This post comes from my deep nerd side. You have been warned!
There has been a lot of talk about Spider-man in the interwebs lately. Specifically, in the wake of the Sony hack (albeit, interesting, but also frustrating because no studio deserved what happened to them) we got a smattering of news that Peter Parker might show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While that could be fun, I had hopes that the character could be redeemed by Sony on their own without the overpowering help of Disney.
Now, after reading this article, I am led to believe that Sony will do just that – try to give the character another go and attempt to win back audiences. To do this, I believe they need a new director who knows how to stage action sequences, a solid script by people who have adequately read the comic source material that makes good use of the talented actors at their disposal, and a more modest budget that focuses on practical sets, physical photography, and minimal CGI (except the obvious Spider-man character, which would have to be CGI).
What is interesting to me is that all the talk about The Amazing Spider-man 2 being a flop has brought about a large number of people who are confused as to why a film like this can be considered a flop. “Yes, people didn’t seem to really like it,” they say, “but, how can a film that made $700 million around the globe be a flop?”
Well, to lay to rest this topic, since I am always compelled to reply when I scroll through the comments on various entertainment websites, let me do the math for you. It all comes down to money, just as the entire reboot of the franchise was all about the money for the studio.
There are two phases of production for a major event film, or even any film in general. First, there’s principal photography, generally, production. This cost Sony roughly $200 million dollars. This included fees for the actors, director, producers, filming locations and costs, visual effects, and editing. Basically, everything you see on screen was paid for with that production budget. This also included scenes that were paid for and cut from the film, and also the orchestral score by Hans Zimmer.
“$200 million isn’t so bad,” most average movie goers think. “If the movie made $700 million, that means there was a $500 million profit.”
Well, not so fast. That’s not taking into account the marketing budget for this film.
If you noticed (and if you hadn’t, then congratulations!) all the fanfare surrounding TASM2, this was because Sony Pictures threw the movie into your face every chance it could get. On the subway? Here’s a banner. Waiting for the bus? Here is a bus-shelter ad. Watching television? Here’s five or six commercials. Watching the Superbowl? Here’s a minute-long ad, with links to a website to watch a second part. Not to mention there were three theatrical trailers as well as multiple behind-the-scenes featurettes that went to iTunes and other outlets.
All those marketing materials cost a ton of money. Almost as much money as it cost to make the actual film! The marketing budget for TASM2 was roughly $190 million, according to reports. This means that the total to make and market this film was $390 million dollars. That’s a hefty price tag.
So, when we go back and do the math, we take the $700 million that the film grossed while in theaters and subtract the $390 million, and we’re left with $310 million. This means that the film lost about $80 million on investment. It didn’t break even financially, which is why it is considered a financial flop. (This isn’t taking into account the critical reception of the film, which I’ve already addressed in my review of the film.)
It’s true that you have to spend money to make money in any business, but you don’t want to spend more money than you make. That’s just good business. So, in this way, TASM2 was not the hit that Sony expected and needed. It suffered from bad word of mouth and didn’t come close to projections. It could have made $1 billion at the box office had it been properly scripted and edited, but that, of course, didn’t happen. The film felt like one big ad for future installments, and I left the cinema feeling like I’d just been the butt of a horrible joke.
What would I like to see with this character moving forward?
Well, the original Spider-man film in 2002 was my introduction to superheroes and comics in general. It was the film that led me to beg to be brought to Borders so that I could pick up the first trade paperback of Ultimate Spider-man and continue experiencing the stories of Peter Parker, a character I related to. He was an outcast and a nerd, and I think Tobey Maguire embodied this character flawlessly. I cared about his average life and was thrilled to see the other side of it where he could fight Doc Ock on the side of buildings.
The rebooted version of the character felt too cool to me. Yes, he was funny when he was in the suit (and completely computer-generated to-boot) but, it was when he was out of the costume that I felt he fell flat. Where was the nerd that I connected to back in 2002? Where was the part of him that created science experiments in his room, formulating a super-strong webbing and shooter device? What about school? He was barely there. He was more concerned with looking cool and skateboarding than his studies. As far as Gwen Stacy was concerned, she should have been attracted to him because he was a nerd who didn’t care about being mainstream. If he did try to be mainstream, like in the 2002 film, it would have to backfire, like the time he went to the wrestling competition to try to buy a fancy car.
Why did Spidey need Gwen to Google him information on magnets for the film’s finale? Shouldn’t he be able to figure that out on his own? He’s a science nerd!
But, those are just my gripes. This is a character who is near and dear to my heart, and I expect no less from any other fan of a literary work when it comes to screen adaptations. Did I take it easy on Harry Potter? Not a chance, but then those films were true to the source material as much as they could be.
I will keep my fingers crossed that Sony can put together a team that can treat Spider-man with the same respect that other majorly successful franchises have shown their properties. I just want to be transported by a story that keeps the storytelling at the forefront and the financial and creative manipulations behind the curtains. Whatever happens, it’s clear that we have a lot more Spidey headed our way soon. I just hope that this time the joke won’t be on me.