The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is doing just fine for itself: it made close to $100 million at the box office this weekend, it's collecting a fine haul worldwide even while it's not scaling the box office heights of some of its forbears. But this is a film that's expected to launch a whole universe of movies for Sony/Columbia, who are looking to mimic Marvel's success by releasing a film a year based around the Spider-Man universe. News has already broken of a Drew Goddard-helmed Sinister Six movie that could come out even before the next Amazing Spider-Man. The studio is also at work lining up a Venom spinoff. But did the film do a good enough job making that all clear?
The biggest problem with Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just how much detail it's trying to stuff into one movie. In that way, it recalls Iron Man 2, which functioned not only as an action-packed sequel but as a way for Marvel to really kick off its cinematic universe, and ended up forgetting to be a movie. But Marvel's approach was more methodical: it green-lit two films a year, many years in advance, with the notion that it was building towards the big crossover of The Avengers.
The Amazing-Spider Man 2 has no such centerpiece project to aim for. Sony and producer Avi Arad have not laid out their goals quite as clearly, but it sounds like we'd be bouncing from a main Spidey movie to one where he's a supporting player, or perhaps not involved at all. It's hard to imagine what a Sinister Six movie would look like without Spider-Man, but it's also somewhat hard to imagine Andrew Garfield managing to fit into all these movies. You could insert a Spider-Man who never removes his mask into these movies, freeing Garfield from anything outside of a voice commitment, but would that be enough to keep audiences interested?
The more pertinent question is probably: what the hell is the Sinister Six? (spoilers follow). In Amazing Spider-Man 2, the film's climactic storyline sees Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) transform into the villainous Green Goblin and get locked in jail. As the movie wraps up, we see him talking to "Gustav Fiers," a shadowy man (who also appeared in the first film) and telling him to start assembling more villains. The Rhino (Paul Giamatti) will, we assume, be the first member of the Sinister Six, a super-team of villains that has taken various forms in the Spider-Man comics but always has six members. By the way, if you think Fiers is an important Nick Fury type character because he's all in shadow, think again: he was invented for the film series.
Who will make up the Sinister Six? Internet chatter is pegging Doctor Octopus, the wing-suited Vulture, the jungle-themed Kraven the Hunter, and either the shape-shifting Chameleon or the illusion-throwing Mysterio to fill out the roster, based on some Easter eggs included in the film and surrounding media. But this is largely nerd speculation. Will general audiences' interests be piqued enough just by DeHaan's brief work as the Goblin and a few minutes of Giamatti in a metal rhino suit? Presuming that Sinister Six doesn't heavily involve Spider-Man, will people really flock to a movie that just features villains?
The franchise has time to right the ship—Iron Man 2 was basically reviled (although it did well at the box office), but the Marvel approach is still pretty much the paragon for big comic book crossovers. With some clever casting and an exciting trailer, Sinister Six could become a must-see movie fast. But right now all we have is a film that barely winked at the audience about its future sequels and had an X-Men: Days of Future Past clip as its mid-credits teaser because of a complicated contract issue. That might not be enough to build a brand.