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Sony is screwing up Spider-Man

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Rumors of an Aunt May movie hint at what's wrong with the franchise

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Sony wants Spider-Man to be as big as The Avengers, and no property is too good to milk for all it's worth. On top of The Sinister Six and the third Amazing Spider-Man film, Latino Review now reports that Sony executives are batting around the idea of a movie focusing on Peter Parker's Aunt May. And she'll, of course, be a spy in the swinging Mad Men era. Even if Sony comes out and says this isn't happening, that it's even a rumor worth addressing hints at how bad the Spider-Man franchise is already getting.

Sony is stretching the Spider-Man mythos to its limit

Sony isn't shy about its ambitions for Spider-Man. All The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really did, aside from ending what was a genuinely likable onscreen pairing, was tease sequels and spinoffs. Did it make one lick of sense that Harry Osborn became the Green Goblin, other than the fact he's supposed to? No. But he did, and now he's poised for appearances in the followups. All this is because Sony wants to do the kind of world-building that Marvel is doing with The Avengers and what DC plans on doing with the Justice League. And in its desperation to play superhero catch-up, it's stretching the Spider-Man mythos to its conceivable limits.

And it's not working. Spidey doesn't work that way. The reason why The Avengers and even Man of Steel in its best moments worked was because both films understood scale. Spider-Man, at his heart, is a small-town hero, and his best stories tend be focused largely on him, his relationships, and his struggles. Making him the heart of an expansive movie universe is wrongheaded, betrays the soul of the character, and makes it clear that Sony just wants the money.

A story about Aunt May isn't a story about Spider-Man

The thing is, Sony can't even really be faulted for wanting those sweet superhero dollars. Everyone's doing it. But making a hypothetical Aunt May movie of all things would be the worst move in a string of bad moves dating back to Spider-Man 3, and it would hint at a cynicism that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. First, it's a risky, downright nonsensical project, especially as it took this long to give Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel — hugely important characters, don't forget — movies of their own. Second, the Parker backstory in the films, already full of corporate intrigue, was one of the most disliked plotlines in the rebooted series. Third, the one comic story from May's youth being mentioned in these rumors, Trouble, was booted from generally accepted canon because it was terrible. Fourth, telling a story about Aunt May isn't telling a story about Spider-man, which is already the biggest problem with Sony's present plans.

We already know that Spider-Man's New York City (let's not even call it a world) is being carved up to contain the Sinister Six, Venom, and maybe even Black Cat in the coming years. Meanwhile, Sony won't be bringing its main draw back to theaters until 2018 and can't even seem to keep big-name screenwriters around for the project.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Sony isn't actually this stupid. I, for one, will just keep on hoping against all hope for a Marvel deal that lets Peter Parker become an Avenger by 2019. If an Aunt May movie somehow rests in the realm of possibility, that should, too.