After the box office and critical disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony has a lot riding on the future of the Spider-Man film franchise. While The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was pushed from summer 2016 to summer 2018, the next movie in the franchise is Sinister Six. Sony is betting that Sinister Six will start a brand new franchise for the movie studio, but can superhero movie be successful with non-traditional characters (IE villains) at the center of its story?
It's clear that Sinister Six will feature six Spider-Man villains as the film's protagonists. In this way, Sinister Six is an anti-hero lead movie like There Will Be Blood, American Psycho, and The Godfather trilogy. It doesn't matter which combination of Spider-Man villains will make up Sinister Six, we, as the audience, will be invested in the villain's story, more so than Spider-Man's - even if he's featured in the film, which he might not be. After all, Spider-Man is effectively the film's villain or at least antagonist. While the films I mention above had strong voice behind the camera such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Mary Harron, and Francis Ford Coppola, Sinister Six will have Drew Goddard, who is no slouch himself.
Drew Goddard left Marvel's Daredevil TV series to focus his complete attention on Sony's Sinister Six. While his exit wasn't as dramatic as Edgar Wright's from Ant-Man, it's still something to note for the quality of the villain movie. Goddard might have received complete (or more) control over the final version of Sinister Six than what he would've gotten with Marvel and Daredevil. Needless to say, Goddard will helm Sinister Six, which will be his second feature film after the brilliant The Cabin In The Woods.
But can villains lead a movie? That's a tough call because we're almost conditioned to always root for the hero to save the day against evil villains. While movies that feature anti-heroes in the lead roles are interesting and well-crafted, they're not usually fun summer action films like Sinister Six is positioned to be. Are we supposed to root for Green Goblin when he attacks the innocent people of New York City? Do we cheer when The Rhino successfully robs a bank? Are we supposed to be happy when Doc Ock defeats Spider-Man? It's going to be a hard line to balance between understanding why villains are evil and feeling torn when they commit crimes and hurt people around New York City.
The problem I see from Sinister Six is not whether it will or will not work on the big screen, but how we would see the villains afterwards in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. While it's likely that the Sinister Six will go back to their evil ways at the end of the film - once we understand where the villains are coming from, in terms of motivations, can we go back to rooting against them when Spider-Man is in the lead? It's like watching the Star Wars Saga in Episode order. Once we see where Darth Vader is coming from as a young Anakin Skywalker, it's hard to really see him as a supervillain and not a sympathetic character.
While the original Star Wars trilogy painted the Dark Lord of the Sith as an evil villain, the prequel trilogy humanized him and made him a tragic hero. Although the end of Return of the Jedi as accomplished the same thing, the prequels really explored that theme over the course of three movies. It's hard to go back and see Darth Vader in the same way. Will the same thing happen to Green Goblin or Doc Ock?
While I have no doubt that Drew Goddard will do a great job with Sinister Six, it's just a strange and unconventional comic book superhero movie to hinge a big blockbuster film franchise on like The Amazing Spider-Man. It seems like Sony is just grasping at straws, but it's hard to see Sinister Six being a $1 billion movie, or even a $700 million movie like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That said, no one, I repeat no one, thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be the highest grossing movie of the summer, but Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, and James Gunn managed to pull it off. However, can the same thing be said about Sony, Avi Arad, and Drew Goddard? We'll find out on November 11, 2016 when Sinister Six hits theaters everywhere.