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There is much for modern nerds to be grateful for - new Star Wars movies are being made every year, we live in a golden age of videogames, and Spider-Man is part of the MCU after years of being wasted and misused at Sony. For a while, it seemed like Sony would never give up the web-slinger - but then the financial disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 coupled with the massive email leak at Sony forced their hand. It's that 2nd bit that's the most interesting - the email leak revealed a lot...namely, Sony Pictures had huge plans for Spidey but no vision and no real idea of what to do.

And now that the Amazing Spider-Man movies are but distant memories, we thought we would look back into those emails and remind everyone of the weird, strange, and frustrating insanity that nearly consumed Spider-Man forever.



1. Kevin Feige Was Desperately Trying To Save The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - A Film He Had No Stake In, Just Because He Loved Spider-Man And Wanted the Character Properly Represented

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The entire reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been such a (mostly) cohesive, well-done success (while the DC Cinematic Universe has been flailing nonstop) is because of Kevin Feige - a producer/fanboy extraordinaire who knows the ins and outs of filmmaking AND Marvel comics like the back of his hand, and has been able to steer the ship through some very choppy waters. But beyond that, he's got a real, undeniable passion for this stuff, and enough ambition to actually get it all done.

And he's SO passionate about these characters and the world of Marvel comics that he bent over backwards trying to help Sony fix The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - delivering them tons of notes and thoughts on how to make the movie actually work for the character of Spider-Man/Peter Parker and...just generally good notes on how film structure works.

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"Maybe tone this down a little bit? Please?" - Kevin Feige


The crazy thing is that Feige not only had no stake in ASM2, but he actually had more incentive to let Sony fail hilariously - it both made him and the MCU look better by comparison if ASM2 sucked, and it would help feed into the narrative that Sony should hand Spider-Man back to Marvel (which they did eventually do, primarily because they were so inept at managing the character). And yet, Feige still tried his damndest to help Sony make a great Spider-Man film.

Spoiler alert: they did not heed almost ANY of his notes.

Seriously though - check out these notes: all spot-on and well-reasoned. How Sony didn't take any of the major ones is beyond us.

There are too many story lines and we need to choose which ones we are focusing on and lift out the other ones, ie; could reduce father arc to just Roosevelt?

Could cut out plane crash and Richard destroying spiders and start on armored car - don't start with Spider-Man....let the danger/stakes to NYC build first and then have Spider-Man enter the scene heroically.

Tone down Paul Giamatti performance, so he seems a bit more menacing and less cartoonish.

If you cut Richard from the opening and the plane crash maybe you could instead do Harry coming home and seeing Norman at the top of the movie as a cold open.

Really love Electro - feels like you may not need the scene in his apartment, which makes him seems completely crazy and hard to relate too.

Like the idea that eel goes in his mouth and instead of burrowing, you see it glow within him...

Need to set up the Power Plant earlier, visually.

Seems like the movie switches pov's a lot...why are we in Max's pov during the car chase, worth looking at this playing out from Spidey's pov.

There could be a better way to reveal that Peter is missing graduation - maybe when you cut Gwen you cut to the wide shot?

Tiny note - don't think Peter would lie to Gwen about sirens --- maybe he just downplays it...

Stan Lee Cameo - maybe need a little more emphasis on Peter here trying to get out of his costume and not be in seen...set up a little more the pressure of the principal getting closer and closer to calling his name.

Instead of seeing the ghost of Captain Stacy, can just here the voice in Peter's head and maybe flash back to the last movie?  Don't think we should add Cap Stacy back into car chase.

There is too much back and forth with Peter and Gwen - can we recut the Dim Sum scene so that it doesn't feel so repetitive of their break-up in the last movie - Can Peter be more honorable and definitive and less wishy-washy?

Why do we need a year to pass...

Harry story feels like the main plot of the movie - Peter should look into the past b/c of Harry - maybe find some photos of them together as kids...use obsession wall more to set up this part of his past not just what happened to parents.

Not sure what Peter learns at Roosevelt is entirely correct. We're distracted by the idea that Peter became Spider-Man b/c of his father's blood --- all this special back story with his super-scientist dad fights with the idea that Peter is normal kid from Queens who becomes the greatest super-hero in the world...

Andrew's performance is all over the place...a lot of crying and then a lot of mania. Hard to track him emotionally sometimes. It undermines his reaction to Gwen's death b/c he gets upset and emotional a lot.

Don't like the idea that May tells Peter his parents were spies b/c two seconds later he finds out they are not and it again fights with the idea that he's an ordinary kid.

Like the idea that May finds out he's Spider-Man - finds his costume instead of just the rosemary harris wink-wink all the time.

Kind of like the morgue, but hate the dancing mortician - cliché.

Are you using VFX to show how Electro is travelling from one point to another (bursts of electricity).

Need to underscore capture of goblin...more sirens as you linger on the clock 1;21, 1:22 am (nice touch).

Surveillance scene should be about following Harry not Peter...no one should be following Peter.

Can Electro hum Itsy-Bitsy Spider before he plays it electronically...maybe we can use this again.

Maybe intercut the ending montage and hearing Gwen's speech with someone going into special projects and revealing more easter eggs and see that the rhino case has been broke into and the suit is missing...great way to transition to rhino ending.

Don't need Aunt May in the kitchen.

Spider-man needs to feel more directly responsible for preventing the planes from crashing.

Don't show New Yorkers looting.

And still - Sony made the movie with the missing spy-dad plot intact, with all the weird Osborn nonsense, with the "secret blood" garbage, and Peter being a wishy-washy emotional mess the whole film.

Just a reminder: LISTEN TO KEVIN FEIGE.



2. Channing Tatum Wanted To Do Venom

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One of the great things about the Sony email leaks is that they confirmed that Channing Tatum was exactly the dude you'd always hoped he would be in private: a rowdy, excitable dudebro who was super pumped about stuff in general. Whether it's adding way too many exclamation points to an email or getting super-hyped to his co-workers about the box office performance of 22 Jump Street, Channing Tatum's basically just a Channing Tatum character.

And the same applies to his interest in doing Venom - he thought Venom was a cool character, so - COMPLETELY UNPROMPTED, MIND YOU - Channing Tatum emailed producer Reid Carolin with the subject "I have an idea about Venom that could be cool" that read:

But it would involve getting together with Marvel and/or creator to discuss the future of Venom. I been scouring blogs and chat rooms. I haven't seen a comic movie be the next edition in the the story. I have only seen them do story lines that have been published first. I have a really sick idea I think. But it's a mountain.

That's right - Channing Tatum thought of a sick Venom movie idea and went on a bunch of blogs and chatrooms to see if anyone else was thinking of the same thing, and then emailed a producer saying he had a good idea for the movie but wouldn't reveal it yet.

And the thing is: Sony bought into it right away, with the vague, nondescript Venom pitch being sent to Sony President Amy Pascal almost immediately (and then everyone just casually describing it as a done deal afterwards). Channing Tatum's random email almost shifted the entire landscape of their plans for their Spider-Man films - how crazy is that?

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Couldn't have been worse than this, right? ...Right?!




3. The Way They Were Going To Introduce Venom Is the Stupidest, Most Hilarious Thing Ever

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Here's the great thing about reading the Spider-Man Sony emails - they're largely all from a group of dumbass movie executives who don't know anything about Marvel comics OR storytelling, and so hearing them describe their plans for building a huge cinematic universe sounds BEYOND clunky and stupid. They just...don't have any understanding for what actually would be good - only things that SHOULD be good based on their takeaways from focus groups and analytics.

I preface it this way because - if they had actually gone through with building out their "Spider-verse", it probably wouldn't have happened exactly like they're describing it. In the hands of actual writers and directors and artists, the path would have been at least SLIGHTLY less ridiculous-sounding (I hope). But since that never came to fruition, all we have are a bunch of moronic executives spitballing in poorly-formatted email exchanges - and the results are amazing, particularly this line from Sony President Amy Pascal about how Venom would be introduced:

LETS TALK THIS IS REALLY SIMILAR TO WHAT MATT PITCHED ME THIS AM ABOUT VENOM WHICH HE DOESNT THINK IS A MOVIE ON ITS OWN BUT THAT SPIDERMAN ANS SS ARE THE TEAM IN THE NEXT MOVIE HE GOES TO THEM FOR HELP/......MAYBE FIGHTING CARNAGE IR HE WEARS THE BLACK SUIT BUT ALL THE SS GUYS THINK ITS LAME AND HE TAKES IT OFF AND IT FALLS INTO THE WRONG HANDS

Note that she did actually write that in all caps, that's not something we did. Yes, these Sony executives have the most painful email styles to actually read through, but that's besides the point.

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She had been talking with producer Michael DeLuca - who was advocating for a version of Venom similar to his origin in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and pushing for Sony to accept Kevin Feige's offer (in 2014) of including Spider-Man in the upcoming, then-untitled Captain America 3 movie. Of course, Pascal brushes off the Cap 3 possibility and describes a version of their planned Sinister Six movie that follows this progression (as far as I can tell):

  • Spider-Man goes to the Sinister Six for help in fighting Carnage (how or why Carnage would come before Venom is beyond me)
  • Spider-Man is wearing the symbiote as his black suit (unclear where the symbiote comes from)
  • The Sinister Six call the black suit "lame" and Spider-Man cries because the Sinister Six is making fun of his outfit and so he REMOVES THE SYMBIOTE SO THE VILLAINS WILL STOP BULLYING HIM OR SOMETHING AND THEN VENOM GETS CREATED?!

...

...

...

YES - THE IDEA WAS THAT THE EVIL-EST VILLAINS IN THE WORLD MADE FUN OF SPIDER-MAN'S FASHION SENSE AND SO HE CRIED AND TOOK OFF THE SYMBIOTE AND IT LANDED ON CHANNING TATUM????

To Amy's insane, barely readable, caps lock pitch, Deluca replied with one line (that indicated she may have been pitching other dumb Venom ideas earlier):

I wouldn't have symbiote just drop in from another dimension by accident



4. Before They Even Introduced Regular Venom, They Were Planning AGENT VENOM Too

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The Sony/Spider-Man saga is truly a lesson in hubris for all of Hollywood - before they even made ONE movie that was a legit box office success and a hit with audiences, they were planning out the next DECADE of expanded universe films - including Agent Venom.

For those unfamiliar, Agent Venom is a pretty cool concept - Flash Thompson joined the army, inspired by Spider-Man and wanting to redeem himself for his bullying ways earlier in life. While on a tour, he lost both of his legs, but managed to survive. Going from star athlete to disabled veteran wasn't easy on ol' Flash - while he tried to keep a chipper outlook, he was often overcome with grief and frustration at his situation.

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But then a rare opportunity showed itself - the government had gotten control of the Venom symbiote and were looking at a potential use for it. Their solution? Turn a soldier into "Agent Venom" - giving an armed mercenary the symbiote to enhance their natural soldier abilities and allow them to engage in covert operations that no normal agent would be capable of. Flash was an ideal candidate - not only would no one suspect Agent Venom's true identity, but the symbiote was capable of giving Flash his legs back when the two were attached.

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The only drawback was the corrupting nature of the symbiote - if "worn" too long, the symbiote could grow permanently attached to its host and take over their mind, as it had done with Eddie Brock and others over the years. So to combat this, Flash was only to wear the symbiote on missions and only for brief periods of time. But then...

Ya know what? I'm getting ahead of myself, just like Sony. The point is: Agent Venom was a mercenary version of Venom but Flash Thompson. That's it. That's all you need to know. And here's what would have had to happen in the Amazing Spider-Man movie universe before they could introduce the character:

  • Have Flash Thompson join the army.
  • Have Flash Thompson return from the army without his legs.
  • Introduce the symbiote.
  • Have Spider-Man reject the symbiote.
  • Introduce Venom.
  • Have Venom's host (presumably Eddie Brock) lose or give up the symbiote.

Given they had cut Flash Thompson's role entirely in ASM 2, they had made their work even harder on themselves. Hell, they were already working on specific Agent Venom pitches - including him fighting Kraven in the Savage Land. And while Agent Venom is a legitimately great character/premise for later down the line, maybe you should work on setting up the foundation that leads to the character first?



5. Their Dream Cast for The Sinister Six Was Legitimately Insane

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Most of Sony's dreams for expanding the Spider-Man universe hinged on the idea that they were gonna do The Sinister Six - not the worst idea either, given they had done at least a bit of groundwork and introduced The Lizard, The Green Goblin, The Rhino, Alistair Smythe, and Electro by Amazing Spider-Man 2 (unlike DC putting out Suicide Squad without having introduced any of those characters in previous films). Building your franchise to an "evil Avengers"-style gathering would have been a good way to differentiate your hero universe from the MCU - the only things holding them back were:

  • the only movies in the universe so far (ASM and ASM2) were terrible
  • none of the people in charge had any idea what they were doing

And no where is their ineptitude clearer than their discussions about what the Sinister Six should be and who should have been a part of it: for one, almost NONE of the villains they'd already introduced would be a part of it, instead bringing in the more "classic" Sinister Six roster...and all played by actors who would NEVER say "yes" to the movie:

Doctor Octopus:

  • Sean Penn
  • Denzel Washington
  • George Clooney
  • Daniel Craig
  • Colin Firth (or as Vulture)
  • Matthew McConaughey (except he doesn't seem smart enough)
  • Channing Tatum (I guess they forgot he was in line for Venom?)
  • Will Smith (except they may not be able to pay him enough)
  • Ryan Gosling (although he may be physically too slight)
  • Matt Damon



Sandman:

  • Channing Tatum
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Tom Hardy
  • Jared Leto (who Amy Pascal suggests could also play Felicia Hardy!)
  • Jonah Hill
  • Sasha Baron Cohen
  • Javier Bardem
  • Sharlto Copley
  • Joel Edgerton
  • Jason Clarke
  • Chris O'Dowd
  • Michael Pena
  • Seth Rogen
  • Danny McBride



Actors They Want But Don't Care What Role They Play:

  • Demian Bichir
  • Idris Elba (but ONLY with his British accent)
  • Frances McDormand
  • Jackie Chan
  • Bryan Cranston
  • Ruth Wilson
  • Rose Byrne



The main takeaway is that no one has any idea who these characters are - either in the comics or in Sony's vision for the film. They're pitching actors who are completely different in terms of physicality and style - the email goes on to show a preference for Matthew McConaughey as the squat, goofy-haired, arch villain Doctor Octopus? And being unable to decide between Tom Hardy and Jonah Hill as Sandman?! Those are two WILDLY different actors - how are they both in contention for the same role?!

And for the sake of transparency, I'll just put the email exchange here - so you can really take in what a weird, nonsensical, "who gives a shit" attitude these execs have towards this process:

On May 24, 2014, at 3:17 PM, "Pascal, Amy" wrote:

i cant help but think of sean penn in the secret life of walter mitty...could be doc if he played it that way?

denzel because he is mostly always denzel

i love jenkins but think we  cant cast him till we know who  is doc.

doc has gotta be the leader have enough quirks that he isnt boring as the straight man....can be funny but as gotta take  tthe whole thing seriously...george would be so  good...daniel is perfect but he  will  never be available in  feb ...ever...colin firth is he a better vulture?

does mathew seem smart enough?or channing, can we get away with will.....can we pay him?is ryan too slight?

matt we lovve him but.....

leo, brad, ddl....none of thoes guys are gonnna do it

sandman is so easy.. and there are so many ways to go with the character...channing, woody, hardy., jared leto

(he could also be felicia hardy), jonah, sasha, javiar, sharlto, joel edgerrton, jason clark, chris odowd,michael pena?seth?  this is where we are getting the comedy so we better make sure this guy  is really funny.....danny mcbride

then there are just great actors that mean youve made a good movie like damien bichir(by the way amazing in the bridge on fx), i love idris but he is only good when he speaks british or maybe when he is luther,  fran mcdormad cuz sheis amazing but i dont know as what,

iis there a place for jackie chann? how bout the original  bad guy walter white....is he ever good in anything else

is ida lapino a no go cuz of Star Wars ....dont forget ruth wilson  who i also love...why am i worried aboutemily blunt....i think i saw  a picture of her snd she looked anorexic.....is kerri russell to keri russell.....dont forget rose  bryneshe is tiny but an excellent comedian



Re: great list but

Matthew feels totally alive to me.  I believe he loves this woman so much that it drives him mad.  And also that he's a genius in the dancing wu li masters kind of way (anybody?).  I've just never seen it.  And he can also kick a little ass...

George would be great but i also see it coming, somehow...?

I love sean in everything.

Daniel is perfect.

Will would be amazing.  Crazy expensive...but i like it.

Our director loves tom hardy for sandman.  I do too.  We also talked about channing (who i think wants to play venom), woody would be spectacular (if not matthew as ock), just dont want everyone to be 50. Jonah will follow drew anywhere, but not sure if he tips it too far...

I also really dig rose.  We talked about her.  Drew has a strong feeling about emily...but good to talk options.  Is emelia clark too young?  Eliz olsen would have been perfect...

Etc

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So, there you have it - someone saw Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and thought to themselves "The perfect Doctor Octopus!"



6. Sony Just Had No Goddamn Clue What They Were Doing

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The overriding subtext to ALL of the Sony Spider-Man emails is just that they had no goddamn clue what to do. They knew that they had a messy franchise on their hands and that shareholders were expecting them to compete with the MCU - so they started throwing out literally any idea that came to their minds, with basically no rhyme or reason as to whether it was something that made sense or not. One particularly grim email lists out about 10 unrelated, totally different plans for the future of the franchise - including several that hinged on bringing Sam Raimi back after unceremoniously firing him and rebooting his franchise:

-Seriously investigate making Koepp and/or Raimi creative overlords and invite Raimi to pull a "Bryan Singer on Xmen" and return to franchise as the filmmaker.

-Investigate availability of all other franchise writers coming available and their possible interest, the aforementioned Koepp, Michael Arndt, Simon Beaufoy, etc. Even Kinberg if free, anyone who's crushed it on recent franchises.

-Convene expert creative committee:

Koepp, Raimi, Bendis, Vaughn, Strascynski, Todd Mcfarlane. Or anyone we think has value. Map out enough ideas to feed a ten year plan. Or just hear thoughts.

-Get multiple projects happening asap, including:

-Sinister Six sequel (if we love drew's script), Matt produces.

-Seperate trilogy developed and overseen by Raimi and/or Koepp or some other creative overlord, using one of the epic story lines from books (death of spidey, doc Ock as spider ala Superior Spider-Man, the multiple SM saga per Josh Boone suggestion, etc), with new producer.

Maybe Raimi does Silver Age spidey and a seperate trilogy is mapped out riffing from modern Ultimates (venom/carnage saga)? Developing next steps as trilogies and not stand alines could be smart.

-Seperate Venom project. Matt produces.

-Lisa Joy project.

The goal would be one or two trilogy tracks, two side movies and Sinister Six sequels as a seperate track if we like Drew's direction.

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It will take more than Sam Raimi to erase the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" bit from my memory


And that's why it's such a goddamn blessing that Spider-Man is back in the hands of the MCU and Kevin Feige - it's more than the fact that these people respect and love the character of Spider-Man, but they know what works and have an actual vision for where the character should go and what his future should look like.

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Never forget the immortal words of Sally Field, describing her experience playing Aunt May in the Amazing Spider-Man films:

...you can't put ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.