Sony’s New Plan for Spider-Man
By Ethan Cannistra, Staff Writer
A story that shook the movie industry in recent weeks is the news that Spider-Man will no longer be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony will continue to produce and distribute Spider-Man films, but Peter Parker will no longer be allowed to interact with The Avengers or reference other Marvel characters. Since this story broke in August, there has been a significant amount of confusion over who owns the film rights to Spider-Man. There has also been a lack of understanding has to how Spider-Man was able to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU, at all and how Sony Pictures has the ability to remove him from the MCU. To understand how Spider-Man left the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is important to understand the history of the Spider-Man film rights. In December 1996, Marvel filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. As a result of that, the company decided to sell off several of their film properties in order to make some easy money. For this reason Marvel sold the Spider-Man film rights to Sony in 1999. While Marvel still owned the intellectual property rights to Spider-Man, the company was not allowed to create any television shows or movies involving the character.
Once Sony acquired the film rights to Spider-Man, the company moved quickly to produce their own feature film. Sam Raimi was brought in to direct the film, Tobey Maguire was set to star, and a release date was set for May 3, 2002. Spider-Man was a massive hit for Sony. The film grossed $821.7 million worldwide, and was loved by both critics and fans. After Sony saw that they had the potential to build a franchise, a sequel was immediately green-lit. The sequel would simply be called Spider-Man 2 and Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire were set to return. The sequel was another massive hit for Sony. The film grossed over $783 million worldwide and is still considered one of the best comic-book movies ever made. The third movie in the Spider-Man trilogy would be called Spider-Man 3, and both star and director were set to return. Spider-Man 3 went on to become the highest grossing film of the franchise at that time. However, the film was not received well by critics or audiences. The bad reception of Spider-Man 3 led to Sony scrapping the plans that they had for a fourth Spider-Man staring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi. Sony decided that it would be best for them to reboot the Spider-Man franchise.
It was announced in May 2010 that Sony would be rebooting the Spider-Man franchise. Andrew Garfield was attached to star as Peter Parker, Mark Webb was attached to direct, the film would be called The Amazing Spider-Man, and a release date was set for July 3, 2012. The film was met with mixed reactions after its release. The Amazing Spiderman received a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences heavily criticized Andrew Garfield’s interpretations of the character. However, the film still grossed over $757 million at the global box office. The Amazing Spider-Man performing well at the box office assured Sony that there was enough incentive to make an Amazing Spider-Man sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was green-lit with a release date for May 2, 2014. The movie was met with negative reactions upon its release with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 52%. The movie also grossed $709 million worldwide. However, the film did not meet Sony’s exceptions of a 1 billion dollar box office. The disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is what pushed Sony and Marvel Studios into a partnership that has never been seen before in Hollywood history.
In 2015, it was officially announced that Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe for 5 films. The deal was simple. Sony would continue to own 100% of the film rights to Spider-Man and his subsidiary characters. Sony would then loan the character to Marvel and he would be able to appear with other Marvel heroes. Marvel would keep all the profits from the MCU movies Spider-Man appeared in. However, Sony would have creative input on the way that Spider-Man is used within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony would also continue to produce and distribute stand-alone Spider-Man movies. However, Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, would be given a co-producer credit along with Amy Pascal. This would allow for other Marvel characters to show up in Sony’s Spider-Man movies. In exchange for Kevin Feige producing Spider-Man films at Sony, Disney would be given a generous production fee, 5% of the films’ gross, and they would be able to keep the Spider-Man merchandising rights that they purchased from Sony in 2014. This was a deal that both Disney and Sony were happy with.
After it was announced that Spider-Man would be appearing in the MCU, it was quickly confirmed that Tom Holland would be portraying the character and Jon Watts would direct the film. However, before Tom Holland would get his own Spider-Man feature film, he would first appear in Captain America: Civil War in a small role. Having Holland appear as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War would allow audiences to see what his portrayal would look like and how the character would interact with the rest of the MCU.
Holland’s introduction into the MCU was met with rave reviews from fans and critics. Seeing Spider-Man interact with Tony Stark was something that fans had been waiting for and was something that was believed to never happen. Once fans were introduced to Holland’s Spider-Man they did not have a long time to wait for the first MCU Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film was released on July 7, 2017 with great reviews from fans and critics. Tom Holland then went on to play Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
The fifth and final film that would be made with Marvel and Sony was Spider-Man: Far From Home, starring Tom Holland and directed by Jon Watts. This film would be the final movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity saga. Once the film was released, it was met with positive reviews from both critics and fans. Spider-Man: Far From Home was also the highest grossing movie that Sony had ever distributed. The film earned over $1.1 billion at the global box office. Since Spider-Man: Far From Home was the last movie that would be made under the current deal between Sony and Marvel, there was a possibility that Sony would take the character back and make stand-alone Spider-Man films. However, with Tom Holland being a fan-favorite, being allowed to have Spider-Man interact with other Marvel superheroes, and having the collaboration between Sony and Marvel being a financial success, it seemed very likely that a new deal would be signed.
However, on August 19 Deadline reported that Spider-Man would be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe because Disney and Sony failed to reach a new agreement. Disney wanted a 50/50 co-financing deal in place of receiving the 5% of the total gross that was agreed upon in the original contract. Sony turned down this offer because a 50/50 co-financing deal would take away some of Sony’s ownership over the Spider-Man property. Sony losing any of their ownership over Spider-Man is something that they are not going to allow because it is the most profitable property they have. While it is understandable that Disney would want a higher percentage of the prophets from the Spider-Man films that they help produce, 50% is too high. The fact that Disney made this extreme offer and refused to negotiate shows how Disney is trying to take back ownership of Spider-Man. Sony should not agree to the deal Marvel is asking for and is making the right decision to pull Spider-Man out of the MCU. Sony now plans to introduce Spider-Man into their own cinematic universe that they started in 2018 with the movie Venom.
While there is still hope that Spider-Man will come back to the MCU, it looks like the character will be starring in his own solo films at Sony for now on. However, having solo Spider-Man movies is not a bad thing. While Sony has produced some bad Spider-Man films, such Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, they have also produced some great films such as Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. While it would be better to have Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character is still in good hands at Sony Studios.