For over a decade, the Spider-Man franchise has been one of Sony Pictures' biggest and most lucrative brands. Sam Raimi's fan-favorite trilogy, which kicked-off in 2002 with Spider-Man, ultimately scored nearly $2.5 billion in global box office totals by the time that Spider-Man 3 left theaters in 2007. Following disagreements between Raimi and the studio, director Marc Webb was tasked with rebooting the series with an "untold" version of the web-slinger's story - which, when it debuted in 2012, added another $750 million to the franchise haul.
Sony will get another significant shot of Spider-Man money when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits theaters on May 2nd, 2014 and two further sequels are already slotted for release in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Yet, rumors have circulated for weeks that the 2018 entry might not be a Spider-Man movie after all - and could, instead, focus on Peter Parker's iconic anti-hero, Venom instead. While we cannot be sure that the 2018 Spider-Man franchise film won't actually turn out to be The Amazing Spider-Man 4, we now know, through an official Sony press release, that the studio is preparing standalone movies for Venom as well as the Sinister Six super villain team.
We'll include the full press release on the second page of this post, but first let's breakdown the key details.
The press release indicates that Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner, who all worked on the script for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and will pen The Amazing Spider-Man 3, as well as Ed Solomon (Now You See Me) and Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) have been assigned the task of building-out the ongoing Spider-Man franchise story and script the aforementioned two standalone films. The official word from Sony suggests that Kurtzman, Orci, Pinkner, Solomon, and Goddard, along with director Marc Webb and producer Avi Arad have formed a "brain trust" that will "expand the universe for the brand" and "develop a continuous tone and thread" that will carry through the remaining Amazing Spider-Man entries and any spinoffs.
While Sony still has contracts to sign and details to work out in the coming months, the current plan is for Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner to finish The Amazing Spider-Man 3 script in time for a fall 2014 production start date (in the interest of making the planned June 10th, 2016 release) with Webb, who is not currently signed for the sequel, in the director's chair again.
Next, Kurtzman, Orci and Solomon will write the Venom screenplay (presumably abandoning prior script treatments) - with Kurtzman also serving as director. Fans who have been following Kurtzman and Orci's writing partnership through a myriad of geek-friendly projects will likely remember that Kurtzman released his directorial debut, People Like Us last year to solid reviews. As a result, while his name might come as a surprise for a Venom director, it's a logical step for the filmmaker - especially since Kurtzman and Orci have expressed interest in Venom multiple times before. (This also explains why Kurtzman isn't re-collaborating with Orci on the script for Star Trek 3, which Paramount is targeting for a 2016 release date.)
Finally, while Kurtzman, Orci and Solomon attempt to make-up for Venom's lackluster appearance in Spider-Man 3, Goddard will be writing the Sinister Six movie - and likely directing as well (assuming the studio and director remain in agreement about the project). Goddard's involvement is particularly interesting - given that he'll also be shepherding the Daredevil TV series at Netflix. For that reason, moviegoers should not expect the Sinister Six film to really get rolling until sometime after 2015 (when Daredevil is expected to launch).
The press release did not go into detail about which version of Venom fans will see or what hero (or heroes) will be taking-on the Sinister Six but Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad expressed his excitement about the assembled filmmaking team (which will undoubtedly make his studio truckloads of money in the coming years):
"The Spider-Man film franchise is one of our studio’s greatest assets. We are thrilled with the creative team we have assembled to delve more deeply into the world that Marc, Avi and Matt have begun to explore in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. We believe that Marc, Alex, and Drew have uniquely exciting visions for how to expand the Spider-Man universe in each of these upcoming films."
Producing partners Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach were equally enthusiastic - touting not just the creative talent but the countless possibilities that exist for stories set in the Spider-Man universe:
"This collaboration was born out of the great experience we and Marc had working with Alex, Bob, and Jeff on The Amazing Spider-Man 2. With more than fifty years’ wealth of stories in the comic books to draw upon for inspiration, the Spider-Man universe is truly boundless; in addition, the Spider-Man comics have the greatest rogues gallery of any series, and to have the chance to explore that on film is truly thrilling. Until now, we have approached each film as a separate, self-contained entity, but with this move, we have the opportunity to grow the franchise by looking to the future as we develop a continuous arc for the story. That is what Alex, Bob, Jeff, Ed, and Drew will do in this unprecedented collaboration, and we’re excited about the directions they are taking the character and the world."
For weeks, we've been speculating that Sony intended to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a jumping off point for expanding their core story into a shared universe - one that could introduce other potential heroes into the mix. Rumors of a Venom teaser in the film further corroborated the notion that Webb wasn't just including nods to comic book fans, he was literally fleshing out his Spider-Man universe, fertilizing the property for future spinoff possibilities. In general, it's refreshing to see the studio simply step out and confirm rumored projects - since it will, no doubt, help make fans feel like Webb and The Amazing Spider-Man franchise writers are working together in service of executing a thought-out interweaving story (instead of thin and opportunistic cash grabs).
For many fans, Venom will easily be the more exciting of the two projects - and it will be interesting to see which iteration of the antihero Kurtzman, Orci and Solomon bring to the big screen (Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, etc) as well as how the character is introduced (alien life form or genetically engineered "suit"). Recent viral marketing for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 name-dropped Eddie Brock and the genetically engineered suit would certainly fit with other Oscorp creations (such as Vulture's wings and the tentacles worn by Doctor Octopus) but there's no way to know, for sure, at this point that the writers will go with that combination. Nevertheless, many versions of the Venom character have been morally gray vigilante types - who, despite their own ruthless means, hunt down and defeat larger threats (such as Carnage, among others). In addition, including the Venom character in a shared universe with Spider-Man will also offer plenty of great opportunities to juxtapose the antihero against central protagonist Peter Parker, who tends to take a more virtuous crime fighting approach.
While little is known about the direction of the Venom spinoff, the Sinister Six film is an even bigger question mark - especially since we'll, likely, only have been introduced to three out of six sinister members in 2014 (Electro, Rhino, and Green Goblin). Other possible evildoers include Doctor Octopus and Vulture (both teased in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer) as well as staples like Sandman, Kraven the Hunter, and Mysterio. Venom was even a member at one point but, given that the standalone Venom movie would likely be en route around the same time (if not before), then it's likely that the character will actually show up on the heroic side. In fact, the Sinister Six movie could serve as a rally point for Spider-Man, Venom, and other supporting heroes (who might be introduced in upcoming films) as they put aside any differences to tackle the larger super villain team threat.
A multi-hero mash-up would make a lot sense, since Sony would love to create their own X-Men: Days of Future Past/Avengers-like event film. Could The Amazing Spider-Man 4, scheduled for a 2018 release, actually be a mega-hero vs. villain brawl in the form of the Sinister Six movie? It's an idea that we recently presented during the latest Screen Rant Underground podcast episode, but for the time being, that's only speculation.
We'll keep you up to date as we hear more official information for both the Venom and Sinister Six movies - along with updates on the core Amazing Spider-Man series.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in U.S. theaters on May 2nd, 2014, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 3 on June 10th, 2016, and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 (or one of the spinoff films) on May 4th, 2018. Venom and Sinister Six do not currently have official release dates.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on The Amazing Spider-Man film series as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.