That’s the short answer to the headline question. In the last couple of days I’ve seen lots and lots of folks speculating on what the Spider-Man reboot means in terms of the character’s relationship to the shared Marvel Movieverse that includes The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers; lots of folks have speculated that maybe this change in direction means that Spider-Man can finally meet those characters in the movies. I wouldn’t bet on it.
First of all, it’s important to note that the reboot has no bearing on the ownership of Spider-Man; his movie rights still are at Sony. The studio would have to let him lay dormant for a couple of years to have him go back to Marvel. And I don’t mean not make a movie, I mean not actively work on one, so just attaching a director and a screenwriter to fuck around forever more or less counts.
That’s why Fox is rebooting Daredevil and Fantastic Four; it’s unclear if these will ever go anywhere, but as long as they’re actively working on the films, Marvel can’t get the characters back. And while Sony will toss off the director who made them a couple of billion dollars with Spider-Man movies, they won’t just get rid of the character. Spider-Man will be at Sony for a long, long time.
Well, a long, long time maybe. There’s one thing I need to say here that I normally wouldn’t: I honestly don’t know what Disney and Marvel might do in the future. I was one of those people laughing off the idea of a shared superhero universe a decade ago, and now it’s a reality thanks to the innovative thinking at Marvel Studios. When Disney bought Marvel they didn’t just want Machine Man – they want to make Spider-Man movies. Considering Disney’s very aggressive moves lately and Marvel’s willingness to think big, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they tried to get Webhead back into the family house. How, when, etc I don’t know (although a co-financing partnership on a pricey Spidey movie could make sense), but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.
That said, I don’t think it will happen with this Spider-Man reboot. And there doesn’t seem to be much incentive for Sony to let Spider-Man live in that shared universe; while Marvel and Disney would benefit, where’s the upside to Sony for having Samuel L Jackson show up and essentially advertise the adaptation of The Avengers?
There is, however, one big if. If the rumors I’ve heard about the script are true – it’s heavy on a Peter/Mary Jane/Flash/Gwen Stacy love rectangle – Sony may want to placate the fanboys. Let’s be honest here: fanboys won’t make this movie a hit. We don’t have that power. But fanboys can buzz the movie down and hurt it that way. Sony has to be aware that getting rid of Raimi and rebooting has put much of the fanbase on the defensive. The fact that they want Marc Webb shows that the studio is going for some sort of artistic cred; allowing a minor crossover could give them the geek cred.
Here’s how it would go: at the very end of the movie, Samuel L Jackson shows up outside Midtown High. Peter Parker is coming to school and he gets stopped by the Agent of SHIELD, who tells him that they know who he is and that they’re keeping an eye on him. A rehash of what happened in Ultimate Spider-Man. Hoots and hollers from the geek gallery, modest recognition from everybody else.
But that’s the only scenario where I see it happening, and the reality is that Sony has a couple of years to win back the geeks without offering free advertising for a Paramount film. Remember that these people in charge don’t tend to love movies, and they sure as shit don’t love comic books. They look at bottom lines, not what would be cool. If they think a crossover could in any way help the bottom line, they’d do it. And Marvel would, I am certain, jump at it. But if they don’t think it’ll sell any extra tickets, they won’t bother.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, on the other hand, could use all the help it can get…