It’s a rather large week for Spider-Man, as he left the MCU, and remains without a home. The ripple effect, especially for established narratives, is huge.
Spider-Man might be out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Sony and Disney fail to negotiate new terms for the character’s lease.
Wait, what do you mean “lease”?
For those of you playing the home game, yes, Spider-Man is a Marvel character, however, he – and every other Spider-Man related character – is not a Marvel property.
Back in 1998, little old Marvel Entertainment was a struggling studio fighting their way back from bankruptcy. Desperate to make some cash, they sold off assets; Fantastic Four and X-Men went to Fox, and the whole Spider-verse – all 900 characters – was sold to Sony for just seven million dollars.
Disney bought Marvel in 2009, and now, thanks to the recent Fox-Disney merger, Marvel has welcomed the Fantastic Four and X-Men back into the fold. But Sony, it appears, will be holding on to Spider-Man ’til grim death.
What’s the deal?
Spider-Man is, without a doubt, one of the most popular Marvel characters of all time. So popular, in fact, that when Marvel tried to sell the rights to pretty much all of their characters back in ’98, Sony execs responded with, “nobody gives a shit about any of the other Marvel characters.”
All they wanted was Spider-Man.
Cut to: nine years into the MCU and Marvel needs Spider-Man. He’s a central figure in Marvel lore and one of the most powerful Avengers.
So a deal is struck: six films, co-production, Kevin Feige leads the story, and Disney gets…5% of the profit.
Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming, Avengers Infinity War, Avengers Endgame, Spider-Man Far From Home, and an untitled Spider-Man 3 makes six.
So a new deal is negotiated: co-production, Kevin Feige leads the story, and Disney gets…50% of the profit.
Why is this horrible?
In short: because Sony-produced live-action Spider-Man films suck.
Objectively speaking, they’re just…bad.
Ok, the Toby Maguire films were fine for the time (the first one, anyway) – and, admittedly, they were commercially successful – but it was the early 2000s, man, we didn’t know any better! And good Lord, have you watched them since?! They’ve aged as badly as a thing that ages badly.
By 2012, however, we did know better. Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 (2014) dropped in the middle of a well established MCU, and by comparison, they seemed cheap and hollow. They completely failed to make an impact, monetary or otherwise.
Four years later, and Tom Hardy’s Venom is released, which would have been awesome… if it was 2002 and you’d never seen a Marvel film. The story was weak, the CG was laughable, and nobody could pronounce the word “symbiote”. Even it’s hot box office take of USD $856.1M doesn’t seem that great when you realise it’s about the same amount of dough that Toby Maguire’s films raked in, sixteen years ago.
Meanwhile, over in Marvel-land, the world has finally got the Spidey it deserves in Tom Holland. And how do we know that? Spider-Man Far From Home just cleared $1.1B. This is the point where all fans say, “No shit.”
Of course, it did. It’s a Marvel film. Marvel writers, Marvel directors, and most importantly, the vision of Marvel Studios’ executive producer Kevin Feige.
Feige is a comic book nerd to the bone. Sony’s exec producer, Tom Rothman, is not. It is well known he doesn’t read comics and doesn’t like superhero movies (though he’s probably a fan of how much money they make).
Without Feige and his passion, with nothing but Rothman and his lack-there-of, Spider-Man will be back to emo hair flicks and cringe-worthy dance breaks in no time.
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What does this mean for the MCU?
Well… it ain’t good. Since Spidey’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has been set up as Tony Stark’s successor. For goodness sake, his Infinity War suit is called the Iron Spider. There’s been nothing subtle about the mentor-protege dynamic, and in Far From Home, we see the mantle well and truly passed as Tony leaves Peter a tonne of tech and resources to carry on his good work.
Couple that with some characters that have been hinted at and you start to see where Feige was going with Spider-Man’s arc.
Cassie Lang (Ant-Man’s daughter) is all grown up thanks to the five-year time jump in Endgame. In the comics, Cassie at this age becomes a hero called Stinger. In the films, there have been several moth-related Easter eggs that could suggest a variant. Either way, we can be pretty sure that Cassie Lang is about to become her father’s crime-fighting partner like she always wanted.
At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel revealed their Phase 4 lineup, including the TV shows coming to Disney+.
One such is WandaVision, and part of the cast is Monica Rambeau. We last saw her as a little kid in Captain Marvel, but now she, too, is grown up. And what does Monica become when she’s older? You guessed it, a hero. She’s another Captain Marvel or, by any other name, Photon, Pulsar, Daystar, Sceptre – you get the point.
Marvel also announced Hawkeye, a show that will centre around Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton handing off the alias to the young Kate Bishop, the best of all the Hawkeyes.
So… we have a teenaged, leadership-ready Spider-Man and three other kid heroes… are your spider senses tingling? Yup, that’s the Young Avengers forming right there!
Except, not. Because we no longer have Spidey. Interesting to note that Spider-Man was not mentioned in the Phase 4 announcement.
Without Spider-Man, a whole arc – possibly as long as the 11-year Infinity Saga – has been ripped out from underneath us.
There is no leader. There are no Avengers.
Is there hope?
After hours of nerd backlash (in which we definitely partook), Sony released a statement saying they were “disappointed” to no longer be working with Kevin Feige, but they “respect Disney’s decision.” Up until the release of that statement, everyone had been pointing the finger at Sony, blaming them for the stalemate, but Sony just pointed it right back at Disney.
It’s safe to say everyone is hoping this is all a negotiation tactic, but by whom, we can’t fathom. So far, all either company has managed to achieve is a trending hashtag, “SaveSpidermanFromSony”.
Apart, Marvel/Disney lose a vital character, and Sony loses a lot of cash dollars (none of their films ever made a billion bucks, and we cannot stress enough how much Spider-Man fans hate the Sony films).
But together, everybody wins; most importantly, the audience.