The Christmas box office bonanza is finally here!!! Ok, so maybe “holiday season” is a more politically correct way of saying it but I can only speak for myself when I say that the year-end festivities are called Christmas. Sure, there’s Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and I’m sure a few other celebrations I’m not as educated on, but when it comes to the box office there’s only one holiday that matters. Ok, there’s two: Christmas and New Years Eve and, really, everything in between. The time has come when Hollywood unleashes their final push of product for the year in hopes of cashing in during the lucrative winter break.
5 Ways to Prep - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
By George Rose
December 16, 2018
Sure, most schools close for each holiday that every religion has to offer but only the Christmas through New Years stretch is a guaranteed good time for new movies. With youngsters and family’s taking almost two weeks to themselves, the Christmas box office is basically a dozen Saturdays in a row in terms of theater revenue. No slow weekdays, no “Friday is weaker than Saturday because people are at work,” and no “a 3x opening weekend to final total multiplier is perfectly average.” This is CHRISTMAS!!! Movies open strong, they stay strong, they earn big bucks every day and they close out with totals more than five times their opening. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!
And what better way to kick off the season with A MARVEL MOVIE!!! The last few years have had their holidays dominated by Star Wars, with Marvel planting their flag at the start of each summer. For the first time in forever, superheros have come to save Christmas and plan to kick things off with the most major of bangs! As of a week prior to its release, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is rocking 100% positive reviews and is gaining early Oscar buzz for Best Animated Feature of 2018. This is fantastic news for a movie that everybody thought was Sony’s way of milking a dead cow just a few months ago. The first trailer was decent but doubts kept audience reactions timid, the second trailer started to break down people's walls, and the third really gave Spider-Ham (yes, the pig) a chance to shine and launched interest up to normal Marvel heights. There was only one cause left for concern: this is a Sony movie.
It’s not a Disney Marvel movie, it’s not in traditional CGI animation and it’s not connected to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Sooooo what is it? It’s a mind-blowing, universe-mashing, psychedelic journey down several animation lanes. It’s a cluster-fk of ideas and there was every reason to expect Sony threw too much poo at the wall for any of it to stick, but that’s not the case. I was worried that maybe my enjoyment of the trailers was a sign of my potential early dementia but, alas, the critics have justified my delusions with resounding praise.
It’s almost sort of a slap in the face to Disney, if you think about it. My early assumption that Incredibles 2 and Wreck-It Ralph 2 would fight it out for Oscar glory now seem premature. Yes, both are great movies and visual feasts in their own right but, let’s be honest; Incredibles 2 was a tad redundant and reused many ideas from the first film, and Wreck-It Ralph 2 was almost perfect until the very end. SPOILER ALERT! Vanellope goes… TURBO?!?! Soooo everything the first movie told us was wrong is now suddenly ok? I hate many things in this world but at the top of that list is hypocrisy. Coming soon to a theater near you, Wreck-It Ralph 3: Ralph BREAKS HIS OWN RULES! Ugh, just the worst.
And that leaves us with Spider-Verse, the new most exciting shiney thing to hit the cineplex and it’s just in time for Christmas. We know it’s going to be great and we know it’s going to win an Oscar, but how do we prep for it?! That’s where I come in. Buckle up those snow boots and hang that mistletoe, ya filthy animals, because it’s time to find 5 Ways to Prep for your colorful new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
#1) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)
We all know Peter Parker’s story: nerdy boy’s parents die, boy gets bitten by spider, boy gets spider powers, boy’s uncle dies, responsibility is now important, boy becomes Spider-Man, and each and every movie about this little dweeb has him fighting another villain based off of some animal or element that makes for breathtaking big screen action. Wash, rinse, repeat.
There are three original Spider-Man movies from 2002 to 2007 (the first two were great, the third was mediocre) starring Tobey Maguire, then Sony rebooted the franchise with two new features (both still mediocre) starring Andrew Garfield from 2012 to 2014, and then came the three latest appearances with Spider-Man now involved in Disney’s MCU (with one headlining feature that is great) from 2016 to today. Since Sony purchased the rights to the character and started making movies, he has had six feature films and eight total appearances. Spider-Vers marks appearance number nine, with 10 and 11 coming next year with Avengers 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home. So, yeah, by now you should all already know a bit about him.
What we don’t know is what this Spider-Verse business is about. We know from the trailers that multiple universes collide and bring several versions of Spider-Man together: Miles Morales, Peter Parker, Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir and some little anime person with a robot spider. I don’t know much about the plot beyond that but I do know a few things. Modern day comics have spun Spider-Man into several versions; I know Miles Morales is a Latino take on the Spider-Man story, akin to the new girl Thor or how Captain America’s mantle gets taken over by both Winter Soldier and The Falcon. Every now and then Marvel has to revamp a character with a new person wearing the costume. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve heard a bit about Miles Morale but never read those comics myself. I was surprised he was the lead character in Spider-Verse but it actually makes sense, since I don’t see anyone playing Spider-Man but Peter Parker in the new live-action takes on the comic book. However, Miles isn’t the only new kid on the block. Spider-Gwen is actually Gwen Stacy. In the original comics, Peter Parker loves Gwen Stacy and then she dies and then he becomes the Spider-Man that we all know eventually falls in love with Mary Jane Watson. In the Spider-Gwen Spider-Verse, it’s Peter that dies and Gwen gets bitten by the spider, leading to a whole new world of woman power. Latino version? Check! Lady version? Check! But so many minorities still to go.
With so many characters crammed into this new story, one that involves Gwen Stacy of all the ladies they could have incorporated, only one prior Spider-Man movie comes to mind: Amazing Spider-Man 2! It is by far the worst of the live-action films, which makes it the best to watch before a new movie is released. For one, you’ll get used to an overly-crowded movie packed to the brim with characters (Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Rhino, Electro and mentions of the Sinister Six). Secondly, it’s the one that features the death of Gwen Stacy, which may or may not get mentioned if/when discussing Spider-Gwen’s backstory. And lastly, it’s the worst movie of them all and bad movies make good movies look great. Really, though, let’s be honest; even a bad Spider-Man movie is a good movie to watch. Spider-Verse is sure to be at least action packed and, if the reviews are any indication, an amazing story is sure to follow.
#2) BIG HERO 6 (2014)
When the reviews came out for Spider-Verse suggesting that it could (and should) take home the Best Animated Movie Oscar, I thought to myself, “Finally, Marvel will win a Best Picture Award!!!” Except, that isn’t true, is it? Spider-Verse isn’t released by Disney under the official MCU banner. It’s not even like that time Sony made Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was an MCU movie but the only one not made by Disney. If it’s not in the MCU, not Disney, and not connected to any other Spider-Man movie, then what is it? Well, it’s a lot like Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 was actually an anime released under the Marvel comics label, and rights to that comic went to Disney when they purchased Marvel. They then took the unknown property and gave it the magical Disney animation touch, except Marvel’s name was nowhere to be found. It’s not on the poster, not in the movie and not mentioned anywhere outside of a brief cameo by Stan Lee (rest in peace, my friend). Then it became a blockbuster hit with great reviews, which instantly made it one of my favorite movies of the year. Except, it wasn’t the best animated movie of the year. That achievement belongs to The LEGO Movie, which got snubbed an Oscar nomination and therefore handed the trophy to the second best animated movie, Big Hero 6. Though it may not have deserved the honor, it did in fact claim the prize and therefore steals the title of First Non-MCU Movie to Win a Best Picture Oscar (Animated or Not). Yeah, it’s complicated. Regardless, if/when Spider-Verse wins Best Animated Movie at the Oscars, the majority of people who placed bets against it after the trailer will be out every penny they bet.
#3) TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE (1986)
There are a handful of franchises that have branched out beyond the traditional trilogy and into their own full-blown universes. Of those brands, one comes to mind that most closely resembles the Spider-Man films: Transformers. Think about it. Spider-Man 1/2/3 (with Tobey Maguire) earned $404/374/337 million domestic and $822/783/891 million worldwide. Transformers 1/2/3 (with Shia LaBeouf) earned $319/402/352 million domestic and $710/836/1,123 million worldwide. So the Spider-Man trilogy averaged $371 million domestic and $832 million worldwide per film, whereas the Transformers trilogy averaged $358 million domestic and $890 million worldwide per film. Seems eerily similar, right?
After the trilogy, both series got a reboot with two further films starring fresh new faces. Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield earned $262 million against Transformers: Age of Extinction’s $245 million. The reboots were less than the prior trilogies but still enough to turn a profit, which then led to each getting a reboot sequel. Amazing Spider-Man 2 then ended the franchise when it plummeted to $203 million, with many expecting the same for Transformers and their most recent effort, The Last Knight, earned a paltry $130 million. All good things come to an end and these two former kings of Hollywood had finally grown too old to lead.
That was until Disney made nice with Sony and got permission to borrow their character back so they could incorporate him into the Avengers, with Spider-Man: Homecoming being Disney’s way of letting Sony play in their sandbox. So, Homecoming is kind of like Disney’s Spider-Man but it’s not. Which, oddly enough, is kind of like the new Bumblebee movie coming out this Christmas in that it’s kind of like a Transformers movie, but it isn’t about Optimus Prime and it’s not a continuation of the mainline story. It’s a prequel of sorts but, really, it was Paramount’s way to milk the cow, but that’s only because Bumblebee was in production before The Last Knight bombed in theaters. So, yeah, that dumpster fire is coming soon.
Which brings us to our point. AFTER all those Spider-Man movies we’re finally getting an animated update of the story. Despite all the ways Spider-Man and Transformers mirror one another, their animated efforts could not be more opposite. BEFORE all those Transformers movies is when that franchise made their attempt at animation. It did not win any Oscars and it only made $6 million, which is bad even in 1986 dollars. If their live-action films are the same and their animated efforts are opposites, then Spider-Verse is destined to win many awards and make lots of money. Early analysis indicated Spidey and friends might just barely crack $100 million, with estimates swinging upwards of $150 million now that reviews are in. If it starts to spin a web of golden trophies on its way to Oscar night, then I can see Spider-Verse possibly topping $200 million. In what universe does an animated Spider-Man movie make boatloads of cash and win a bunch of awards? Apparently this one.
#4) SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE
You know, it’s not every day that a live-action series get’s an animated film spin-off. Disney is all about turning their old animated classics into live-action hits, but seldom do studios go the other way around. I’m actually surprised it doesn’t happen more, but one of the only ones I can think of is the Smurfs films. The first film is set in a live-action world with CGI Smurfs, kind of like a live-action world with a CGI Spider-Man swinging about. The Smurfs was a decent hit in 2011 with $143 million but things ended quickly when the sequel earned only $71 million in 2013. Rather than reboot the series with a new cast, they simply reverted the series to its original roots in animation. That didn’t really work though as The Lost Village made only $45 million. Honestly, this was to be a good comp for Spider-Verse as most expected it to be the lowest earning Spider-Man movie with just over $100 million. If it can crack that $200 million barrier with the help of awards buzz, then it has a chance of avoiding the fate of The Lost Village.
#5) THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (2007)
All the positive reviews and excitement for Spider-Verse may not be able to save it against the ultimate Hollywood villain: a competitive marketplace. Young boys have tons of options this Christmas, with two movies in particular that will prove potential opposers to Spidey’s victory. One is Aquaman, another superhero movie from Marvel’s comic book rivals, DC Comics. The other is Bumblebee, which as we already discussed is a Transformers movie and they have similar fan bases (and earnings) as Spider-Man movies. If stellar reviews and Oscar glory aren’t enough to entice you to Spider-Verse, there is one wildcard that could help sway your vote and that’s SPIDER-HAM!!! Aside from stealing scenes during the trailer, not much is known about this newcomer. The only knowledge I have of such a character is when Homer Simpson gets a pig in The Simpsons Movie and dressed him up like Spider-Man, then he starts singing a song about Spider-Pigs doing whatever Spider-Pigs do.
Maybe what Spider-Man has been missing this whole time is an animated, animal sidekick. Maybe what the world has been missing this whole time is a Spider-Man movie that wins some of those sweet, juicy, golden trophies everyone in Hollywood is always begging for. Or maybe, just maybe, with all the great power we give the big studios out there we deserve for them to show some responsibility by providing us worthwhile entertainment. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just the blockbuster superhero movie we need and deserve; it’s the ultimate present from Santa just in time for Christmas and, as reviews indicate, just in time for Oscars.