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Sony's Spiderverse Woes: Exploring the Madame Web Debacle and the Struggle for Success

Madame Web

The most recent addition to Sony’s Spiderverse franchise, Madame Web, was released in theatres last week and breaking records. It’s just that those records are records that no studio would want having been broken. Despite its midweek release around Valentine's Day, the film only managed to accrue around $11 million between Friday and Sunday, marking it as the lowest-grossing opening in the entire SSU. The projected 6-day total of $24 million falls even further below the franchise's previous low point, set by "Morbius" with an opening of $39 million. But why is it that the majority of films that Sony has released as part of this Spiderverse have flopped at the box office?

Superhero Fatigue

The most optimistic option for Sony is that these recent flops in their Spider-Man Universe are just a general fatigue from audiences for superhero-related content. Superhero Fatigue refers to a decline in audience interest and enthusiasm for superhero films, particularly within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and other superhero franchises. This decline is attributed to various factors, including oversaturation of the market with superhero content, perceived brand dilution due to an excessive number of releases and tie-ins, lack of coherence and focus in storytelling, and mismanagement of properties by studios like Sony and DC.

A AI generated image of a Madam Web Concept
Image by Leonardo AI

A Lack of a Titular Character

Whilst Superhero Fatigue could explain the lack of enthusiasm for this film, however, that doesn’t explain why other Superhero films have had great box office success this year such as Guardians Of The Galaxy 3 and Sony’s own Spider-Man: Across the Multiverse. Why is it that one film from the same producers could be a box office success yet they have seemingly made a flop with both Madame Web and last year's Morbius? Well, could the answer be in the fact that the Spider-Man Universe that Sony is creating, lacks Spider-Man? Whilst all the characters are from the Spider-Man comics and appear as villains or allies in his rose gallery, the films are lacking in one element and that is Spider-Man is not part of the cinematic films that Sony is making. Due to contracts and deals made in the 2010s, Sony licensed the ability to use Spider-Man as an on-screen character to Disney who used it in successful and critically acclaimed feature films such as Captain America Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Avengers Infinity War. However, because of this deal, the films this iteration of Spider-Man has appeared in are all a part of the MCU, which has nothing to do with the Sony-produced Spider-Man Universe, meaning these films lack the main character of the story they’re all trying to tell. This has led to confusion from fans and could have also caused a lack of interest in seeing anything a part of this Sony-created Universe as they won’t get to see Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in them.

Spidermen from different universes battling each other.
Image by DALL.E

Mismanagement of a Franchise

Whilst both of these explain why someone would have little to no interest in going into these films, they don’t explain the one glaring factor. None of these films have been well received by critics or by a large portion of the general audience. Madame Web currently sits at 13% on the critic review site Rotten Tomatoes, a website that correlates film critics' reviews into one easy-to-read score, along with Morbius sits at a cool 15% from 283 critic reviews, and Venom sits at 30%. Could it just be that these movies are just… not very good? Could the answer to why these films continue to flop be that Sony has struggled to find a suitable person to fulfil the “Kevin Feige” role of a film producer? The main reason the Marvel films proved to be a success was primarily because they were all following the vision and endgame of Kevin Feige’s plan. Whilst he brought in both established and emerging directors to lead directing the solo films but ensured that they all worked towards the same ending goal he had planned since the first Iron Man film was released back in 2008. Maybe Sony’s mistake is not having someone in this role who is capable of the job. This is something that DC have realised they need and recently apportioned James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films and the hit TV Show Peacemaker, to CEO of DC Studios to hopefully emulate the same success that Marvel had during the 2010s.

Concept of Madam Web fan Art
Image by DALL.E

In conclusion, Sony's Spiderverse franchise continues to face challenges at the box office for several reasons. Superhero fatigue, the absence of Spider-Man, mismanagement of the franchise, and lack of creative leadership have all contributed to the underperformance of films like "Madame Web" and "Morbius." While other superhero films have found success, Sony's offerings have struggled to resonate with audiences and critics alike. To revitalise the franchise, Sony may need to address these issues by introducing stronger storytelling, incorporating beloved characters like Spider-Man, and establishing clear creative leadership. Only then can they hope to regain momentum and recapture the excitement of audiences for their Spiderverse universe.


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