I was a huge fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film even before it came out. After it came out, I was overjoyed with what it was and what they were able to accomplish...despite its flaws. Then Spider-Man 2 came out and it was even better. While Spider-Man 3 had a lot of flaws, it did not have to be the franchise stopper that it was. A fourth Raimi film could have had potential.
So when Amazing Spider-Man was announced just a few short years after Spider-Man 3 was released, I found myself in a place where I did not need Spider-Man on film. Especially in light of the copious amounts of other super hero movies out there. Spidey just didn't seem to matter anymore.
So imagine my surprise when I did finally catch Marc Webb's reboot of the series and found it to be a refreshing take and in many ways, superior to the Raimi films. Andrew Garfield's Peter had more charisma, his Spidey made more jokes, and he had much more chemistry with his love interest, Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy. The final quarter of the film was a little overboard, but the drama and soap opera feel that is classic to the Spider-Man comics was properly exuded. I liked it.
Cut to a couple years later and I've now seen the sequel, Amazing Spider-Man 2. This was panned by lots of fellow nerds and did not do well. So much so, the franchise is apparently on hold. Sony seems to be scrambling to figure out what to do, probably so they can keep their paws on it and not have the property revert back to Marvel Studios.
Now, that would be great if Spidey, FF and the X-Men can all return to where they should be, but sadly, that's not in the cards right now. So if Spidey is stuck at Sony, here's what Sony should do...
1. Get Amazing Spider-Man 3 back on the schedule. Don't give up. Replacing Spidey proper with a Sinister Six, Venom or Aunt May movie is the wrong move.* Amazing 2 might not have been the success you wanted, but there's no need to let that set you back. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Look at what can be learned from Amazing 2 and use that to make an even better Amazing 3.
(*The exception I'll personally make in this case is an Emma Stone-led "Spider-Gwen" movie. But explaining what that is to 'common person' might be too much of a challenge to market.)
2. Lock Andrew Garfield in for more movies. I know he's already said he's done after Amazing 3, but this guy is the crowning achievement of the Amazing Spider-Man movies. He might pull a Christian Bale and not be able to be convinced to stay, but reach into the Sony vault and pull out the shiny gold coins and talk him into staying on for more. There's no one else from the cast that NEEEEEEEDS to come back. Sally Field is the only other cast member I'd even consider bringing back but the rest of the potential returning cast should be dumped.
3. Drop the running plot threads. Marvel Studios you are not. So don't try to do it. The build up to Sinister Six or whatever is lacking and uninteresting. Keep your movies as independent stories with character growth and complete arcs in each film. Everyone wants a "shared universe" now that Marvel has shown it can be done. But these things can't be rushed. And rushing them will only hurt all attempts at a shared universe, including Marvel Studios'. And with that, dump your running villains. Don't bring any of those guys back. Intro Doc Ock or Kraven next movie and move on.
4. Keep your next story simple. We don't need a huge epic with three villains and a complex family history subplot. There's a trend in the Bond movie franchise to follow up crazy outlandish movies with "back to basics" ones. It's time to go back to basics. Doesn't mean a reboot is needed, just a new story.
5. Work something out with Marvel Studios. After watching Amazing 1 and 2, I'd largely say that nothing really prevents either from fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, a reference in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by someone about that time half of NYC almost turned into lizards would make sense, but the fact that it isn't mentioned is not that big of a deal. And vice versa. The "Battle of New York" isn't something that begs to be mentioned in either Spider-Man movie. We can work something out here storywise—I'm sure of it. Why not let the Oscorp building show up in the background of Avengers 2, the Daily Bugle show up in Netflix's Daredevil or even better, Spidey right along side the rest of the heroes fighting Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, part 2? Marvel doesn't seem to have the bad blood with Sony that they do with Fox. So this kind of deal helps everyone...including the fans.
6. Redub all of Spidey's lines. Maybe I'm just getting old, but the muffled voice of Spider-Man is hard to understand. All of his lines need to be redubbed so that he's saying them without sounding muffled. Once we accept the reality of a man getting bit by a radioactive spider and gaining spider powers, I think we can all accept that Spider-Man sounds like he's not wearing a mask even though he is.