What happened? We ended on a major cliff-hanger in Far From Home. Parker’s identity is revealed to the public. We got J. K. Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson … a possible Sinister Six hiding out somewhere?
Everything was set to have Spider-Man come into his own as a character. His mentor gone, his needing to clear his name. It was all shaping up to be something spectacular.
And then … Sony pulled Spidey from the MCU … with things remaining up in the air and Kevin Feige maybe stepping in.
Unsurprisingly, fans are going mad over Twitter about this, with hashtags and rallying against Sony, including a plot to storm their offices to protest? I guess fans are getting more and more active.
From a business perspective, this is probably the riskiest IP gamble in modern film history.
Spider-Man movies bring in a lot of money, break into the elusive Japanese market (a market where other American superheroes have been poorly received) and Far From Home set up the next stage of the MCU whilst grossing over a billion dollars.
There is big money out there.
So what’s going on?
SONY V. DISNEY
Now, the deal itself is very complicated and there are more in-depth details on other sites.
But essentially Disney wasn’t happy with the current deal.
As it stands, Sony owns the Spider-Man IP, and characters like Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom … basically Spidey’s entire rogues gallery.
Disney/Marvel owns the Spider-Man merchandising rights, television spinoffs (e.g. Marvel’s Spider-Man), and receives up to 5% of First Dollar Gross (film lingo for box-office revenue on the first day of release).
The deal Disney wanted was a clean 50/50 divide of profits, and Spidey remaining a key player in the cinematic universe.
But now things may change.
MCU PHASE 4 – SPIDER-MAN NO MORE
Phase 4 is a hurdle in itself for the MCU. Disney+ has evolved an even more integrated approach to the franchise but is using considerably lesser-known characters.
I mean, I know who Shang Chi is, but he’s nowhere near as popular as Spider-Man.
With Endgame concluding the arcs of some of Marvel’s major players like Captain America and Iron Man, they currently don’t have a central character as they did before. Spider-Man looked like he was going to be that central character.
As for my personal take on the MCU Spider-Man, I wasn’t the biggest fan of what they did with the character … that is personally speaking. Perhaps it has to do with nostalgia, or my wanting the character to be less-dependent on Stark-Tech. But that’s more personal than anything.
Not to mention, Far From Home began exploring the character as more standalone from Stark – especially given the cliff-hanger at the end.
Narratively, you can’t rip the character out of the MCU … it really does feel like a twisted take on Spider-Verse.
Now we have reports of Tom Holland unfollowing Sony on Instagram, and the goodwill of the fans hitting rock-bottom if they go through with this.
INTO THE SONY-VERSE
So, can a Spider-Man movie work outside of the MCU? It has before.
We got a good two Rami-movies, an OK Webb movie – but there wasn’t really a strong plan.
As a reminder, the last Spider-Man movie Sony produced was the now-infamous Amazing Spider-Man 2 … with the third instalment featuring a plot to “bring people back from the dead.” Yes. Really.
Of course, recently we got the best animated picture winner for Into the Spider-Verse and Venom which did decently well – and was very successfully marketed to the Chinese movie-goer. (It made $822 million without even mentioning the wall-crawler.)
It may not have been the tortured character struggle with an alien symbiote, but it did make Sony a ton of money.
As for the video games, Spider-Man for the PS4 got a massively positive critical reception, and I imagine they’ll continue producing more and more of those games.
Perhaps they think they don’t need the MCU as a result. But boy is it a big gamble to walk away from a production model that’s already produced over twenty lucrative superhero movies.
It’s like the Brexit of cinematic universes.
FANS V. SONY V. DISNEY
The most important element I believe is fandom. Like it or not, Tom Holland was Spider-Man, and he played the role well – even receiving a glowing endorsement from Stan Lee.
The creator of the character gave his blessing to what Disney was doing. It added to the aura of authenticity surrounding the MCU.
With the hashtag #SaveSpidermanFromSony trending, we’ve seen the studio put itself in a bad light amongst this recent announcement.
We have Sony against Disney, and fans against Sony.
Holland may still be in the role, but narratively Sony doesn’t have the rights to S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, arguably the MCU’s MJ (seeing as she’s not Mary Jane and an original MCU creation … that one may be up in the air a bit).
Best summation for this mess seems to be Pitch Meeting’s take on how this all went down.
Deals have a habit of being incredibly pragmatic – especially if there’s money involved. This decision could literally be a billion-dollar mistake.
Although things are looking bleak with Spidey leaving the MCU, I can’t imagine it will really come to that.
Recent reports have suggested further negotiation is possible, and that a compromise can still be worked out.
Spider-Man is a character that could have been expertly integrated throughout Disney+, the Theme Parks, and film series – and that’s before even addressing the possibility of a cameo in Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.
At the very least, even if we succeed in “Saving Spider-Man” I fear Disney will be more hesitant to integrate other aspects of his supporting cast with the MCU.
In the long term, this means possibly no Norman Osborn being either the Green Goblin or forming the “Dark Avengers;” all of which could impact the coherency of the established Disney model.
All I can say is, “How will the wall-crawler get out of this one? Stay tuned True Believers!”