The Amazing Spider-Man: Background

So The Amazing Spider-Man came out last weekend. This is a “reboot” of the Spider-Man cinematic franchise. Rumor has it that Sony’s rights to the franchise would expire if they didn’t release a film every so often, so when Raimi withdrew from the planned Spider-Man 4, the studio opted for a full-on reboot. Given the choice between an arguably too-soon reboot—Spider-Man was only ten years ago and Spider-Man 3 came out in 2007—and letting to of what was almost guaranteed to be a multi-million dollar cash cow, the choice seems pretty obvious.

This post is actually more of a reminder about things we’ve already discussed rather than an exploration of new ground. We’ve already talked about a lot of the legal issues raised by Spider-Man, and The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t exactly break much new ground here. The following touches on most of the more obvious issues in the movie. We’ll follow this up with some new material on Friday.  In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to mention them in the comments or email us!

Just last month we talked about Spider-Man and likeness rights, something related to two guest posts on the right of publicity generally.

This one isn’t immediately relevant to the new movie, as Parker’s connection with The Daily Bugle hasn’t been established yet, but we did look at the possibility liability Parker has for not being entirely honest with the Bugle about his relationship with Spider-Man.

We took a brief look at a story from Ultimate Spider-Man # 6 back in February.

Spider-Man isn’t a journalist in this movie—now he just takes pictures for the school newspaper and yearbook, etc.—but he is in a lot of the comics, and we looked at that here.

In April 2011 we examined whether patents might be a problem for Parker given that he’s arguably making off with sensitive data. We then revisited the issue last September, considering the passage of the America Invents Act on our earlier discussion.

A bit earlier we did a two post series on superpowered minors, and while we don’t talk about Spider-Man directly, it’s possibly relevant, although we don’t know exactly how old Peter is in this version.

One thing that is more directly relevant is the issue of costumes and the confrontation clause, something that this version of Spider-Man might well have to deal with given the way he drops off criminals for the cops. We don’t specifically mention Spider-Man in that post, but he does wind up testifying in costume in an early She-Hulk comic, so it’s definitely an issue.

Related to costumes, we discussed the issue of superhero merchandising (part two), something which actually comes into play in the movie. We see a guy wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt, for example.

Then there’s the duty to rescue, an issue always raised in any discussion of Uncle Ben’s death, but thrown in sharp relief here given the way it’s portrayed this time.

Very early on we did a four-part series (one, two, three, four) on superheroes and privacy rights. This issue is touched on rather explicitly by the film, as the dangers Parker’s activities as Spider-Man will pose to his loved ones are discussed.

12 responses to “The Amazing Spider-Man: Background

  1. Jackson Gerber

    Just as a side-note regarding Sony’s contract regarding Spidey.
    Just also take into account that since Sony bought Columbia-Tristar (who had the rights before Sony bought them), Columbia hasn’t produced a winning film for Sony. So Spidey was the obvious choice to get a more than likely obvious box office win with them.

    My question is however (and it might be able to be found), but I think a couple months ago I saw an internet rumor that depending on how Spidey does in the box office, Sony might either give the rights back to Disney/Marvel or might try and create a deal to work Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With how this is playing out in the theatres right now, I don’t see Sony giving up their contractual license to Spidey any time soon.

    How would this license work then if Marvel originally licensed Spidey to Sony/Columbia-Tristar and then licenses it back to Disney/Marvel to use Spidey in maybe Avengers 2 or as a cameo in any of the other titles?

    Also, do you happen to know how long the license is that Fox has over all the X-Men and Fantastic 4 is for?

    Thank you.

    • Just speaking as a fan, I wish I knew. Not being privy to the details of any of the licenses, it’s impossible to say.

      It does look like Sony is going to hold on to the Spider-Man license for a while yet. It had already set a date for Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2, 2014) well before the first one debuted.

    • Ryan Davidson

      Also, if we know those things we’d probably be making lots more money than we actually do.

      Andrew Garfield is on record as saying that Sony had a release date for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before they had a script for it.

    • James Pollock

      When you plan a movie that involves lots of CGI, there is a lot of upfront cost in modeling the actors’ faces and bodies… but that modeling can be carried forward to sequels with little additional cost. Additionally, creating and integrating CGI is the most time-consuming part of the moviemaking process. Because of this, many modern “blockbuster”-budgeted movies are budgeted, contracted, and otherwise planned as trilogies from day one… meaning that CGI work for movies two and three can be started even before movie one opens. (You can see this, of course, in the way Captain America, Thor, and the Avengers were orchestrated.)

      • Martin Phipps

        There’s a flip side to the planning of trilogies: because actors are contracted for three films, studios tend to want to reboot after three movies. Thus, after three movies (much to the complaint of fans) Xavier, Cyclops and Jean all die in X-Men 3. That would have actually made it easier for Fox to recast the X-Men for a new trilogy starting with X-Men 4. Of course, fans were outraged and the plans for X-Men 4 were scrapped. Eventually Brian Singer came back as a producer and roles were recast using younger actors in a sixties setting. Like Sony and Spiderman, Fox will continue doing X-Men related movies as long as they make money.

        With the Spiderman movies, things got more complicated: after doing Spiderman, Tobey Maguire said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to do Spiderman 2. His complaint was that he sometimes had to do his own stunts, hanging off of building with wires. He was concerned about what kind of damage this was doing to his back. Sony then started considering a replacement for Tobey Maguire, namely Jake Gyllenhaal. Upon hearing that he might be replaced, Tobey said that his back was fine and that he was willing to begin shooting as soon as they were ready.

        The fact that the actors (supposedly) had contracts for three films meant that Sony was planning the first three Spiderman films as a trilogy. Thus when Raimi said there was too much story in Spiderman 3 and he wanted to continue the story in Spiderman 4 the studio said no and the end result wasn’t as good as the first two movies with fans complaining that the movie had three different villains and that that was too much for one movie.

        With Spiderman 3 finished, Raimi started talking about what his plans for Spiderman 4 through 6 would be. He had originally planned to have the Vulture in Spiderman 3 but when the studio told him to use Venom he decided to have the Vulture in Spiderman 4: he even got as far as tentatively casting Ben Kingsley for the part. He had also cast Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Conners aka The Lizard and there was a rumor was looking for somebody to play the roles of the Black Cat and Mysterio. Raimi’s taste in villains was strictly old school (he was also thinking of eventually using Electro and Kraven the Hunter) and Sony was getting impatient: they wanted something “darker” in order to attract the fans of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight and they were concerned that Raimi’s ideas were too campy. Raumi opted out because it was clear that he and the studio couldn’t see eye to eye and Sony rebooted the series with a new director and new actors.


      • Martin Phipps

        Edit: Raimi “was looking for people to play the roles of the Black Cat and Mysterio”.

  2. Donald Postway

    Thank you for creating this site. It’s like finding many kindred spirits in one place. It makes me wish I had gone for law instead of my MPA.

    My question is about the difficulty in prosecuting criminals stopped by street-level crime fighters. As you said in the post, these issues have been discussed before, but I remain unconvinced that the confrontation clause would be a real handicap for the prosecution if Spiderman or Batman don’t show up for court.

    I see where this would be an issue if Spiderman stops a burglary and leaves a criminal webbed up somewhere. The defense can easily argue that Spiderman framed their client and so on. But in the event that Spiderman saves someone from a mugger, wouldn’t the victim’s testimony of events, collaborated by circumstantial evidence (such as the fact the accused was found at the scene of the crime in a way that coincides with the victim’s account [e.g. hanging upside down from a light post by webbing]) be enough to bring a person to trial? Spiderman is most likely not a state actor (in most incarnations and situations) so no evidence should be lost for improper police procedure.

    A follow-up question is what process would be necessary for Spiderman or Batman to be allowed to testify incognito? I assume that when Vice Squads in police departments do stings, they don’t have the undercover officers on the stand unnecessarily to testify against pimps, johns, and prostitutes. It would severely reduce the effectiveness of the undercover officer after the first time they go to trial [people would know who to avoid] and I imagine there would be a safety risk [people would know exactly who to retaliate against]. How do police departments deal with this normally? Is there any mechanism to extend identity protection to potential witnesses?

  3. Considering the reaction to Spider-Man 3 and the ensuing reevaluation of the trilogy it’s possible that between contracts, people backing out and licenses they decided the least painful option would be to simply have a premature reboot. I’m really not sure how you’d expect to make a serious Spider-Man 4 after the dance scene.

  4. Wasn’t Bruce Campbell already being setup to be Mysterio as he had small cameo roles in all three Raimi Spidermans? (the wrestling announcer in 1, the French host at the restaurant in 3, and his role in 2 is escaping me atm) Or is using Bruce Campbell a campy throwback thing that Raimi does because of their work together in The Evil Dead?

    • Bruce Campbell needs no reason. He is simply Bruce Campbell.

      (he was an usher in 2)

    • Martin Phipps

      There was a rumor that Bruce Campbell would play Mysterio. That may have been a joke started by Raimi or Bruce or both or a complete rumor.

  5. Pingback: The Amazing Spider-Man: Warrants and Assault | Law and the Multiverse

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