With Marvel’s shared cinematic universe being all the rage these days, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and try to tie their completely separate movie franchises together for some reason or another…mainly money. While Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises and Sony owns everything Spider-Man there just doesn’t seem to be much of a universe for either studio to share.
The X-Men and Fantastic Four don’t really have much history together outside of a few mini-series and some large Marvel crossovers…even though Wolverine and Spider-Man were both members of the Fantastic Four for a short time, so I really couldn’t see where this would lead to outside of some random bastardization of comic book storylines. As for Spider-Man, having a shared movie universe is no different than what Sony is currently doing at the time. The studio wants to expand their shared universe to include solo films starring Venom/Carnage, the Sinister Six, possibly Black Cat and who the hell else knows…maybe a solo Aunt May flick as well as a reality show for Man-Spider.
For Sony, they’ve somewhat begun to drop the ball with the Spider-Man franchise. As with most big movie studios they believe in taking liberties with the characters in order to make them trendy and popular among certain crowds. While I don’t mind Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, the character progression over the course of the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies is as night and day as you can get when compared to the comic book iteration. The whole point of Peter Parker’s character in the comics was to be the underdog…the perpetual hopeless loser who failed at life early on and when given spectacular superpowers by accident and an opportunity to do good for goodness sake, let a criminal pass by believing it was not his problem. The same criminal murders his Uncle Ben setting Peter Parker/Spider-Man on a course of humble superheroics and making him into one of the most likeable superheroes of all time. None of this is prevalent in the current “Amazing” movies.
The director not only makes every attempt to distance himself from the earlier Spider-Man franchise by completely avoiding the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing, but he turns Peter Parker into the stereotypical popular high school jock kid and manages to make him a complete asshole when it comes to his relationship with Gwen Stacy…especially in the second movie where you end up hating him with each and every scene to the point of by the end of the movie, you hope that he would have died in the clock tower. He is only Peter Parker by name. Nothing else feels the same. You get that feeling with just about every character in the franchise so far. I really don’t know what else to say about the Green Goblin other than let me know when the Norman Osborn version finally shows up so that they can give him a plow truck instead of a glider and somehow make him fall in love with Aunt May and Electro was more than forgettable but that was kind of expected.
The same thing can be said of Fox with the Fantastic Four and with the X-Men to a point. While what info has been released so far about the FF reboot may just be speculation or may be taken out of context by someone in the know, but the idea of “Dr. Doom” not being Dr. Doom at all but some anonymous hacker hell-bent on breaking the internet with hackerific cyber-bombs is actually worse than the Twilight villain version that appeared in the first two movies. I don’t see what is so hard about portraying a Doom that does the character justice. He’s a fairly prototypical villain but with somewhat of a twist. Think of an evil selfish dictator that is one part Stalin, one part Iron Man and one part Dr. Strange. Doesn’t sound too difficult does it? But some Hollywood dick thinks that he has to have some other spin put on him to modernize him for the iPhone generation. I just don’t get it. In fact, nothing about the Fantastic Four reboot sounds appealing. The core of the Fantastic Four books has always been science fiction and that’s going to be the saving grace for the upcoming reboot if done correctly. With the official synopsis stating that the characters gain their powers by transporting to another dimension (most likely the Negative Zone) that is more in line with the Ultimate version of the characters in the Marvel universe.
What have Fox and Sony done right so far and what can we expect in the future with the announcements of their upcoming films? The X-Men franchise can easily hold a torch to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after steering off course for a few years. “X-Men: First Class”, “The Wolverine” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” took a fumbling franchise and reinvented it all the while managing to somewhat erase the damage done by “X3” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. To finally see the Days of Future Past storyline on screen and done justice was a major victory for Fox and X-Men fans everywhere and the introduction of the younger versions of Professor Xavier and Magneto was a welcome addition to the X-Men franchise. Fox managed to breathe new life into the X-Men franchise with a light reboot and upcoming movies like “Deadpool” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” are going to be much better off because of it. And also…Bryan Singer. He’s a fan of the comics and seems to know how the characters work and how they translate to the big screen.
Other than a sequel to “X-Men: Apocalypse” and a third Wolverine movie, there are only a handful of possible X-Men movies in the pipeline. There are possibilities of an X-Force movie as well as solo flicks for Cable and Gambit but Fox doesn’t seem to have a particular timeline for movies to be announced nor do they have any reason to announce everything up front. There may be some surprise spinoffs or solo films that feed off of the popularity of a fan favorite or dark horse character.
Sony has managed to make Spider-Man extremely likable in one franchise while making him a major douche in the other. Where do they go from here? While there are rumors of Sony working with Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man into the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ll believe it when I see it which most likely won’t happen any time soon if at all. With “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” faltering at the box office and with fans in general, the future of their Spideyverse is in doubt. With initial plans for the Sinister Six, Venom, a female led Spidey universe flick and possibly one or two Spider-Man sequels, all of that may be in jeopardy. Can they right this ship? Of course they can…its Spider-Man. How can they do it? I believe that they need to bring in someone like Bryan Singer. Someone that may be a relative unknown outside of the Hollywood circle, but someone who may be a fan of the character at heart with the chutzpah to reinvent the character while maintaining the integrity of said character. There have been thousands of Spider-Man stories over the years and dozens of iterations of the Spider-Man ranging from high school science nerd to A-list celebrity so it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain the mythos of the character all the while making him fresh and likable once again.
Being the red-headed stepchild can be a demoralizing moniker but with good, great and god-awful movies under their belts, both Sony and Fox have it in them to create something similar to what Marvel Studios currently has going on and what DC plans to do with their future movies. While the X-Men franchise is doing fine and dandy once again, I believe that Sony can fix the Spider-Man franchise with some major shakeups without having to turn things back over to Marvel Studios. The Fantastic Four, well that’s another story. While I would like to see this franchise get the movie treatment that it finally deserves, I just don’t see that happening with the reboot movies. The popularity of the Fantastic Four has dwindled so much so that their ongoing comic book series has officially been cancelled by Marvel, a series that has pretty much ran consistently since its inception in 1961. I don’t see a Hollywood bastardization of the characters helping out that popularity, but who knows. I never would have thought that all leather bondage suits on the X-Men would work well but that series never deviated away from that and is still uber-popular.
Only time will tell if the popularity of the X-Men movie franchise will continue to rise in the future and if Spider-Man can gain a radioactive franchise injection or if the Fantastic Four can go Ultimate and reinvigorate a somewhat stale franchise back to the glory of its’ comic book heyday. While I would personally like to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and even Andrew Garfield as Spidey trading wits and punches alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, I believe that all of these franchises can stand independently from one another and continue to be successful in their own rights. It will definitely be interesting to see where these shared universes lead to in the future. If done right, these franchises can provide a different take on superheroes outside of the Marvel Studios movies. If these franchises head down the wrong road and slip up in a major way, it could end up hurting the comic book movie genre in general. All it could take is one major box office bomb to send things spiraling in the wrong direction and I believe that it is more likely to come from one of these studios rather than from Marvel Studios or DC/Warner Bros. Here’s hoping that we don’t see that day come.
Check out part one of this article HERE.
Check out part two of this article HERE.