This will definitely get Peter Parker's spider sense tingling. Ours sure is.
Every movie studio that owns the rights to comic book characters is scrambling to form its own expanded "Avengers"-style cinematic universe, and Sony Pictures may have discovered its own spin that's so crazy it just might work: Bring in the supervillains, rather than the superheroes.
Sony execs have a lot of faith in their "Spider-Man" franchise, as they've already announced the release dates "The Amazing Spider-Man 3" and "4" even before next summer's "2" has hit theaters. Now they're testing their faith even more with planned spin-offs that focus on some of Spidey's most popular foes: Venom and the Sinister Six.
This extremely ambitious expansion of "Spider-Man" on the big screen will come courtesy of a group of writers who will henceforth be known as the Sinister Five: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Ed Solomon, and Drew Goddard, who have joined forces with producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. The quintet will form "a franchise brain trust to expand the universe for the brand and to develop a continuous tone and thread throughout the films," according to a Sony press release.
Yeah, it does all sound vaguely sinister, doesn't it?
The first step in this plan involves Kurtzman, Orci, and Pinkner writing the screenplay for "The Amazing Spider-Man 3," which will go into production next fall (once again under the direction of Marc Webb, or at least the studio hopes) with a look toward a release date of June 10, 2016.
From there, Kurtzman, Orci and Solomon will write the screenplay for "Venom," which Kurtzman will also direct, followed by Goddard writing and directing the ultimate supervillain mashup, "The Sinister Six."
The press release makes no mention of "The Amazing Spider-Man 4," which currently has a release date of May 4, 2018. It might very well be that "Venom" will replace "Spidey 4," a theory further fueled by Andrew Garfield's recent comments to Yahoo regarding his possible non-involvement with the fourth film, at least as far as the paperwork is concerned.
"I mean I'm under contract for another one after this ... as far as a fourth one? That's not anything to do with me," said Garfield.
So who are Venom and The Sinister Six, anyway?
You've seen Venom in a live-action "Spider-Man" movie before ... at least sort of. Sam Raimi's much-reviled "Spider-Man 3" (2007) features Topher Grace in the role of Eddie Brock, a Daily Bugle photojournalist who merges with an alien symbiote that transforms him into Venom, a terrifying creature with many of Spider-Man's own powers, as Peter Parker was the symbiote's original host.
Venom made his official appearance in "The Amazing Spider-Man" No. 299 (April 1988) and quickly became a fan favorite as he went from villain to antihero to full-fledged hero and back again. Fans were for the most part disappointed with his big-screen debut, as the character made an already overcrowded film all the more jumbled and was ultimately given very little to do ... and what he did do was pretty ridiculous (the scene in a church in which Brock prays to God to "please kill Peter Parker" comes to mind, among other ill-advised moments).
Meanwhile, the supervillain team of the Sinister Six has taken on several incarnations over the years. First appearing in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Annual No. 1 (1964), the original Six consisted of Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, and Sandman, joining forces for a plan conjured by Doc Oc in which each member would battle the wallcrawler in a carefully chosen location. Of course, Spidey defeated them all and they went to jail.
The Sinister Six was rebooted with a new origin story in the Broadway musical, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." The stage Six includes Carnage, Swarm, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, The Lizard, and Swiss Miss [a new villain hatched specifically for the show and much reviled by comic fans], mutants created by Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin via a series of genetic experiments because, as he sings, "A Freak Like Me Needs Company." The Goblin and the Six manage to destroy most of New York City as they croon their own theme song, "Sinistereo."
The big-screen Sinister Six was teased in the first trailer for next summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which features blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearances of Doc Oc's mechanical arms and Vulture's wings:
The film is perhaps giving homage to the musical in that most of these bad guys are somehow connected to OsCorp, the über-company run by Norman Osborn (played by an ill-looking Chris Cooper).
Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) both appear in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," as does what looks like the Green Goblin (though whether this is Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn or Chris Cooper's Norman remains to be seen). Taking that into consideration along with those Easter egg images, the cinematic Sinister Six could very well be the Goblin, Rhino, Electro, Vulture, Doctor Octopus ... and the Lizard, if they bring back Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) from "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012).
Whew! Spidey's gonna have his hands full. As will Sony.
Stay tuned, webheads, and for now get ready for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which is kicking off next summer's movie season on May 2, 2014.