Well, it was fun while it lasted… Spider-Man leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of those examples of how sometimes, nothing lasts forever.
Is it completely over for Spider-Man and the MCU? Heck no! As long as Disney has oodles of cash, expect to see Spider-Man back in the MCU at some point again. But, for the immediate future, the web-slinger is on his own.
OK, who is to blame here? Shortly after the news broke that Spider-Man and the MCU had parted ways, Sony released an official press statement putting the blame squarely on Disney:
“Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise. We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film. We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own. Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.”
So… if you read into this statement, it comes across as Sony saying that Disney told them, “Why should we have one of our most important people, Kevin Feige, focus on properties that we don’t even own?”
Disney is making a ton of money from the Marvel properties that they do own, and unfortunately, Spider-Man, like it or not, is the competition. Ultimately, both Disney and Sony’s loyalties lie with their shareholders. Both companies are a business and their primary goal is to make money, not friends. And this deal was never about making the Marvel fans happy. It was about making both Sony and Disney happy and making them both money in the process.
The rumors out there are that Disney is playing hardball with Sony. They wanted a new contract with Feige and for his attachment to Sony’s future Spider-Man movies to consist of a 50/50 co-financing agreement that would produce a much larger profit for Disney than what they have now. Sony was not willing to give up so much on their biggest movie maker and both sides seemed to call it quits.
Who benefited more from the original deal that brought Spider-Man to the MCU? Both Sony and Disney each benefited in a way, but I would say that Sony benefited more, because not only has “Spider-Man: Far From Home” become their highest-grossing Spider-Man movie ever, it has now become their highest grossing Sony movie ever. And a lot of the success has to do with Marvel’s involvement and their reinventing the character for Sony.
Part of the reason why MCU movies have been successful is because Marvel and their writers are personally involved, as opposed to just a movie studio. They understand their characters like no else does, and they know what their fans want. That makes Marvel comic book fans happy, and it helped create a base of loyal movie goers for all of their MCU movies.
Sony, on the other hand, seemed to always have problems with Spider-Man. It was always close, but no cigar, when it came to Spider-Man films. (Although I still personally love Spider-Man 2.) Sony made money off of Spider-Man, but let’s face it, Marvel took a basically unknown group of comic book characters, The Guardians of The Galaxy, and turned them into a blockbuster, money-making franchise. Spider-Man is one of the most recognizable heroes in the world behind Batman and Superman. He is without a doubt, the Marvel posterboy. Yet, Spider-Man movies were making less than Guardian movies. That’s just crazy, and that had to drive Sony just a little nuts.
Where the MCU benefited with having Spider-Man in the MCU was with “Captain America: Civil War”. They were planning on doing “Civil War” without Spider-Man, but Sony and the MCU came to an agreement to have Spider-Man be a part of the MCU and Marvel would help Sony with their Spider-Man movies. This deal had Marvel lending out Robert Downey Jr. to reprise his role as Iron Man in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and that was a huge get for Sony.
The anticipation of having Spider-Man make his debut in “Civil War” was off the charts. The first trailer showing Spider-Man for the first time interacting with Iron Man and Captain America did not disappoint. Would “Civil War” been successful without Spider-Man in it? Sure. But it would not have been as successful. There’s no doubt about it, the inclusion of Spider-Man had a huge impact on the box office. Seeing Spider-Man in “Civil War” was right up there with seeing Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk fighting together for the first time in “The Avengers”.
“Civil War” went on to make $1.153 billion at the box office. After that, Sony released “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, and that movie made $880 million at the box office. The previous Spider-Man movie, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” made $709 million. Sony always felt that Spider-Man was a movie franchise that should be at the top of the box office and their white whale was the billion dollar mark. Well, they finally got it with “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, which recently made over $1.110 billion.
Which leaves me to question, did the success of the Spider-Man movies cause all of this?
Regardless of what Sony has said in their press statement, I don’t think that Disney and Marvel wanted to lose Spider-Man in the MCU. If anything, they were possibly playing nice with Sony with the hopes of potentially getting the movie rights back to Spider-Man. So why would Marvel come out and say, “We’re too busy to help you and we don’t really need Spider-Man anymore. Good luck, you guys.” Disney may have been a little too greedy if they wanted a bigger piece of the pie. But there is something else that we aren’t being told.
Earlier this year, I watched Sony’s conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and let me tell you, I had a bad feeling about Spider-Man from the get-go. The goal at CES is usually for Sony to sell their “electronic” products to the public. You know: 4K TVs, cameras, audio, PS4’s and mobile phones. The majority of this conference had a huge Spider-Man presence. They were touting the success of “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” and how it was critically well received, a technical accomplishment and a box office hit. They then went on to push that they have hundreds of Spider-Man characters and were planning to utilize them in future movies, mostly spin off movies, due to the success of “Venom” and “Into The Spider-Verse”. And that just did not sound good.
They also pushed the huge success of the Spider-Man exclusive game for the PS4 and how it was becoming one of its best selling PS4 games. And just this week, Sony announced that it is purchasing Insomniac, the studio who developed the game for Sony. Sony is going to make a huge chunk from Spider-Man related properties going forward, although Disney still owns the merchandising rights to Spider-Man, which includes any movie merchandise.
If Sony was showing off new advancements in 4K or 8K TV’s at CES, “Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Venom” or Spider-Man PS4 was being displayed on them. I just had a bad feeling that with all of this Spider-Man success for Sony, that they were never going to let him go now. It would not surprise me if they felt that Spider-Man is so big now that he can sell himself and Sony really does not need the MCU anymore.
One other player to keep in mind here is Tom Rothman. Who is he? From 1996 – 2012, Rothman was the president of Fox’s movie studio. At the time, Fox owned the movie rights to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and Marvel Studios wanted a similar deal that they struck with Sony, in which both parties would benefit. But Rothman was known for adamantly being against any kind of deal with Marvel Studios and the main catalyst for why there was a feud between Disney, Marvel and Fox. Can you guess who is president of Sony Pictures now? Yup, it’s Rothman. Coincidence?
So, it may seem all dark an gloomy for Spider-Man and MCU fans, but I’m gong with the unpopular opinion that this may actually be good for the MCU. I loved Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Spider-Man and I loved his costume. But what I did not love was that he was more like Robin, The Boy Wonder, for Iron Man than he was actually Spider-Man. Spider-Man has to be his own hero. In ways, he has to be above everyone in the MCU, not a sidekick. (“Sky High” reference there.) And if I had to see Spider-Man with his mask off in Endgame one more time, I was going to scream. That’s not Spider-Man. As good as Spider-Man was in Civil War, he could have been a whole lot better, if he was written better, in future installments. It may be kind of nice not having Spider-Man lingering in Iron Man’s shadow from now on.
Another thing that may come about from this, is that Marvel is going to need someone to replace him in the MCU. And I am thinking that we might just be seeing the Fantastic Four and the X-Men a lot sooner than later. Who has been the most popular Marvel character in the comics after Spider-Man? Usually, it’s Wolverine. And I would love to see him make his debut in the MCU, again, much sooner than later. So maybe this just helped put the wheels in motion for that.
Finally, if you read this sentence in Sony’s statement:
“We hope this might change in the future.”
Anything can happen. And if history repeats itself, Sony will eventually screw up. And with Rothman being in charge, make that definitely. But the bottom line is, we just took several steps backwards of having Spider-Man becoming a permanent part of the MCU, and that kind of stinks for everyone.
Editor’s Note: This article contains the opinions of the author, Joe Hogarty. These opinions may or may not align with those of WDWNT LLC, Tom Corless, or anyone else on this planet. Please feel free to voice your own thoughts in the comments section below.