We’re barely twenty minutes of screen time and two trailers worth of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it seems that the good ship Spidey is already being rocked. What the hell is going on?!
There’s been much speculation surrounding the future of Spider-Man in the last few days and we’re here to take an indepth look at what’s been happening!
Spider-Man: As Things Stand
To break down the current situation of Spider-Man for those who may not already know, the film rights to the character, allies, villains, companies and essentially anything associated with Spider-Man belongs to Sony Pictures. Sony were responsible for the three Toby Maguire Spider-Man movies and the two Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. Marvel had no involvement with either of these movies other than a banner at the start of the film. Spider-Man: Homecoming & Spider-Man’s appearance in Civil War is the culmination of a co-production deal between Sony & Marvel. Essentially, after The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spidey went into a little bit of a development hell. They had attempted to bring the Sinister Six & Venom to the screen as well as capping off the Garfield trilogy but to no avail. It’s worth noting that the Sony email leak also occurred around the same time and put Sony in a very difficult place.
Marvel were underway with production on Captain America: Civil War and many fans were lamenting the lack of an integral character in the Civil War story (although it was never going to be a true comic book adaptation). Marvel had apparently been angling to get their hands on Spider-Man for Civil War. Oh to be a fly on the wall of the offices of Sony & Marvel when the phone call was made or email was sent… but a deal was done. Sony agreed to let Marvel introduce Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and arguably Tom Holland stole the show. This has resulted in a Spider-Man solo film, at least one sequel and Spider-Man appearing in at least one of the Avengers: Infinity War & Sequel.
Amy Pascal at CinemaCon & The Venom Question
Fast forward to today and while we’re three months out from the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Tom Holland is in production for Avengers: Infinity War, things have gotten a teeny bit rocky. The scary part? Amy Pascal’s quote at CinemaCon:
“One of the things that I think is so amazing about this experience is that you don’t have studios deciding to work together to make a film very often. In fact it may never happen again, after we do the sequel. Because Sony, and Disney, and Marvel all decided that the right thing to do was to allow Peter Parker and Spider-Man to be in the MCU and to work with the Marvel guys and have them produce this film.”
Pascal may have just been emphasising how rare an event it is for two studios to actively co-operate, share property and give the fans what they crave while doing the character justice. However it seems to imply that once a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is done, the deal may well be off. Sony would ride off into the sunset with Spider-Man hog-tied on the back of a horse and leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spidey-less once again.
Further evidence that this might happen is in Sony’s persistence in bringing a Venom solo movie to the big screen. Set for a reported Autumn 2018 release and carrying an R-Rating, Sony want to use Venom to launch their own Spider-verse with other characters like Blackcat & Silver Sable. Sony may use the likes of Venom to bring about a semi-reboot and establish some characters for use when they yank Spidey by the web-shooters back into their world. They could take over production from Marvel and continue on with Tom Holland in a pseudo-connected continuity or go full reboot… again. Please don’t go full reboot. Oh god don’t do it to us again Sony…
Don’t Panic Yet…
The optimist in all this would read that Pascal’s comments may actually imply that the current Marvel/Sony sharing deal is up after those three or four movies. It’s worth remembering that Marvel have a particular road map for where they want the MCU to go and perhaps that there are no concrete plans for Spider-Man post-2020-2022 (assuming that Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 would release in this time frame). The major players involved (Sony, Marvel & Disney) may well be waiting to see how it all plays out before committing to anything further. Box office numbers, merchandise sales, plot points and more will all contribute to the politics of continuing this arrangement.
Sony’s handling of a Venom movie and extended Spider-verse may well stem from the fact that they still hold creative rights to the characters. They may see profit in using the characters that Marvel may not want to use right now or ever. Another reason why they may be pushing ahead with using Spidey characters seperate from Spider-Man himself may be in order to hold on to the rights to the character. Rumour has it that in each rights package is a clause that states if a period of inactivity occurs then the rights to that character set revert back to Marvel. This is suggested as the reason why Fox rushed to get a Fantastic Four reboot into production after development had stagnated. Seen as Spider-Man: Homecoming is technically a Marvel production, Sony’s hand may be forced into making a Venom movie to hold on to the Spider-Man rights. Establishing a Spidey universe as a contingency plan would be a good idea for Sony if they want a home for Peter Parker if they do bring him back.
Then more reassuring sentiments from Pascal came from an interview with /Film when asked about Spider-Man’s future:
“I think I’ll answer it this way: I think we found the right formula and I think everybody is going to want the right thing to continue. And I think that there’s a, as I said, there’s a surprisingly generous and cooperative thing, and if it works for everybody, then it’s going to work for everybody. The thing is – and I always felt this way – if you worry about the movie and you worry about the story, all the politics take care of themselves. They just do. Because when the movies work, there’s enough for more than everybody. It’s when you start making the other stuff first that you start to get in trouble”
Marvel have certainly been vocal about continuing on their interpretation of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although we speculate that there’s no concrete plans just yet, it hasn’t stopped Kevin Feige and Tom Holland dropping a few words here and there. Feige in particular stating that he would like to treat Spider-Man similar to the Harry Potter franchise. Each film chronicling one school year, or a similar format. In this way, we’d see Spider-Man grow on-screen and a certain generation of fans would grow along with Peter Parker.
Marvel’s priority at the moment is still Avengers: Infinity War and it’s sequel. Their slate after that is probably pretty flexible and as such nothing is really set in stone. It’s easy for them to play fast and loose with Spider-Man at the moment and work out where they want to go once the Infinity War dust settles.
So, if there’s actually nothing to worry about until Infinity War is done and Spidey gets a Marvel sequel, why the fuss? Why is it that Amy Pascal mentioned it could possibly never happen again? Was it a political power play or just a poorly phrased answer that sent the internet into melt down?
The way we see it here at Nerd Lowdown, Spider-Man is to Marvel what Mickey Mouse is to Disney. This is why Spider-Man is so important to both Sony & Marvel/Disney. Put him on anything and it sells. Lunchboxes, Funko Pops, T-Shirts, Movies, TV Shows, it doesn’t matter. That’s easy dollar. Given that Spider-Man is a Marvel comics icon, Marvel Studios may feel a bit of envy towards Sony being in possession of their toy. If they want to play with that toy, they are at Sony’s beck and call to an extent. Marvel Studios would be just as successful in the long run without Spider-Man, but damn would they love to have him for the long term. However, if they want him back on a permanent basis they’re looking at a multi-billion dollar deal. As we’ve seen with Daredevil, Ghost Rider & Punisher; Marvel would probably rather wait until the rights fall back into their hands through inactivity. In saying that, Disney did spend $4 Billion on the Star Wars rights – so lets not rule out a big money deal completely.
Of course there’s also the factor of how adored Spider-Man is by so many people. People will be concerned and analyse every single quote and reference to the character in order to see where things are going – and hey, that keeps sites like us in business afterall! But on this occasion, we’re going to urge everyone to head down to the Winchester, have a pint and wait for Infinity War to blow over. It will only be then that we get any semblance of an idea of what will happen with Spidey post-Marvel Phase 3. If the worst happens, we’ll deal with it then…