No Room For Miles Morales in Expanding Spider-Man Movie Franchise, Say Producers
Sony Pictures is determined to build a superhero franchise to rival that of Marvel Studios on the back of Spider-Man, the only marquee superhero whose film rights the studio owns. Amazing Spider-Man 2, currently in theaters, is the second installment of Sony's franchise reboot, while movies starring villains Venom and the Sinister Six are in development.
Spider-Man has been good to Sony, and superhero movies are big business, so there's nothing baffling about the studio's determination to keep the franchise alive. What is baffling is that they won't develop one of the franchise's most interesting characters, confirming they have no interest in a movie about the black Latino Spider-Man from the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales.
Speaking in a spoiler-filled interview with IndieWire, Spider-franchise producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach unequivocally ruled out the possibility of introducing Morales to their movie universe. Asked if Morales or fellow alt.Spidey's Ben Reilly (Scarlet Spider) or Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099) might make an appearance in any of the zillion Spidey movies they hope to make, Tolmach replied:
Arad expanded on Tolmach's answer. "The one thing you cannot do, when you have a phenomena that has stood the test of time, you have to be true to the real character inside – who is Peter Parker? What are the biggest effects on his life? Then you can draw in time, and you can consider today's world in many ways. But to have multiple ones… I don't know if you remember, but Marvel tried it. And it was almost the end of Spider-Man."
Arad, an independent film producer, has plenty of familiarity with Marvel. He was Marvel's chief creative officer during the 1990s and one of the co-founders of Marvel Pictures, which became Marvel Studios. Arad left the company in 2006, before the release Iron Man in 2008 (though he received a credit on that picture and The Incredible Hulk), and unfortunately his familiarity with the characters may be outdated.
Marvel did indeed try to have multiple Spider-Men during the era of "The Clone Saga" in the mid-'90s, and it's certainly arguable that the storyline hurt the character and the franchise. (Marvel's bankruptcy at that time may have had more impact, and Arad and his business partners deserve credit for bringing the company back from the brink.)
Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, represents a very different approach to the Ben Reilly years; one that has met with critical acclaim and helped the publisher reach new audiences. As a young black Latino man taking on the mantle of one of comics' most iconic heroes, Morales is an empowering figure, and part of a slow shift in the genre's approach to diversity.
Arad and Tolmach are not dismissing Morales specifically, but generally dismissing the idea of anyone who isn't Peter Parker, and Morales and the diversification he represents are collateral losses to that attitude. That's unfortunate and short-sighted, because while the Ben Reilly example gives the producers cause to be skittish, Miles Morales is not another Ben Reilly, and the character's significance and success ought to be accorded more respect.
Introducing Morales to the movies would present challenges. No less an authority than Amazing Spider-Man actor (and fan) Andrew Garfield has said he'd like to see Morales introduced to the movies, either coexisting with Parker or succeeding him. Here at ComicsAlliance we've talked before about the difficulties that might arise if Parker and Morales were to co-exist, at least on the page; there is a danger of the character being demoted from Spider-Man to Spider-sidekick.
To introduce Morales as a successor is a more appealing idea (Garfield is only contracted for one more film). Even introducing Morales as a surrogate for an injured Parker might work, because for many fans just one movie with Morales as the lead is a more exciting addition to the franchise than any number of sinisters.
Sony's determination to build a franchise makes their decision to rule out Morales particularly disheartening, especially given that neither Warner Bros. nor Marvel Studios is in any obvious hurry to put out a movie with a non-white lead (or a female lead, for that matter).
Tolmach noted that Parker will always be his and Arad's cinematic Spider-Man, but added, "The guys who take it over after us… Who knows…?"
If Arad and Tolmach don't want to make a movie for the audience that wants heroes like Miles Morales, we can only hope the guys or gals that come after them have more vision. And if that's the case, we're prepared to welcome our new Spider overlords.