Spider-Man: Homecoming might be the rare Hollywood reboot audiences actually want
Spider-Man is Sony’s most valuable movie franchise, having earned US$4 billion for the company, and this iteration is expected to be a much-needed hit after the previous, lacklustre outing
Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts on his fanboy credentials, and the prospects of Marvel Cinematic Universe
There’s reason to be sceptical: it’s the sixth movie in 15 years featuring the teenager bitten by a radioactive arachnid, and features the third actor to play him on the big screen. Adding to the pressure, audiences have not been kind to sequels and reboots this season.
But there is appetite for more web-slinging action, according to people who have read pre-release audience surveys. The US$175 million Spider-Man: Homecoming, the result of an unusual collaboration between Sony Pictures and Disney-owned Marvel Studios, is expected to gross US$90 million to US$100 million in the United States and Canada from Thursday night until Sunday.
That would make it another winner for Marvel and a much-needed hit for Sony, which has struggled at the box office in recent years (though it did release the successful Baby Driver recently). Sony, which is distributing the film, is trying to keep expectations for Homecoming in check, conservatively estimating an US$80 million opening.
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Spider-Man is Sony’s most valuable franchise, totalling US$4 billion in global box-office receipts since the series started in 2002 with Tobey Maguire in the lead role. But after The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony in 2015 agreed to let Marvel Studios produce the next film.
Why hand producing duties to a rival? Sony, which financed the movie’s production and marketing, needed to keep its key property alive, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has an extraordinary track record making superhero movies featuring Iron Man, Thor and Ant-Man. Marvel won’t reap the profits from Homecoming, but stands to benefit because it owns the lucrative merchandise rights to the character.
The result of the deal is that Homecoming is the first Spider-Man film to take place in Marvel’s broader “cinematic universe” of superhero movies. This mix of characters and storylines is something fans have long anticipated. In the new movie, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) serves as mentor to Peter Parker as he navigates high school and his life as an up-and-coming hero.
The arrangement was a gamble, but there are already signs that it’s paying off. Tom Holland was first introduced as Spider-Man in last year’s Disney-Marvel blockbuster Captain America: Civil War and was warmly received. Civil War grossed US$1.15 billion at the global box office.
Not every franchise movie has failed this summer. The most obvious example, Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman , has shown remarkable staying power by amassing US$714 million in worldwide ticket sales after opening with US$103 million domestically.
Wonder Woman is unique, benefiting from decades of pent-up demand for a bona fide female superhero movie. Yet Wonder Woman and Spider-Man have key factors in common: they’re both critically praised for their fresh takes on familiar characters. Spider-Man: Homecoming has earned overwhelmingly positive reviews so far, in part for its channelling of John Hughes’ coming-of-age comedies. The new Spider-Man also avoids the origin story narrative that was thoroughly explored in earlier instalments.
Strong buzz and good reviews bode well for the film to continue drawing movie-goers after its opening weekend, in contrast to the poorly received Amazing Spider-Man 2, starring Andrew Garfield. That film opened with a solid US$91 million in 2014, but fell off quickly and ended up with a soft US$709 million worldwide. Spider-Man 3 from 2007 remains the biggest grosser in the series, opening with a massive US$151 million on its way to US$890 million.
A successful launch for Spider-Man: Homecoming would be a good omen for Sony’s other planned comic book movies, including the villainous Venom, the female-focused Silver & Black and even one with an animated Spider-Man.