The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man is no more.
After two successful solo movies and three appearances in the most recent Avengers and Captain America movies, the future looked bright for the MCU’s newest wall-crawler. With his most recent sequel grossing over a billion dollars at the box office, several other planned installments on the way, and a teased future appearance from famed Spider-Man villain Kraven the Hunter, it looked like Marvel was going to keep pumping out as much Spider-Man as they could for years to come.
Unfortunately, Spider-Man’s journey with the Marvel Cinematic Universe just came to an abrupt end this past Tuesday. Deadline first reported that after Walt Disney and Sony Pictures failed to renegotiate their contract, all negotiations fell apart and Sony is effectively moving forward with the Spider-Man franchise without Disney.
This means that Spider-Man will no longer be involved with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will operate completely separate from any future Avengers movies. In short, this essentially means Tom Holland’s Spider-Man as we know it is over.
The legality behind this is a little more than slightly complicated, so let me try and break it down for you. Back when Captain America: Civil War was still in development in 2015, the infamous Sony Pictures leak revealed that Sony was in active negotiations with Walt Disney to share licensing rights for Spider-Man so he could appear in Civil War and future MCU movies. After much back-and-forth, Sony and Disney agreed to a deal that would allow Spider-Man to appear in both his own solo movies and larger MCU features, including Civil War and the last two Avengers movies. The deal would still allow Sony to finance, distribute, and exercise creative control over their exclusive Spider-Man movies, but Disney would share a five percent cut of the film’s revenue and retain the right to use him in separate movies.
So what happened to make that deal collapse? To put it simply, Disney wasn’t satisfied with the original agreement and wanted to renegotiate its terms with Sony. Instead of Sony retaining its exclusive rights over the Spider-Man movies, Disney wanted to split financing and distribution with Sony right down the middle and negotiate a 50/50 co-financing agreement between the studios. This would presumably include Disney taking a larger cut of the Spider-Man movies’ box office earnings. Sony was not satisfied with this proposal and outright refused it, instead proposing to keep the terms of the previous agreement as they were originally introduced. Disney refused their proposal and sent negotiations through the ceiling, essentially pitting both studios into a standstill.
What does this mean for the web-head? The immediate effect is that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is now completely divorced from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since a deal was not reached, Tom Holland can no longer appear in any of the future Avengers movies or any other solo movie existing within the MCU. Holland technically could continue in his own solo series, but there would have to be zero mention or inference to pre-existing events or people in the MCU. Since his character is so heavily influenced by Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers, that would make a third Spider-Man movie featuring Holland incredibly complicated to make.
Another possibility is that Holland’s Spider-Man could now potentially appear in Sony’s spinoff superhero movies, including the Venom series and next year’s vampire movie Morbius. But again, there would have to be no inference to the MCU or the events preceding his appearance. He essentially operates completely outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from this moment forward.
I have several emotions at this bit of news. My first reaction is shock. Then anger. Then red-hot-burning rage. And then a deep blue depression. But I try to look at this through several different lenses, and I have to remember that these franchises are as much a business model to these movie studios as they are stories in their own right. So, let’s look at it from an economic perspective.
First of all, it’s completely understandable that Disney would want to renegotiate terms for Spidey’s licensing rights. Thanks to incorporating Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel’s two Spider-Man movies have been among the most successful of the web-head’s career. Not only have Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home become among the most critically acclaimed Spider-Man movies of all time, but they’ve also become their highest grossing. Homecoming became the third highest-grossing Spider-Man movie at $880 million, just a few million shy of Spider-Man 3’s $890 million. Meanwhile Far From Home became the first movie out of the franchise to break over one billion at the box office. His appearances outside of his own movies have also boosted his profile nicely, with Captain America: Civil War grossing over a billion dollars and both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame grossing over two billion. Disney’s involvement only helped put Spider-Man on the map. No matter how you put it, Disney’s contribution was good business for Sony.
That makes Sony’s hostility to not work with Disney even less sense, especially since all their agreement has done is help boost one of their most prominent and successful franchises. Is 50 percent a little much? Possibly, and I can sympathize with resisting Disney’s monopolistic urges. Still, you couldn’t have found any way to make it work? Nothing? Nothing at all? Fox made over $52 billion for selling its media properties to Disney and made a heckuva big payload for doing so. Sony got to retain a majority of its licensing and distribution rights for Spider-Man, and you still didn’t find a benefit for trying to work with Disney? Really?
Sure, it’s possible Sony and Disney could come back to the drawing board and work out a new deal that would work to the benefit of both companies. I wouldn’t bet my chips on it, however. Not with Sony’s stickler hands trying to retain the rights of several other Spider-Man characters that it owns, including Venom, Black Cat, Silver Sable, Silk, Nightwatch, and several others. If anything, Sony would probably use the Spider-Man character to draw out appeal for its other spinoff franchises that they’re trying to launch. Would that work as well as featuring Spidey in his own original series? Probably not, but you wouldn’t have much success trying to tell Sony that.
And through this all, my biggest frustration is that Spider-Man’s story with the MCU will go on unresolved. Tom Holland won’t get to experience the full semantics of what it’s like being a friendly neighborhood superhero in the large and sprawling MCU. John Watts won’t get to explore the full scope of what Peter Parker would grow up to be like in a world without Tony Stark. All of the potential and all of the stories that could have been told with this new Spider-Man suddenly will no longer be possible, and the Avengers won’t get to experience one last adventure with the amazing web-slinger.
That’s what hurts the most about this development. Not the fact that it ended: the fact that it didn’t get the ending it deserved at all.
What do you guys think? Did Sony screw up by not trying to find a way to make things work with Disney, or do you think this frees the web-head up for new possibilities? Comment below, let me know.
– David Dunn
SOURCE: Deadline, Variety