever heard (The Twilight Zone Movie accident). It’s fluid and the craziest things happen during film production.

This is a disclaimer because crazier things have happened than us getting a black Peter Parker, but that doesn’t mean it’s at all likely.

Yeah, I’m starting here.

Jeff Sneider of The Wrap dropped this on the Meet The Movie Press podcast:

"This is not set in stone guys, but I’m telling you right now, Spider-Man’s not going to be white...Spider-Man’s not going to be white. I am 95% sure. Spider-Man’s most likely going to be black. But there’s a chance he could also be Latino. 95% sure, not white."

I’m 96% sure Spider-Man will be white.

I don’t WANT it that way, it’s just the most probable reality because this character is being shared by two giant companies that both want to make more money than the other. I can see where the pressure is coming from. Amy Pascal was labeled a racist because of some leaked e-mails and Marvel Comics is getting ready to make Miles Morales, the Black/Latin Spider-Man from Brooklyn a main-universe Spider-Man this summer. Reactions to minority lead superhero films like Wonder Woman or Black Panther have been very positive...but none of them have made money yet. Wonder Woman might end up beating a solo Spidey to the screen by a matter of days: minority lead properties are still a hope, even though a strong one, from the box office prediction standpoint.

We’re still in the world of giant TEAMS that are going to shoot off smaller films. The solo Spider-Man movies coming after one (possibly two) MCU Spidey shout outs are technically in Sony’s court and Sony bought Peter Parker - white high school student from Queens - all those years ago from Avi Arad and Ike Pearlmutter.

I want to be wrong about this because it’d be good for Spider-Man movies. I want to be wrong about this because Andrew Garfield was my Peter Parker already. I want to be wrong about this because Miles Morales, in many ways, is the character they want when they say “high-school aged, non-romantic focus Spider-Man.” But did you WATCH “Hollywood’s best and whitest” at the Oscars this year? Have you talked to anyone in the industry who is worth over $1 million dollars about race in blockbusters? I think we’re stuck with a white guy.

I’d love to be wrong, and I’d love someone to tell me exactly why I’m wrong.

I’d guess we’re in the middle of some casting process right now as Cap 3 spins up (and Danny Elfman...see below) I haven’t heard of any POCs of the Spidey age and gender coming into Sony or Disney. This is something I’m trying to monitor... because Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, the mystery as to what exactly happened between Marvel and Sony continues to deepen, and this...well, this could make some people very happy and some people very sad.

If you want to really know some of the catty background between the players in this game, I highly suggest “Marvel The Untold Story,” but to sum up: Marvel was going bankrupt in the 90s and Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad sold off properties to Hollywood (like Spider-Man) to stop the bleeding. Things turned around, Spider-Man got really profitable for Sony, Ike Pearlmutter tried Iron Man, made Marvel big, sold Marvel to Disney and became a major Disney shareholder. Kevin Feigie used to work under Avi Arad, but was promoted but now runs Marvel Studios while Arad is out producing the properties he still has access to.

Then all Sony Hack stuff happened and we started hearing that Spider-Man might be back on the table between these two companies. Details of the deal were sketchy, until Pascal left Sony to start a sub-Sony production company and Marvel announced a Spider-Man sharing deal.

When Marvel announced the sharing deal and that Sony would keep creative control over the webslinger, it was surprising. Devin from BadAssDigest has even heard that it might have been deigning to Sony to announce it that way in the first place:

“Everything I have heard is that Marvel is calling most of the shots on this new movie. There's been a lot of language in the press to help Sony avoid some embarrassment, to make this look less like admitting defeat.“

And here’s where I pile on: Avi Arad and Matt Tolomach, producers of the Amazing Spider-Man movies (and Arad being attached to the property since it’s initial sale) are producers for Spider-Man in name only.

We have information from a source suggesting there is no financial involvement whatsoever and no direct creative control over Spidey coming from the old guard. Amy Pascal still has a say in the Mom-and-Pop arrangement she has with Feige, but Disney didn’t want to unite Pearlmutter, Arad and Feige in earnest. This is the solution.

What does that mean? It means Marvel might have a bit more control than we thought. It means the new Spider-Man has been insulated from BOTH Avi Arad and new Sony head, superhero property curse, Tom Rothman.

...STILL don’t think he’s gonna be black.



Why is Danny Elfman's name on the Avengers: Age of Ultron poster? Is it for his Spider-Man or his Hulk theme?

Ha! HULK. I'm kidding.

This is the first indication I’ve seen to an earlier than planned introduction to Spider-Man.

I just picture a scrap of a defeated Ultron bot on the streets of New York City as we slowly push in, then - THWIP! - it gets webbed up and pulled off screen. Cut to the rest of the credits as the Spider-Man theme plays.

Damn, May, get here.


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Column Marvel, Sony, Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Ike Perlmutter, Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvelous Da7e