‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ Has an Oscorp Problem (and It Could Derail ‘Sinister Six’)
Sony hasn't been shy about their plans for Spider-Man. Before 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' hit theaters, they had release dates for 'The Amazing Spider-Man 3' and 'The Amazing Spider-Man 4.' They've announced spin-off films for Venom and the villainous supergroup known as the Sinister Six. The franchise's producers have openly mocked the idea of ever teaming up with Marvel Studios or 20th Century Fox for the kind of crossover comic fans all over the world so desperately crave.
In short, Sony wants to transform the Spider-Man movie franchise into a Spider-Man movie universe ... and as of right now, it's not working.
It's easy to understand the temptation. Sony has had to sit back and watch Marvel Studios and Disney rake in the billions with former Marvel B-listers like Iron Man and Captain America. Suddenly, Spidey was no longer the biggest draw in the world of superhero movies -- he was playing second fiddle to an entire line-up of Marvel deep cuts. To be fair, Sony is not alone. Fox is reportedly considering merging the worlds of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in future films. Everyone wants to mimic Marvel Studios' massively successful interconnected universe.
'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' starts planting the seeds of the larger Spider-Man movie universe early and often. The first scene introduces us to the Russian crook who will become the villain known as the Rhino. The closing credits tease the line-up of the Sinister Six. Characters like Alistair Smythe and Felicia Hardy make brief cameos, presumably so they can become the Spider Slayer and the Black Cat in future films. 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' has a lot of problems, but one of the biggest is that it sacrifices so much narrative and character momentum to set up stuff that won't pay off until a film or two from now.
And that brings us to the biggest problem plaguing the current Spider-Man series, the thing that can't help but spell doom for the big Spidey movie universe Sony is gambling so hard on: Oscorp.
In the comics and in the films, Oscorp is a massive corporation run by the Osborn clan, a family that has a bad habit of turning into supervillains. It's a major piece of Peter Parker's world, but in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2,' it literally becomes his whole world. Everything in both 'Amazing Spider-Man' films revolves strictly around Oscorp, effectively reducing Spider-Man's entire world down to one skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan.
Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider while visiting Oscorp. Peter's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, works at Oscorp. Peter's father, who created those radioactive spiders in the first place, used to work at Oscorp. Peter bases the webbing for his web-shooters on a technology developed at, you guessed it, Oscorp. Dr. Curt Connors, the Lizard, was an employee at Oscorp. Electro is created due to an accident at Oscorp. Alistair Smythe and Felicia Hardy make their brief cameos as employees at Oscorp. Harry Osborn, the new Green Goblin, gets his glider and suit from the Special Projects room at Oscorp. He later transforms Aleksei Sytsevich into the Rhino using a suit from Oscorp. And finally, the closing scenes of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' (and easter eggs in the closing credits) reveal that Harry Osborn is planning to assemble a team to take down Spider-Man and that the members of the Sinister Six will be outfitted with tech taken from Oscorp.
Let's face it: the 'Amazing Spider-Man' movies have an Oscorp problem.
The big joy of 'The Avengers' came from watching heroes from vastly different worlds come together to fight a common foe. The thrill was not the team itself, but rather the fact that each member of the team originated from a corner of the world that couldn't be more different than the others. When you see Iron Man and Captain America and the Hulk together, it's a team that feels improbable. Scratch that -- it feels impossible. Each of those guys and gals has their own personal agenda and worldview and their own completely separate origin story, but here they are, in the same room. It's what makes the Marvel Studios universe feel so huge and it's why those heavily interconnected films feel so fresh and exciting.
Sony is obviously trying to replicate that excitement with Spider-Man, but they forget to bring that sense of scope. It's impossible to say for sure how they plan to approach 'The Amazing Spider-Man 3' and 'Sinister Six,' but from what is revealed in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2,' they're taking baby steps, seemingly afraid and embarrassed of their comic book source material.
In the Marvel comics, the Sinister Six are a fantastic team because a bunch of villains from all walks of life with a variety of hugely different powers come together to take down their mutual web-slinging foe. If the movies are any indication, the cinematic Sinister Six will be a bunch of guys that Harry Osborn arms with Oscorp tech.
Sure, that's functional, but it misses the spirit entirely. Are we supposed to be excited that Doctor Octopus' tentacles (glimpsed in Oscorp's Special Projects room) exist before Otto Octavius does? Those tentacles are so specifically tied to his character that it feels like 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' has effectively neutered him before he can even show up. The same goes for Kraven, the Vulture and the other baddies who are teased in the final moments. These are villains whose costumes and powers are the summation of their personal experiences. By reducing them to Oscorp cronies, the new Spider-Man movies are looking to transform some of the most colorful villains in comic history into committee-approved nonsense. By extension, they're looking to transform the Sinister Six into a team of hired guns instead of a volatile mix of personalities and megalomaniacs.
This may showcase too much distrust in 'Sinister Six' writer/director Drew Goddard, who was a genius writer for 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Angel' before his directed the modern masterpiece that is 'The Cabin in the Woods.' If anyone can carve a great 'Sinister Six' movie out of this, it's him. But, will Sony let him? Can he even escape the restraints created by 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' in the first place?
Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel universe has the potential to be huge. It has enough characters, villains and allies to sustain a larger interconnected franchise. Yet, it introduces dozens of characters and concepts and ideas and limits them to a single city block. It's building a universe inside a bubble when it should be spreading across an entire city. Spidey's villains should come from every corner of New York, not the basement of one building. Spider-Man's rogue's gallery includes masters of illusion, werewolves powered by magic rocks, big game hunters and vampires. The joy is not in the number of villains that Spider-Man fights, but in the variety. If future films want to have the epic scope and interconnectedness that made 'The Avengers' a hit, they need to leave Oscorp and that Special Projects room in the rear view mirror.
It's possible to course correct. Heck, it's possible that Sony and director Marc Webb have other things in mind that will completely surprise us all and make this whole article redundant. But they've done such an effective job of building such a specific universe, that it feels like everything is going according to plan. Unfortunately, that universe and that plan don't inspire a lot of confidence. In its attempt to build a universe, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' has built a tiny box.