He’s been clinging to life for years, but it might be time to squash the increasingly less amazing Spider-Man.
Two weekends into its box office run, would-be blockbuster “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” fell from the top spot, knocked out by the Seth Rogen comedy “Neighbors.” It is now on its way to becoming the lowest-grossing Spider-Man film of all time, continuing the downward trajectory of Spider-Man’s box office payoff. But instead of asking the hard question of whether it’s time to put Spider-Man out of his misery, Sony Pictures has instead committed to multiple sequels and spinoffs, while refusing an opportunity to revive the franchise.
Spider-Man films have delivered diminishing returns since the first one hit theaters in 2002. Every one of the five released Spider-Man movie has earned less money than the one before it. While the first “Spider-Man” film made $403 million in 2002, “The Amazing Spider-Man” only grossed $262 million, and the figures continue to dip: After 10 days at the box office, “The Amazing Spider-Man” had earned $153 million, while in the same time frame “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” took in only $148 million. Overall, Sony’s “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot is still leaps and bounds away from matching the success of Sam Rami’s original Spider-Man trilogy.
For comparison, in the same amount of time, Rami’s critically panned swan song to Peter Parker, “Spider-Man 3,” had grossed $240 million. That puts “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” at nearly $100 million below the series’ worst-regarded entry, not accounting for inflation or marked up 3D ticket prices.
While “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” isn’t a bomb, it isn’t the blockbuster that Sony wants it to be, and if audiences aren’t turning up in big enough numbers for the main series, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll show up for the planned “Venom” or “Sinister Six” spinoffs. Fans aren’t turning up for Spider-Man in other media, either. The 2011 Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” closed after just three years, unable to make back its $75 million budget. It appears that audiences are just a little tired of Spider-Man.
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And while Marvel Comics found a way to infuse the comic book series with new energy, for now Sony won’t make the same bold move that paid off handily for Marvel’s series “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.”
In Marvel’s Ultimate Comic line, an alternate universe full of new takes on classic characters, writer Brian Michael Bendis killed off the classic Spider-Man Peter Parker in 2011 and replaced him with Miles Morales, a Brooklyn-born Black Hispanic teenager. Miles’ character has been widely praised as a breath of fresh air in the comics, and Sony even toyed with incorporating his suit design into “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Bringing in a new Spider-Man could be just the shot in the arm Sony needs for the series. Just about every star of the recent round of superhero films has been a white male, and Sony could seriously shake up the playing field by telling stories with a different type of hero.
But Sony producer Avi Arad has said there's no chance Miles will ever appear onscreen, at least not on his watch. Speaking with IndieWire ahead of the film's release, Arad insisted that the character, in its current incarnation, has “stood the test of time.” But the box office numbers tell a different story. And while Spider-Man’s fellow Marvel heroes are breaking records in Avengers' films, Spider-Man is struggling to support his own films.
While Spider-Man is originally a Marvel Comics character, he’s legally prohibited from sharing the screen with his more successful pals in the Avengers. In the mid-1990s, when Marvel Comics was bankrupt, it sold off the film rights to a number of its characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to raise needed cash. Sony has owned the rights to Spider-Man and his affiliated characters since then and has turned around a trio of Spider-Man films in the 2000s and the current “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot series.
Now that Marvel Studios is achieving success with its home-grown films like “Captain America” and “Thor,” Sony is using the “Amazing Spider-Man” films to ape the Marvel method with a series of interconnected films set in the Spider-Man universe. In addition to a third and fourth installment of the series, Sony has also announced a pair of villain-centric films, “Venom” and “The Sinister Six,” the latter of which was teased in a promotion at the end of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Sony clearly has big plans for its Spider-Man universe, but it remains to be seen whether a weakening Peter Parker can support such a large web of films.