This is a piece looking at the current issue with Spider-Man and his place in the MCU. I will be looking at why this is happening, what it means for the future of the MCU and what, if any impact this will have on geek culture & the box office going forward.
This article was delayed as more information kept coming out but I decided the minute details do not really change the big picture and I might as well go with the broad strokes we have.
Why did it happen?
This is easy, the original deal is done, there is potentially one film left in the contract as there were rumours about an extra film being allowed if one of the Spidey solo films breaks the billion dollar barrier which we know Far from Home did, $1.1b world-wide to be precise.
It was now the time to renew the deal and hence to start firming up on the initial prelim talks.
Let’s be clear here: legally Sony hold all the cards. They ‘allowed’ Marvel to put Spider-Man in their MCU films in return for help in the creative direction of the solo Spidey films and appearance of MCU characters. Oh and a fee of 5% was thrown in as a sweetener (I hasten to add that all these details are leaked details and change from one day to the next).
To understand the old deal let’s look at each company and see what they stood to gain from it at that point in time.
1. Return of Marvel’s poster child to the MCU.. This is something all fanboys have wanted including the ones in charge of Marvel like Kevin Feige.
2. Potential increased box office due to Spidey’s presence in MCU films like Civil War as fanboys rush to see his return to the “fold”
3. 5% of any profits
1. A reinvigorated Spider-Man franchise especially after the Garfield films underwhelmed, and the Sony leak which led to public derision when their plans for the franchise were revealed to include such great ideas like Aunt May solo movies. Sony was seen as a studio totally lost with no ideas on what to do next.
2. Hopefully better box offices which is basically a naturally expected outcome of the previous point.
Now we can safely say that all sides achieved their ends. Also notice that apart from the fanboys wanting Spider-Man in the MCU all motivation basically lead to more money, this will come into play later.
Now it is a few years later and the landscape has changed, what are the new viewpoints for both companies?
Sony released a Venom film that did very well in the Box Office if not critically. It made over $800M. They also released Into the Spider-verse which was critically hailed and won an Oscar
So now Sony is thinking, actually we can make films with the Spiderman IP that make money and also make ones that are praised critically by all, face is saved and honour restored.
Chest is now puffed.
Marvel has become a juggernaut making billions on its films and with the last two Avengers movie making 2b & 2.7b respectively, and under their stewardship Far from Home became the first Spider-Man film to make a billion. Actually every MCU film released in 2019 made a billion minimum!
Disney/Marvel is also thinking “Wow we are great, we are so boss. Look we even helped Sony make more money than they have ever had in their Spider-man films before and the fans love us.”
Chest is also now puffed.
Companies are driven by the pursuit of profit; expecting anything else is stupid, so it is natural that for the new deal, Marvel having achieved all its goals will set new ones for this deal which translates to wanting more basically, and it is equally natural that Sony with renewed vigour and confidence would think we are in good shape and do not need to bow to any demands to give away more.
This is why this happened and I expect them to keep haggling and negotiating while using the earned goodwill of fans as sneaky bargaining tools.
I will not comment on the rumours of the initial 25% offer that was doubled to 50% by Disney a year later when Sony did not respond, or the other news about the role of Pascal and Rothman or the constant other ‘facts’ leaked into the public domain because I am not privy to the actual true details and anything I say would be pure speculation based on “he said, she said”.
How does MCU go ahead?
Now I fully expect the two companies to resolve this but let’s take the worst case scenario and assume they don’t and Spider-man is out of the MCU. What next then for the MCU?
To be honest I don’t think there is much harm to the MCU beyond the sadness of fans who want all Marvel characters to be part of the MCU franchise.
The MCU will just carry on as they did for the first phase and most of the second phase without Spider-Man.
I think we are in danger of overstating the importance of Spider-Man to the MCU.
The MCU is not Marvel Comics and has become its own thing: sadly it does NOT need Spider-Man. Spidey is a nice to have and NOT a must have.
Do not forget that even now Spidey has only been in 3 of the MCU films, that is 3 out of 21 not counting the solo Spidey films, and even in those 3 films he has had mostly minor parts. In Civil War he had a key role but in the great scheme of things it was fan service and not necessary to the film, his role could easily have gone to Miss Marvel or some other hero from the comics.
I say his role in Infinity War was mainly to give us the audience a grounded PoV and to tug at the heart strings of Tony with his death, again a key plot point but not a major one. His Endgame role was the most inconsequential of all three to be honest.
So his loss is not really that significant to the MCU and I believe they will probably go ahead with the films and just avoid any mentions of him, barely an inconvenience.
Potential impact on the CBM wars – Again assuming a deal is NOT reached.
This is where the biggest impact will be: Among the fanboys!
This part of the article will now be the most subjective as I will be trying to judge and predict the behaviour of the rabid mobs.
There will be multiple factions:
MCU haters who will love this – They will laugh at MCU but will not take any action that is different from what they are already doing.
MCU lovers who will hate it – They could potentially boycott any Sony Spiderman film at the cinemas.
Disney haters – They would also make a lot of noise but will not do anything that has direct impact beyond word of mouth. See what happened with Captain Marvel.
Sony haters – Same as Disney haters to be honest, all noise and no action
I believe sides will be taken, boycotts will/may be organised but the long-term effect will be determined more by the next non-MCU related film Sony release and how it does both critically and in the Box Office.
I believe any Sony-only Spider-Man movie will go back to making $800M at best at the Box Office, and most likely less than that. This is purely a prediction and could be totally wrong but if I was a betting man, and looking at track records and directions, I would expect Sony to screw it up.
I do not see any impact to the MCU box office due to this issue but rather any MCU issues will be solely based on the quality of their Phase 4 and Phase 5 films, but with the X-Men and Fantastic Four waiting in the wings they have some great munition just waiting to be unleashed.
What this will do is give a new injection to online flame wars for fans of this genre to battle over. Move over DC vs Marvel, we have a new undercard for the raging nerd fans: Sony vs Marvel.