It’s a familiar story: a blossoming up-and-coming indie director hits it big (well, relatively speaking, we are still chatting indie film here) with an original feature that demonstrates both talent and crossover appeal and is immediately locked down for a massive, sure-to-be-blockbuster and also-probably-a-franchise feature. (See Gareth Edwards and his Monsters, Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his Kings of Summer, Colin Trevorrow and his Safety Not Guaranteed, the list goes on and on.) At its heart, these are success stories – passionate directors who made it to the next (major) step based on the quality of work that probably took a considerable amount of time, money and grunt work. But there is a dark side.
Okay, maybe “dark side” is taking it a bit too far, but the problem with immediately catapulting burgeoning directors into the upper echelon of directorial stardom is that it takes them out of the indie fray, meaning that we’re robbed of possible indie films from the scene’s best directors.
That’s sort of what happened with Marc Webb.
Before Webb directed (500) Days of Summer, he was a reasonably well-known music video director, with credits that include Blues Travelers’ “Canadian Rose,” AFI’s “The Days of the Phoenix,” Counting Crows’ “American Girls” and about sixteen other jams that you know you love, okay, just admit it, it’s fine. Summer was his ticket to the big-time – literally – and the indie earned solid reviews (it’s hanging out at 84% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), a hefty box office take ($60.7M, per BoxOfficeMojo) and the kind of buzz you can’t buy. The strength of Summer not only pushed Webb into superhero franchise territory, but it also marked screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter as ones to watch (so far, the duo has also penned charmers like The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars, with many more to come).
It was, for all intents and purposes, a hit. And Webb should have been able to make more films like it – genuinely inventive and fun romances that folded in music and animation and heart-wrenching honesty to bolster them.
Instead, he made a pair of Spider-Man films. Webb’s two web-head-centric features have been maligned for a number of reasons – they came too soon after the Tobey Maguire series, they didn’t add anything new, they didn’t change anything about the superhero landscape – a sentiment that was reflected in box office returns. Both of Webb’s Spider-Man films are the lowest earning of the entire franchise (including the Maguire films). For awhile there, it looked as if Webb wouldn’t even return for the second film, though he did. He’s still attached to direct the third feature – arriving sometime in 2018, maybe – but he doesn’t seem particularly jazzed on it. As of early this year, Webb had made it clear to The Daily Beast that he would not return for a planned fourth film.
Sony’s Spider-Man franchise certainly has plenty of issues to deal with, but the failures of Spider-Man might finally open Webb up for something better: more indie films.
Now that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been pushed back – way back – to 2018 from 2016, Webb finally has the time to buckle down on smaller projects. According to Variety, he’s already got two in mind: The Only Living Boy in New York, which is working on lining up Miles Teller to star, and The Gifted, which is currently being kept under wraps.
The news that Teller is looking to sign on for Living Boy – an “indie drama” that “tells the tale of a young man who learns that his overbearing father is having an affair…he son tries to stop it, but ends up becoming involved with the woman as well” – points to it being Webb’s next project, a nice indie breather before getting back to work on the web-head.
It’s the sort of film Webb should have made after Summer: an indie drama about life and relationships that features a rising male lead (hey, kind of like Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that could possess crossover appeal and major likability, with not a special effect or slung web in sight. If we have to pre-buy a ticket for a Webb film, this is the one we want, not another high-flying adventure featuring a man who would be a spider.