With more hits than flops, the behind-the-scenes story of Spider-Man in the movies deserves its own movie. Lawsuits, bankruptcies and a movie that everyone dreamed of and that never materialized are some of the chapters of what happened before Peter Parker had his own movie.
You have to go back to the 70s to see the first attempts to bring the character to the big screen.
With less than two decades of existence, Spider-Man was already the most popular Marvel character, which raised the interest of both the publisher and several producers to take him to the movies. For this reason, in the middle of the decade the idea of making a film arose, but not alone, but together with Superman, the most popular DC superhero.
The plans soon fell apart when, on the one hand, Warner Bros began production of superman the movieand on the other the CBS network acquired the rights to make a series of the arachnid.
The result of this failed project was that superman the movie It was a success, with three sequels, and the Spider-Man series only lasted one 14-episode season, but its first few episodes were edited into a movie that was released outside of the United States.
At the end of this chapter, the idea of bringing together the two superheroes of the time did not fail, but became a reality in a comic that came to light in 1978.
THE LEGAL WEB
After the first failed attempt to bring it to the big screen, in the 1980s, The Cannon Group studio (producer of films such as american ninja either the anonymous avenger) obtained the rights, although he never managed to lift the project.
In those years, adapting comics to film was seen as a bad idea. Although Superman had a good sequel that was released in 1980, the third and fourth part of the saga were a failure both with critics and with the public.
At that time, Marvel did not exist as a film production company and the only thing that is remembered from that decade was howard the duck, but more as an anecdote than as something good. In short, comics did not fit into Hollywood projects.
That would change in 1989, when Warner Bros, already in that year owner of DC Comics, released Batman with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
Box office success, praised by fans and even an Oscar winner, the project proved that if enough money and human resources were invested, a comic could be quite profitable for Hollywood.
That revived studio interest in Spider-Man. In 1990, the production company Carolco obtained the rights to the character for the big screen, and trying to imitate Warner’s success with Batmanthey went big by contacting director James Cameron, who had just finished filming true lies and he already had on his resume Aliens Y The Terminator. To Carolco’s delight, the director accepted the project.
Here the story can be seen in two tracks: the first with a Cameron committed to the project, presenting a script and proposing a young Leonardo DiCaprio as Peter Parker.
But on the other side of the coin was disaster. Carolco had strong franchises like Rambo either terminator, but his finances were in the red. Press reports of the time realized that the production company spent more than it earned, partly because to make the films it mortgaged its share of the box office and because it exceeded the actors’ salaries. As an example, for the third part of RamboSylvester Stallone was paid $17 million, insane for the time.
What sentenced the end of the production company was Cutthroat Island (titled the pirate in Mexico), an adventure film starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine, released in 1995 and still considered one of the worst economic disasters of all time. The production cost $115 million (high budget even today) and made only $10 million at the box office.
That forced the studio to close that year, and sparked the legal battle over the rights to Spider-Man.
Initially, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) bought the rights to Carolco’s productions, including Spider-Man, or so they thought.
It turns out that Carolco was not the only one in the project, there were other smaller production companies that also put money and now claimed ownership of the rights, which took the lawsuit to court.
Other factors confused the matter. The first, by 1995, James Cameron had already signed an exclusive contract with 20th Century Fox (with whom he would film titanica having DiCaprio as the protagonist), for which he demanded that they pay him for the script he had written.
On the other hand, the 1990 contract had an expiration date: 1996. Unfortunately for MGM, Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy that year, and the way it found to save itself was by selling the film rights to its characters.
That is why the comics company pressed to recover the rights, which in the end they got, and without wasting time put them up for sale.
In 1998, he finally found a buyer: Columbia Pictures, which paid $10 million and a minimal percentage of the box office to Marvel for the rights to Spider-Man. The acquisition of the rights included the script by James Cameron.
The deal was clear: Marvel could continue to exploit the character in other media (TV, comics, video games), but Columbia owned the movies. A happy ending or not?
THE SONY-DISNEY MARRIAGE
Columbia’s bet, owned by Sony, was perfect in principle. In 2002 it premiered spider-man starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willen Dafoe, James Franco and JK Simmons.
It was a hit at the box office and among fans, and it can even be said that it included one of the first viral videos in the history of the internet. In a teaser Scheduled to air in late 2001, it sees bank robbers try to escape in a helicopter, but are stopped by a spider web hanging from the twin towers.
Its broadcast was canceled after the September 11 attacks, but its existence became an open secret, so many people saw it on YouTube.
The first saga of the wall-crawler was directed by Sam Raimi, who with Spiderman 2 achieved what for many is the best film adaptation of the character. In 2007 it seemed that it would be the year of consecration of the arachnid on the big screen, but…
Since its promotion, it was known that the plot would adapt one of the most important stories in comics: the saga of the alien suit, that is, the origin of Venom, a very popular character.
The result was disappointing, and despite having a great box office, the feeling that remained was that of failure.
In principle, the study and Raimi agreed on a fourth film, but after the poor reception of the third part, the “creative differences” became abysses and in the end it was cancelled.
That is where the first problem of the 1998 deal arose. In the fine print it was stipulated that Columbia undertook to release a Spider-Man movie from time to time, otherwise the rights would revert to Marvel, which by then was finding the winning formula within of the cinema
With the pressure on, Sony launches a plan for Columbia not only to keep the rights, but to exploit them to the fullest.
First, in 2012 he launched the reboot of the story of Peter Parker and company under the direction of director Marc Weeb, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the main roles, and on the other front begins to develop projects with other characters in the saga.
without sorrow or glory, The Amazing Spiderman It only lasts two films after its lukewarm reception at the box office.
In parallel, Disney, which by then had already bought Marvel, was already a movie giant with the biggest franchise in Hollywood: the Marvel Cinematic Universe (UCM).
The pressure by then was tremendous for Sony since in the opinion of a sector of the fans it was unable to make a decent Spider-Man movie, which had forgotten the trilogy of a decade ago. To this should be added that Disney wanted to recover the jewel in the crown of Marvel to include it in his tapes.
Finally, the parties found a solution: work together. Sony would give up creative control of the Spider-Man movies in exchange for Disney allowing the use of their characters in their films.
The success was noticed from Civil War (2016), where Tom Holland’s Spiderman makes his appearance alongside Iron Man and company.
The deal was hunky-dory the next few years: Holland starred in a couple of solo movies and was in avengers infinity war Y end game. But then again, even Peter Parker’s spider-sense couldn’t prevent what was to come.
At Christmas 2018, the cinemas of the world received with pleasant surprise Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a project developed by Columbia. Its refreshing story and high-quality animation connected favorably with both audiences and critics, to the point that it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
This gave Columbia confidence in its ability to do good wall-crawling projects, and showed the world that not everything is the MCU.
A year later it would be released Spider-Man: Far from Home, the latter under the Disney-Sony deal. And the world burned.
Both companies did not reach an agreement to renew the agreement, which, when made public, caused a negative impact among the public. There are several versions of what happened, since Disney behaved in an arrogant manner, or that Sony was ungrateful for the support it received to rescue the franchise, and there was even talk that Mickey Mouse’s house would buy the Japanese giant in order to get Spider-Man back.
This caused such a stir that both parties were forced to return to talks to finally reach an agreement: finish Holland’s trilogy as Spider-Man and then see what would happen.
This is how it premiered Spider-Man No way home in December of last year, becoming the first film to break the million-dollar box office barrier after the pandemic, and for many, the only one to compete with Spider-Man 2 for the title of the best film in the franchise.
After the end of no way home the future of the wall-crawler in the cinema is confused. Sony insists on its spin offs, but Morbius it was a failure, Venom continues with potential and a tape of Madam Web, a character not well known to the general public. Marvel, for its part, did not announce anything related to Spider-Man at Comic Con 2022.
What is confirmed is the premiere for next year of the continuation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
There is still nothing concrete about Peter Parker. Raimi publicly said that he wants the fourth part of the saga from him, and apparently the idea is not indifferent to Sony, which is still studying how to take advantage of one of the most beloved characters of the public.