This weekend, sci-fi drama "The Martian" has proven to be a hit with both critics and audiences. While the film's superstar lead Matt Damon and legendary director Ridley Scott have received the bulk of the attention, the screenplay of the novel adaptation comes from Drew Goddard -- the same Drew Goddard once on tap to write and direct a "Sinister Six" Spider-Man spinoff for Sony Pictures, slated to gather an unspecified crew of Spidey's greatest villains in one feature film.
According to a string of recent comments made while promoting "The Martian," Goddard is still hoping the stalled "Sinister Six" film will happen -- and so are we. If Sony -- already planning an animated Spider-Man movie for 2018, a year after the live-action Spidey solo film starring new Peter Parker Tom Holland -- resumes these spinoff plans and runs their own series of Spider-films concurrent with what Marvel Studios has planned, it could mean the best of both worlds for faithful Spider-Man fans; creating a two studio win-win situation that can make this Golden Age of comic book-based movies shine even brighter.
It was a day of rejoicing across fandom when it was announced this past February that Marvel Studios would produce future "Spider-Man" films in conjunction with Sony Pictures. Finally, Marvel's flagship hero would be able to share screen time with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of the Avengers, as has been depicted in Marvel Comics since the beginning. With this seismic announcement, Spider-Man would now likely be a part of huge cinematic events like 2016's "Civil War" (where Holland's Spidey is expected to be introduced) or the two-part, galaxy-spanning "Avengers: Infinity War." This was indeed fantastic news for the Marvel faithful -- but quickly cast major doubt on the broader Spider-Man family of films that Sony had planned, starting with "Sinister Six" (which had a Nov. 11, 2016 release date) and "Venom" (which long had the screenwriting duo of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci attached).
Sony's deal with Marvel Studios to share live-action control of Spidey put the planned spinoff films in limbo earlier this year, but Goddard hasn't given up all hope. In a recent interview with IGN, Goddard compared the "Sinister Six" experience to his directorial debut, 2012's "The Cabin in the Woods."
"It's a long game," the writer/director said. "It could still happen. It's certainly not going to happen soon... but I've learned, look, 'Cabin in the Woods,' we went into bankruptcy and had to stay on the shelf for a couple of years. It's OK."
Goddard is a "Lost," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" vet who in film has delivered genre hits including "Cloverfield" (screenwriter) and "Cabin the Woods" (writer and director). He wrote the first two episodes of Netflix's "Daredevil" series, and was originally planed to serve as showrunner. He knows how to execute innovative takes on familiar subject matter and genres. His track record is impressive, and his comments on the film that would have been are legitimately exciting. Talking to io9, Goddard compared his planned film to a summer annual issue of a comic book series, suggesting the type of continuity-light outing that's become a rarity in the age of shared universes and heavily interconnected storytelling -- concerned more with telling an "epic" Spidey store rather than fitting within a larger story.
"You didn't have to worry about continuity," Goddard said. "It was just, 'We take Peter, put him on an adventure, we put him back in his life.' It was the giant, epic Spider-Man movie of my dreams."
Goddard also appears to be refreshingly aware of the possible pitfalls of a "Sinister Six" movie, and put thought into how to best avoid them. While large-scale villain team-ups are commonplace in comic books -- the Sinister Six were first introduced by Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1964's "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1; with that lineup consisting of Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, and Sandman -- superhero movies with multiple villains frequently fall short of expectations. Goddard has said that's something he definitely had in mind when writing the "Sinister Six" script.
"When you're doing just a straightforward superhero movie, you don't need a lot of villains," Goddard told IGN. "The focus is on one guy. I think with 'Sinister,' it's different. To me it's less about too many villains and more about too many antagonists, and there's a distinction."
Other than the creative possibilities "Sinister Six" could bring, consider what the film could do for the 2017 Jon Watts-directed solo Spider-Man film and the massively successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony could focus on character-building these villains, who could potentially also be used in upcoming films. The subsequent solo "Spider-Man" movies would not have to spend valuable screen time detailing villainous origins; the Sinister Six, individually or as a group, could arrive to the narrative fully realized. Audiences would already understand back story, motivations and power sets. No other film franchise has ever had an opportunity like this -- imagine two hours experiencing what makes characters like Kraven the Hunter or a new Doctor Octopus tick, then weaving those characters and histories into Marvel's movie universe.
The stalled spinoff film could potentially make the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole even grander. "Sinister Six" could easily mean six major new villains in the shared universe, which extends to the ABC series "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," plus Marvel's Netflix projects. Tonally, some of Sony's films could be a departure for the usually bright and quippy Marvel films; a place to go for darker tales of the Spider-Verse. "Sinister Six" -- by its very nature of heavily focusing on a group of villains -- would be a break from the superhero formula, making the film an intriguing and valuable project.
It's certainly possible that the most "Sinister Six" that viewers will ever end up experiencing are these quotes from Goddard, explaining what he would have done had the film proceeded as scheduled. Yet if the cautiously optimistic possibility he describes ends up working out, fans may get to witness unprecedented cross-studio synergy that could make the live-action version of Spider-Man greater than ever, along with inspiring some more fun films along the way.