Awhile back it a rumor started circulating that Marvel had chosen writers for their new Spider-man reboot. In and of itself this may not seem like a big deal but with a character like Spider-man the writers on the film are actually a big deal. This will be our third iteration of Spider-man and looking back over the Sam Raimi and Andrew Garfield films its easy to see how much the writing and dialogue defines the character. In Sam Raimi’s version Spider-man is an earnest throwback to the classic silver age iteration of the character and that depiction filters down through every other aspect of the film. Conversely Andrew Garfield’s Spider-man is emphasizes cynical sarcasm with a much sleeker and more modern bent to the character so the entire film ended up sleek and cynical in tone.
Marvel has tapped John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein to write the new Spider-man film. Goldstein is the more senior of the two authors having worked on a lot of various TV projects over the years including The New Adventures of Old Christine and Bones before teaming up with Daley for a transition into film with flicks like Horrible Bosses and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Daley has only done film-writing work aside from a single episode of Bones he was involved with. However, the big project punctuating both men’s careers is the upcoming Vacation, a reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation that they co-wrote and co-directed.
It may seem like a bit of a sideways move for Marvel to tap a pair of fresh faced talents like this. Daley has barely done any work outside of his collaborations with Goldstein and Goldstein’s vast body of work is rooted in television and serviceable if forgotten comedies.
However Marvel actually has a history pluming through off-beat sources like TV and sitcoms to scrape together some great talent. Folks like Clark Gregg and the Russo Brothers both started out in the sitcom landscape before being scooped up into the Marvel machine. This does however show a lot of faith by Marvel in Vacation as even though Goldstein and Daley have produced plenty of serviceable work in the past none of it has been anything to really capture public consciousness. Previous Marvel directors like Kenneth Branagh, Jon Favreau, Joe Johnston, or even Alan Taylor had all enjoyed some form of major cultural success even without massive monetary value or auteur status. For what it’s worth I think the new Vacation movie does look pretty damn funny and a nice revival of an old franchise in a clever way but only time will tell. It’s also possible Marvel has a little extra insight into the situation thanks to Chris Hemsworth’s role in the film but we’ll see.
The strangest side of all this though is what Marvel see in these two guys as fitted to Spider-man. Goldstein & Daley’s catalog of work may not be amazing but there is an ethos to it grounded in a weird blend of broadly dark comedy with some thoroughly flawed protagonists. They’re capable of circumventing as they did in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 but generally all their work has had the same problem of structural issues owing from not being able to quite balance their humor with their characters. When their jokes are on they’re very much on but they end up running into a brick wall of inconsistent characterization far too often. That’s part of why Horrible Bosses is probably their best effort on a structural level, because the actors and performances conveyed so much of who the various characters were.
As I said it’s possible for Goldstein & Daley to get out of the darker, broader sections of comedy in favor of something more family friendly so I don’t think this indicates Spider-man will be a more adult approach to the character. If anything I’d hazard to guess the opposite, these guys have always helmed spoofs and comedies so far so I tend to think this means we’re headed towards something closer to a straight ahead superhero comedy. This would clash with earlier reports that the film would deal heavily with fall out of Captain America: Civil War and set-up for Sony’s Secret 6 film that’s still in the works. We’re still 2 years out from Marvel’s Spider-man so it’s very early days yet leaving a lot of details unsure.
However, what seems most likely to me is that Marvel and Sony are resorting to a very standard structural action/comedy approach in the style of say Iron Man while the film itself will fill something close to the role Ant-Man was meant to have in the Marvel stable before Edgar Wright jumped ship. A movie that’s a little funny with a bit of action but is ultimately riding of some marquis value to draw in an audience. I don’t know that’s the best way to turn around the sinking ship that is Spider-man but it should be interesting to watch regardless.
Marvel/Sony’s Spider-man comes out July 28, 2017.