With the stunning but not totally unexpected announcement that Sony Pictures and Marvel Entertainment had come to an agreement to have Spider-Man appear in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it was revealed that Andrew Garfield would not be reprising his wall crawling role in any of the upcoming films. While the news did not come as a shock, it did raise a few eyebrows. It wouldn’t be the first time that an actor had been replaced as a franchise lead due to the inner business workings of a film studio. You only have to look to another of Sony’s franchises – James Bond – to see where this precedent had been set.
Before the Marvel/Sony deal, Andrew Garfield had portrayed Peter Parker in two films in Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise. Although The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made money, they weren’t exactly hits with fans or critics. Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker and Spider-Man was well received – and in some ways was seen as a more accurate representation of the characters than Toby McGuire’s in the Sam Raimi films. What turned fans and critics off were the lacklustre scripts and the underwhelming villains. Initially, many fans and critics were skeptical when news broke that Sony was rebooting the Spider-Man franchise after director Sam Raimi’s enormously successful trilogy. Spider-Man 3 was a disaster but it still managed to outgross its two predecessors, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 with a worldwide gross of $419, 000, 000. When Raimi, Toby McGuire and the rest of the original cast weren’t brought back for a fourth installment, Sony decided to jumpstart the franchise by starting all over again.
Replacing Raimi in the director’s chair was the aptly named, Mark Webb, Garfield was selected to fill McGuire’s Spidey suit and the results were decidedly mixed. The two films that Webb directed got several parts of the Spider-Man mythos correct, particularly the characterization of Peter Parker and his relationship with Gwen Stacey. Where those films failed was in the first movie’s design of Spider-Man’s costume, and the inability of both films to deliver a good villain, despite the Amazing Spider-Man 2’s overstuffed rogues’ gallery. In a market that has seen The Avengers, The Dark Knight, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier significantly raise the bar for superhero movies, Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man franchise was a disappointment. Despite not setting the box office on fire, Sony was publicly talking about further developing the Spider-Man franchise, including a film devoted entirely to his villains, the Sinister Six. Reaction to those plans were met with skepticism by some fans and others wondered what it would be like if Marvel ever got the opportunity to make a Spider-Man film on their own. Ironically, fans would soon get their chance due to internal strife at Sony.
The world came crashing down on Sony in late 2014 when a group called the Guardians of Peace hacked the company and began re-leasing sensitive emails detailing the internal discourse amongst the company’s top executives and some of its stars. Unflattering emails, company strategies, sensitive employee information (including social insurance numbers) and an early draft of the script for SPECTRE, the upcoming James Bond film, were some of the items released. The fallout of the hacking scandal resulted in Amy Pascal, Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Group, stepping down from her position and the transfer of Spider-Man’s film production from Sony and back to Marvel. News of Marvel and Sony discussing the Spider-Man franchise came to light during the email hacking scandal and with Sony at a crossroads with how to revive the series and in the throws of a massive public relations disaster, a deal was struck between the two companies to bring the web-slinger back home. Through the deal Sony will retain final say on the character but will co-produce the films with Marvel’s Kevin Feige and former Sony Chairman, Amy Pascal.
Shortly after regaining the cinematic rights to Spider-Man, Marvel was quick to announce that the character would be appearing in the next Captain America film, Civil War and then in his own stand-alone film in 2017. To fit Spider-Man into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe there would have to be some changes, meaning that the character would have to be rebooted once again. Andrew Garfield was allowed to swing into the sunset and the search would commence for a new Spider-Man.
Timothy Dalton, currently starring in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful can sympathize with Garfield. Dalton was chosen to replace Roger Moore as James Bond in the mid-eighties after Pierce Brosnan was unable to take over the role. Brosnan was producer Albert “Cubby” Broccolli’s choice to be the new Bond, but those plans were dashed faster than a SPECTRE minion when NBC decided to renew Remington Steele – Brosnan’s TV show – after the news broke that he would be taking over for Moore. Brosnan, still under contract with NBC, was forced to return to Remington Steele and the role of 007 went to Dalton.
Dalton starred in two films, 1986’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s License to Kill. Audiences and critics were divided on Dalton’s Bond films and it was reflected in less than stellar box office results. Despite the franchise fatigue that had set in during the latter Moore efforts, and a reliance on camp over serious storytelling, the Bond films under Roger Moore were some of the most financially successful in the history of the franchise. Also working against Dalton was the shift in social attitudes during the 80’s with the fall of communism, the rise in feminism and AIDS. His tenure as Bond isn’t highly regarded but a closer look at his portrayal is evidence that his darker, edgier Bond, which was a dramatic shift away from the camp of the latter Moore films, shares the same DNA as Daniel Craig’s current interpretation. Dalton was let down by inferior scripts, although The Living Daylights is a solid film. Timothy Dalton’s run as Bond ended when United Artists, the company behind the films, went bankrupt. The series went dark for five years until Sony Pictures purchased the rights to the Bond films and Brosnan eventually assumed the role. If United Artists had their financial affairs in order and Dalton was given a third film, Bond’s film history might look quite different than it does today.
Andrew Garfield, it would seem, is in the same boat that Timothy Dalton was in all those years ago. His tenure as Spider-Man is over due more so to studio business than his inability to connect with audiences. It only makes sense that Marvel would want a clean slate with the Spider-Man franchise, considering that their marquee character is now back in the fold. Marvel has spent the better part of a decade crafting a tightly woven universe between their films and TV shows. With the ability to insert Spider-Man into their plans moving forward, Marvel wouldn’t want to be bound to anything that happened in Sony’s Spider-Man universe. It’s strange, but Spider-Man will be following in the footsteps of fellow Avenger, the Hulk as characters that have essentially been rebooted three times in the span of less than a decade. It’s worked for Marvel before with three different actors portraying the Hulk (Eric Banna, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo). It can be argued that the third time was the charm as Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk is spot on. Fans of the web-slinger can only hope the trend continues when he reappears in cinemas in the next couple of years.
Rumour has it that the next Spider-Man film will not be an origin story and that Iron Man may make an appearance. With all of the cameos Marvel’s Cinematic Universe should be called Marvel Team Up. Guest appearances from established Marvel movies will help to ground the new movie into the existing universe and will mirror what’s been going on in the comics for decades. A panel or two in the comics, or in this case a frame or two in the films, will excite fans and create continuity leading into what promises to be the ultimate crossover event of the summer of 2018 – Avengers 3 and 4: The Infinity War.
Will the new Spider-Man be Peter Parker or will it be Miles Morales? Marvel Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada recently mentioned on his blog that any Spider-Man movie has to “get Peter’s character right and the rest falls into place”. Hopefully Quesada is right. While the Morales angle would be an interesting one, Marvel should stay with Parker and develop him properly. There’s enough time to introduce Morales if at all, when Marvel announces Phase 9 or 10 of their Cinematic Universe. Until then we’ll all be waiting to see what having Spider-Man line up next to Iron Man, Captain America and the Black Widow will look like and if Marvel can continue its amazing streak of bringing their characters to the big screen.
This article originally appeared in Comix Asylum Magazine Issue 10 (May 2015)