Why Is Sony Making an Aunt May Movie?

by Michael Arbeiter

Sony Pictures got the short end of the stick when it came to divvying up Marvel Comics characters. Although the early 2000s predicted a bright legacy for the studio’s stake in the superhero movie game with Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Mans, the decade since has shifted American favor away from Peter Parker and toward Disney’s The Avengers films and, to a lesser degree, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men series. But Sony, even with its lackluster lot of heroes from which to choose, is still going for broke. Rumor has it that its latest endeavor will involve a standalone Aunt May movie.

That Aunt May. The Aunt May originated for the screen by a 75-year-old Rosemarie Harris, and recreated a decade later by a 66-year-old Sally Field. I’m not decrying the film based on the character’s age, just pointing out how unusual a choice it is to peg a blockbuster feature to a woman we’ve only know in her senior, principally domestically inclined, years.

But although this is the Aunt May we know, it won’t be the one we see if the movie does come to fruition as suggested. The project is being touted as a mid-1900s espionage thriller that plants a young May Parker (or May Reilly, if the story begins before her marriage to Uncle Ben) amid a high-stakes mission of some kind. Sort of like Marvel Studios’ Agent Carter series… although the Agent Peggy Carter in question is, in fact, a secret agent, and therefore a far more logical headliner for an action-adventure flick.

Aunt May has taken a variety of forms over her tenure as a staple in the Marvel pages — she has been played as the caring and compassionate mother figure with whom Raimi fans are familiar, as a younger and more active incarnation who gets roped into the legal ramifications of her nephew’s vigilantism (in Ultimate Aunt May ), as the somewhat duplicitous secret mother of Peter Parker (in Trouble ), as a social activist (in Spider-Man Noir ), and as a super being who led the all-powerful Galactus to a planet of snack cakes (in the parodic issue Golden Oldie ). All these iterations notwithstanding, the name “Aunt May” will always to Spidey fans stand for that kind, intelligent, and ostensibly frail woman created by Stan Lee in 1962 and brought to the cinema by Raimi and Harris 40 years later.

So can’t Sony do a little better in its choice of superheroine? I know it doesn’t exactly have heaps of terrific characters from which to choose, but there are a few more viable options if the interest is making a blockbuster comic book film of the caliber to which we’re accustomed — as should be the case! Why relegate its first female-centric story to a not only powerless but action-deficient civilian character?

At the top of the list, we have Spider-Woman — though an Avengers mainstay in the comic books, the character falls under Sony’s jurisdiction principally due to her name. Limited exposure to Spider-Man and his supporting cast would allow for a new set of movies that didn’t press too heavily on noxious crossover, but benefited from the familiarity of the heroine’s handle. A bonus: She actually is a spy, which would satisfy Sony’s apparent hankering for an espionage movie.

Next in line, there’s Black Cat, an antihero (as the comic world’s “cat” characters all seem to be), but one that fans could certainly see leading her own picture. We’ve already seen Black Cat’s alter ego, Felicia, take form (albeit enigmatically) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, courtesy of Felicity Jones. All you have to do now, Sony, is up the ante on her wardrobe budget and slap her with her own movie. You’ve been talking about doing it with Venom and the Sinister Six, so it’s not as though you’re opposed to villain-centric films.

Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

More still: Silver Sable, a concoction of Marvel Comics’ ‘80s team and a European mercenary skilled in combat, weaponry, and military strategy. She’s got a rich history, is more than suited for tremendous action set pieces, and touches just enough on the spy aspect embodied by the rumored Aunt May prospect.

Heck, there's even Peter Parker's daughter with Mary Jane Watson (also named May), who ultimately adopts the Spider-Girl alias.

With relatively action-oriented female characters like Gwen Stacy and Betty Brant lining the Spider-Man pages (personally, I’d go for a psychological thriller about Dr. Kafka), it’s a bit of a puzzler to figure out why Sony is stooping all the way to Aunt May for its next endeavor. We’d love to see Sony hand the reins to one of its many female heroes, but why not choose one that actually has a chance to impress?

Images: Marvel Comics; Sony Pictures (2); Getty