Only four days ago, Amy Pascal resigned as chairwoman of Sony Pictures. Pascal’s career with Sony is directly tied to her stewardship of the Spider-Man movie rights, and both hit their nadir within months of each other. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t enough to slow the franchise’s dwindling domestic receipts, despite all the studio’s efforts to the contrary, and Pascal came out looking like a clown in the wake of the poorly-handled document leak fiasco later that same year. There was blood in the water long before Pascal resigned, and movie geeks everywhere waited to see what was next for the Webhead now that Sony had all but run out of leverage to use against Marvel.
Well, it didn’t take very long.
Marvel has just announced a deal they’ve made with Sony, but the details are vague. The headline reads that Marvel Studios is being brought “into the amazing world of Spider-Man.” Does anyone else think it’s strange that it isn’t the other way around? Especially on a press release from Marvel?
The press release goes on to state that in July 28th of 2017, “the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU).” From this, we may safely assume that the rumors from the past few weeks are true, and that the current Marc Webb film continuity — along with Andrew Garfield’s tenure — is kaput. It follows logically that the rumored/announced spin-offs, starring Sinister Six, Venom, Black Cat, and even freaking Aunt May are all stillborn.
But at least Spider-Man can finally join the greater MCU and hang with the Avengers, right? Well, it certainly looks that way. Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of Marvel’s parent company, says quite clearly that “Spider-Man [is] taking his rightful place among other Super Heroes in the MCU.” But there appears to be a catch: Sony.
Under the agreement, Sony “will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.” Emphasis mine. It’s also worth noting that even after her ousting from Sony, Pascal will have an exec-producer credit alongside Marvel generalissimo Kevin Feige.
But here’s the part that gets to me: “Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.”
From all of this, it appears that Marvel and Sony are planning a brand new Spider-Man film series that — for the moment anyway — is only tangentially connected to the greater superfranchise. We still have no idea when Iron Man, Daredevil, SHIELD, et al. will appear on the same screen as the Webhead, if they ever will. This is of course a disappointment, since this whole venture was sold on a vast interconnected continuity in which anyone could appear and there was no telling how events in one franchise could affect another.
Moreover, this approach seems untenable. In the movies — as in the comics — Peter Parker’s beloved hometown of New York City has been quite firmly established as the center of the Marvel Universe. How long could Green Goblin and Venom stir up trouble so close to Avengers Tower before someone from the greater MCU takes notice?
Additionally, there’s the fact that Spider-Man suffers the same problem that Batman currently does: Franchise fatigue. We’ve already gone through two completely different iterations that have entirely run their course, and it’s uncertain if audiences will be open for a third. Warner Bros. attempted to resolve their version of the problem by packaging the newest Batman with Superman, and their newest version of Joker with a half-dozen other DC villains, potentially giving new life to their cash cow by presenting it in a new context.
Marvel could have done something similar, taking the rumored route of bundling Spider-Man with the upcoming Captain America: Civil War or the two-part Infinity Wars event. But I’d wager that contractual dealings made it much easier for Sony and Marvel to work together on a stand-alone franchise, rather than haggle over how much Sony should pay for Spider-Man’s place among so many other Marvel characters. Just an educated guess.
Still, this is progress. This transition was never going to go quickly or easily — Spider-Man is still the most profitable franchise in Sony Pictures’ history and they were never going to let him go without a fight. No matter how little leverage they had to work with.
It’s still early days and we still don’t know exactly what this will mean for the greater MCU. But for right now, it’s enough to know that this is the end of an era. We no longer have to worry about Sony churning out subpar films just to keep the rights and spite Marvel.
Like they did with Ghost Rider. Just saying.