With the critical and financial success of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming film, it is important to take a look back at the long road Marvel Studios had to take to regain the rights of their most iconic character.
It’s hard to believe, but in the late 1990s, Marvel was going out of business. To stay afloat, they sold the rights of several of their characters to film studios, puting the X-Men and Fantastic Four with Fox, and Spider-Man at Sony. Although this saved Marvel Comics from going bankrupt, it guaranteed fans wouldn’t see these characters on the same screen for a very long time.
In walks Sam Raimi. His Spider-Man movies were different than every other blockbuster to date, resulting in huge financial successes. After two of the widely regarded best comic book movies in history, the third was a critical flop. Raimi would eventually drop out, leaving Sony with no one to helm the project.
For years the web slinger laid dormant on the big screen, until 2012 with Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man movies. These films set out to create an Avengers-like cinematic universe building to the team up of the famous Spider-Man villains: The Sinister Six. The two movies would go on to be widely disliked – receiving the least amount of revenue out of any Spider-Man movie.
While this was happening, Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe was pulling in record numbers. When the third Captain America film was announced to follow the famous Civil War storyline, fans got a little concerned because in the comics, Peter Parker plays a pivotal role.
Seemingly out of nowhere enters Seth Rogan with his extremely controversial film, The Interview. Without going too much into it, the country of North Korea would go ahead and leak many of the email exchanges between the Sony higher ups. Among a slew of sexist remarks that would go on to give Sony a lot of issues, it was revealed that the head creative man at the MCU, Kevin Feige, was giving Sony tips on how to fix the Amazing Spider-Man franchise. This was exciting because it set up a link between the two film studios, but not much else.
Needless to say The Amazing Spider-Man Two essentially killed the Spider-Verse that Sony was trying to build. Trapped in a corner, Sony worked out a deal with Marvel Studios (Disney) to essentially share the rights to the character.
The way the agreement works, is that each studio would share the rights to the character of Spider-Man, and its box office earnings. Sony will benefit completely from solo movies (like Spider-Man: Homecoming) while Marvel will keep the profits from movies featuring Spider-Man (like Captain America: Civil War).
In practice, how this works is Spider-Man movies will be made by Sony, but set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Marvel just has to green light everything. When Spidey is only a side character, like in Civil War, it’s all up to Disney. The system is pretty simple, until one starts to look at potential spin-offs.
Its no surprise that Sony has been interested in making a Venom movie starring Tom Hardy. Can this movie feature Spider-Man? Will it be set in the MCU? If so, will they be able to do the character justice and make it rated R?
All of those questions are yet to be answered – but our best bet comes from a recent interview between Amy Pascal (Sony’s business executive) and the website Film Starts. While speaking about the upcoming Venom movie, Pascal explained “(It) will all take place in the world we’re now creating for Peter Parker. There’ll be adjuncts to it, there may be different locations, but they will all still be in the same world. And they will be connected to each other as well”. When asked if the current rendition of Spider-Man will be seen in the villain-led flick, she replied with; “There’s a chance.” This totally contradicts what Feige has said about the Venom movie; “(we have) no plans to include him in the MCU right now, it’s Sony’s project.”
Regardless what happens, the moral of the story is that the fans won the battle for Spider-Man. Although the original Sam Raimi movies are beloved by many, Sony proved they could not do the iconic character justice, and after years of complaining, we will finally see the web slinger on the same screen as his Avenger counterparts.