A trailer for the upcoming superhero film “Morbius” includes a poster of Spider-Man that should get fans’ spidey senses tingling — and that could be good for Sony Pictures, the studio behind the movie.
The poster depicts Tobey Maguire’s “Spider-Man” from the early 2000’s. That is exciting for fans of the franchise who are eager to see Maguire’s return to the web slinging character, as a live-action “Spider-Verse” film, based off 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse,” could be in the works.
A live-action version is likely to do well at the box office. The 2018 animated classic incorporated different versions of Spidey from alternate dimensions — grossing $375 million worldwide, while winning best animated feature at last year’s Oscars. Sony Pictures did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on its intentions.
It’s possible that Sony is trolling fans who desperately want a live-action take on the 2018 film, all with the purpose of promoting its slate of upcoming Marvel content, which also includes “Venom 2,” and perhaps a “Sinister Six” spinoff, which would bring a notorious team of Spider-Man villains together for an ensemble picture.
But it could be a mixture of both, as a live-action “Spider-Verse” would be a bold move for Sony that could maximize box office earnings by prioritizing the story, character development, and as Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, puts it, the “wow” factor.
“The brilliance of the ‘Morbius’ trailer is that its purpose is not only to build buzz and anticipation for that film, but to drop subtle (or to discerning fans, not so subtle) hints about what could be in the cards for ‘Spider-Man,'” said Dergarabedian. “It’s all predicated on the consistent delivery of cinematic experiences that wow the fans, honor the ‘Spider-Man’ legacy and yes, take some thematic risks that take this character and therefore the fans to the next level.”
And Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice.com, relayed that fans would be thrilled to see multiple takes of “Spider-Man” on screen, but the only way that a film this ambitious could work is if the primary focus is on “developing stories that organically flow together.”
“We’ve seen superhero franchises stumble out of the gate because they rushed to build universes instead of cohesive, character-driven films,” Robbins emphasized. “Marvel Studios helped revive the Spider-Man brand a few years ago, and it’s important for Sony to avoid anymore missteps this time around.”
Spidey’s cluttered history
Although Spider-Man has been dynamite at the box office over the last 20 years, critical acclaim hasn’t always been his sidekick.
For example, the grossing of over $890 million worldwide for 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” — the highest grossing film for the franchise until 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” — could not stop Sony from rebooting the franchise to Andrew Garfield’s “Amazing Spider-Man” series, in response to director Sam Raimi and Maguire’s third outing receiving mixed to poor reviews. It has a 63% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 51% audience score.
Expectations always run high when it comes to the ‘Spider-Man’ universe and the fans just want a movie that blows the doors off their expectations.
Comscore, senior media analyst
But diminished box office returns for 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” and the emerging shadow of Disney’s Marvel Studios soon put Garfield out of the job, with Sony and Marvel Studios agreeing to reboot the character into the coveted Marvel Cinematic Universe — home of the “Avengers” franchise — allowing Spider-Man to interact with the likes of Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man,” among other Marvel rock stars.
Collectively, the two studios brought in actor Tom Holland, who has played Spidey five times in the last four years, in a mix of solo outings and ensemble pictures. No film has earned less than $880 million worldwide, and two earned more than $2 billion worldwide — including 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” which broke the record for highest grossing film of all time.
“Like all Marvel characters, Spider-Man is a normal person thrust into spectacular situations and amazing powers, and people can identify with him,” said Jeremy Conrad, editor-in-chief, MCUCosmic, on why Spider-Man resonates so much with consumers, especially within the latest franchise.
But Conrad also cautioned that past turmoil could disrupt the possibility of a live action “Spider-Verse” movie, adding that “the biggest challenge would probably be getting the actors together,” as both Maguire’s and Garfield’s respective franchises were canceled in favor of reboots.
However, Holland has gone on record, saying ”I would love to make a [Spider-Man] movie with those guys.” And Maguire suggested to The Hollywood Reporter that he’s not opposed to returning to the superhero life, stating “I’ll just do whatever … whatever it is that comes that I feel called to, that may or may not fit in any kind of box.”
Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) in Sony Pictures Animation’s SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.
But living up to the “Spider-Verse” hype may be Spider-Man’s greatest challenge yet as it’s sure be expensive to produce.
“Comic-book movies are expensive to make and marketing them costs a considerable amount as well,” said Karie Bible, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, who then proceeded to question if “Morbius” is even the right movie to hint at a live action “Spider-Verse,” because the character “isn’t as well known to the general public.”
“Morbius,” starring Jared Leto as the villainous vampire of the same name, is one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes. This summer’s film will be an origin story for the character, and the follow up to 2018’s “Venom,” in Sony’s cinematic universe of Spider-Man characters.
“That said, Sony did an excellent job of marketing ‘Venom,’ and it grossed $213.5 million domestically and $642.5 overseas for a worldwide (cumulative audience) of $856 million. In other words, they know what they are doing,” she then added.
But even if Sony is willing to shell out a budget that is upward of $100 million, the pressure to top what “Into The Spider-Verse” accomplished will be challenging because of its originality, according to Robbins.
“Into the Spider-Verse broke new ground and delivered something fresh out of a genre that’s increasingly challenging to do that with,” he said.
And Dergarabedian seconded that, saying “Expectations always run high when it comes to the ‘Spider-Man’ universe and the fans just want a movie that blows the doors off their expectations.”
Whatever elaborate project Sony has in store for Spidey is unknown to the public. However, the untitled “Spider-Man 3” is rumored to start shooting in summer 2020 according to ScreenRant.
Regardless, the future is bright for Spider-Man.
“Spider-Man has proven to be one of the most lucrative franchises in history,” said Robbins. “This is a bold idea that needs to be taken one step at a time. Venom provided a solid launching pad. Now let’s see if its sequel and Morbius can carry that momentum forward.”