Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sony's Trying to be Stupid Again

Does Sony really want another of these
on their conscience?
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In the “Weekly MCU Review” this morning, I talked about Sony’s continuing descent into madness.  However, I don’t think I quite talked it to death enough there, so here we are.  To recap:  news broke last week that Sony was planning to produce a Venom movie (something they had been planning as a spinoff to The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, but which the Marvel deal put on hold).  However, it was unclear at that time whether the Venom movie would be part of the MCU.  This week, news started circulating that Sony was also planning a movie about Black Cat and Silver Sable, two female antiheroes associated with Spider-Man.  Then, almost as soon as the news came out, there was a follow-up Tweet saying that this movie will not be part of the MCU and that Kevin Feige is not involved.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Sony decided to get in on the Female-Led Superhero Movie™ bandwagon.  After all, Marvel Studios has two different movies on the way starring female heroes—Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel.  Warner Bros has Wonder Woman coming out this June, and they have already started working on a Gotham City Sirens movie with Harley Quinn (among others).  So of course Sony wants to get in on it without stopping to consider why any of these movies will (presumably) be successful—and without even waiting to see whether Wonder Woman will even make money!

I’ve already talked about the possibility of Spider-Man spinoffs, and about why the Venom movie should be in the MCU.  This time around, I will talk about exactly why Sony would be shooting themselves in the foot by producing spinoffs outside the MCU, why Black Cat and Silver Sable will not work outside the MCU, and why this movie concept will work in the MCU.

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Sony is Competing with Themselves

This July, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are set to release Spider-Man: Homecoming, which will star Tom Holland in his second appearance as Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man, after making his debut in Captain America: Civil War.  This movie will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and will potentially set Spider-Man up as the future of the franchise.  Assuming that the movie is as good as we expect it to be, it will probably set a few box office records and possibly earn more than the entire TASM franchise put together.  After Spider-Man: Homecoming, it is all but assured that Tom Holland’s version of the character will appear in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 in 2018 and 2019, respectively.  Following four years of consecutive movie appearances, it is likely that Holland will continue appearing in MCU movies annually or bi-annually for the next decade or so, some of which will be produced by Sony Pictures.

And Sony wants to start its own competing franchise using the same intellectual property?  Have these executives lost their ever-loving minds?

Let’s look at an example of what happens when two studios release movies using the same IP in the same year.  The only recent examples I can think of are the Hercules movies.  (I was going to include the Dracula movies, but the Sony-produced Dracula movie (Dracula: The Dark Prince) doesn’t have any information available anywhere)

Gross (D/W)
Combined Gross

The Legend of Hercules

The numbers don’t look good:  only the one starring the Rock made back its budget (and that only including international box office returns), while the other one didn’t even manage that.  Regardless of movie quality, it suffers from such direct competition when the same IP is being adapted that same year.  And that will almost certainly happen to Sony Pictures if they try to produce two movies using the same IP concurrently without keeping them connected.  Most likely Sony’s MCU Spider-Man movies will do okay thanks to the MCU backing (fans gotta keep up with The Franchise™), but the non-MCU movies will flop.  Hard.

In fact, even the Sony-produced MCU Spider-Man movies may suffer from the competition, while the Disney/Marvel-produced MCU movies including Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in their cast will still succeed.

Simply put, it makes no business sense for Sony to create its own competing Spider-Man-related franchise when they are already poised to make a substantial payday from the Marvel deal!

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This Won’t Work Outside the MCU

There are so many reasons this movie will not work outside the MCU it’s kind of hard to know where to begin.

To start off, let’s see a show of hands from everyone who trusts Sony to produce a Spider-Man movie without Marvel Studios’ help.  Aside from Avi Arad and maybe Amy Pascal, I don’t think anyone else is holding their hands up.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was not terrible; The Amazing Spider-Man was decent.  But Sony lost their Independent Spider-Man Franchise cards when they gambled all of them on TASM2 and lost.  Beyond morbid curiosity, I can’t imagine anyone actually lining up to see an independent Sony-produced Spider-Man movie any time soon—especially if it doesn’t even include Spidey himself.

So much for the studio involved.  But what about the story itself?

To oversimplify, Black Cat is a Marvel version of Catwoman.  Felicia Hardy is a cat burglar who eventually receives the ability to give other people bad luck, and has something of a love/hate relationship with Spider-Man—the two are lovers for a time.  She has also teamed up with the heroes on occasion, including as a member of the Heroes for Hire and Defenders.  However, she is most closely associated with Spider-Man.

Silver Sable is another antihero antagonist of Spider-Man.  Silver Sablinova (who names their child that?) is the leader of both the Wild Pack and Silver Sable International, a multinational mercenary squad.  She occasionally fights against Spider-Man and other street-level heroes, but sometimes winds up on their side.

While both characters have appeared in stories independent of Spider-Man, they are most closely associated with him.  Consequently, I find it rather difficult to justify a movie starring two female members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery when Spider-Man himself is not going to appear.  It’s the same problem that plagues the idea of a Venom movie in which Spider-Man will not play any sort of role.

Though such a movie could work without Spider-Man, I still wouldn’t be too thrilled if we aren’t going to see Spider-Man face off with these Spider-Man villains!  And if Sony decides to cast their own Spider-Man to appear in these films (instead of the MCU Spider-Man)… well, we already talked about that issue above.

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This Would Work in the MCU

Having said all of the above, I do believe that a movie about Spider-Man’s female antagonists could work—but only if it is set within the MCU.  This does not mean that Spider-Man himself necessarily must appear in this movie, but it does mean he should be able to interact with them in the future.

There are many ways that Sony and Marvel Studios could set this movie/concept in the MCU.  In the “Weekly MCU Review” I suggested bringing in Black Widow and turning the movie into a globe-hopping spy thriller.  Perhaps Black Cat unknowingly steals an artifact of major significance to Symkaria (Silver Sable’s fictional Eastern European country) from an Embassy, and Silver Sable brings a group of mercenaries to New York to search for it.  The Secret Avengers learn of the brewing international incident and send Black Widow to stop Black Cat and return the artifact before the situation draws unwanted U.N. attention.  If the studios are feeling particularly ambitious, they could even bring in Jessica Jones as a street-level ally that Black Widow employs to help her track down Black Cat.  Suddenly you’ve got an MCU-set female-led movie that Sony can produce and (probably) take to the bank.  And it would give fans the Black Widow movie they’ve wanted for years!

The other option available with many of these Spider-Man antiheroes is (of course) Netflix.  Black Cat could fit in quite well with the street-level heroes and villains of the Marvel Netflix shows, especially since her “bad luck power” was given to her by Wilson Fisk (who is also responsible for her father’s death).  Following an introduction focusing on her bid for revenge against Fisk, she could then team up with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing to take on Fisk’s rebuilt criminal empire—which leaves a power vacuum in which Felicia is free to operate as Black Cat.  Appearing on Netflix would make it a challenge for her to interact with Spider-Man, but it would not be impossible, especially since Spider-Man himself starts off as more of a street-level hero than someone like Iron Man.

Following their initial appearances—wherever they take place—both of these characters would be free to appear as antagonists or allies in any future Spider-Man movies, which would itself set the MCU Spider-Man franchise apart from both previous franchises.  They could also appear in their own sequels or spinoffs to introduce other Spider-Man supporting characters such as Puma.

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Simply put, there are no compelling business reasons for Sony to attempt to produce its own Spider-Man spinoff movies without the backing of Marvel Studios.  They would put themselves into competition with their own movies (to say nothing of all the other superhero movies they would be competing against).  They have lost far too much credibility with the fans to justify the risk of another failed franchise (especially when they don’t have to worry about losing the rights thanks to the MCU Spider-Man movies they will be producing).  And the story just doesn’t seem compelling enough without Spider-Man somewhere in the background.

If they really want to produce Spider-Man spinoff movies, they need to arrange with Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to work them into their master plan for the MCU.  The MCU’s release schedule is already packed pretty tightly, but if Sony has a legitimately good idea for a spinoff movie, they can work it into the schedule.  And if that means four quality MCU movies being released in a year, so much the better.

Spider-Man’s supporting characters are some of the most interesting and unique elements of the IP.  If handled well, they can certainly star in some of their own movies and enrich both the MCU and Sony’s bottom line.  However, there is little reason to believe that Sony Pictures has the ability to produce good movies by itself based on Spider-Man’s supporting cast, especially if they will not involve Spider-Man himself in any way.

I think I can speak for comic book movie fans everywhere in saying:  Sony, set it in the MCU or don’t do it at all!

Do you want to see Black Cat and Silver Sable in movies outside the MCU?  Do you think Sony can produce a competing “Spider-Man” franchise while the MCU is still going strong?  Let me know in the comments!

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