Spider-Man’s Return to Sony Could be a Good Thing (Analysis)

This morning, the news broke that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would be leaving the MCU. Due to failed negotiations between Disney and Sony (more on that later), the famous web-slinger will be returning to Sony Pictures and Kevin Feige will be removed from having any creative influence on future Spider-Man films. After Deadline broke the news, Twitter exploded with complaints. Fans of Holland’s Spidey and the MCU were furious. After all, they’ve had him for 5 movies so far between Captain America: Civil War in 2016 to July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. But is this turn of events really a bad thing for Spidey fans? There’s a lot of fingers being pointed, namely at Sony, but are they in the wrong? Let’s discuss.

Kevin Feige (L) with Tom Holland (R)

The Details

Under the Disney/Sony deal that brought Spider-Man into the MCU, Marvel was given creative entry to the Spidey films for the first time. This led to Kevin Feige receiving producer credits for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, and ultimately being the creative mastermind behind the two films and how they fit into the MCU as a whole: Homecoming establishing Peter and Tony’s relationship and Far From Home showing what the world was going to look like after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Despite Marvel’s strong creative influence behind Homecoming and Far From Home, they were only earning 5% of first-dollar gross with these movies, with Sony taking the other 95%. Seeing as a film like Far From Home just cashed in as Sony’s biggest box office success ever with $1.1B and counting, that’s a lot of cash for Sony when it seems Marvel may have done all the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

So when it came time to negotiate a new deal, Disney came out swinging. They asked for a 50/50 split, keeping one half and Sony taking the other half. Sony’s negotiating team, led by Tom Rothman, said no. It’s reported that they had a few counter-offers, but Disney didn’t take the bait. Leading to a stalemate, Sony stripped all creative influence from Feige and Marvel, taking back full rights to the 900+ Spider-Man characters they have in their arsenal. Lost in all the hubbub was a key detail, though: Tom Holland and director Jon Watts will be returning for a third and fourth Spider-Man film, this time under Sony’s creative control instead of Marvel’s. That’s a lot to take in. So… what does all this mean? A couple things:

  • Kevin Feige and the rest of Marvel Studios will not have any ties to the next two Spider-Man films whatsoever
  • The next two Spider-Man films cannot reference the MCU or any of its characters, nor can they use them (this includes Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, and Nick Fury, 3 players that have been heavily tied to Peter’s story thus far)
  • It’s likely that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may show up in Sony’s upcoming sequel to their 2018 hit Venom, and he may turn out to be a main character in Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC)
Kevin Feige (L) and Tom Rothman (R)

The Pros

One of the biggest complaints about Holland’s Spidey is that he’s not comic-accurate, that he’s simply “Iron Man Jr.” There’s… certainly something to be said there. Uncle Ben hasn’t even been mentioned, let alone seen in this incarnation of Peter Parker’s story. Instead, Peter’s dealt with losing his father figure of Tony Stark in Endgame. This is just one of many popular complaints. Others include the fact that Peter doesn’t really ever deal with money problems, seemingly having everything handed to him, the fact that Aunt May doesn’t ever worry about him being Spider-Man, but actually encourages it, the fact that MJ is a complete departure from her comic book counterpart, the fact that we don’t ever really see a whole lot of Spider-Man’s world, just Spider-Man interacting with the Avengers’ world, et cetera, et cetera. You get the point. I want to state loud and clear that I’m not saying any of these things are explicitly bad, they’re just different. And the complaints are certainly valid.

That being said… many of those complaints could very well disappear entirely in these next two Spidey films. Since they won’t even be allowed to reference Tony Stark at all, there won’t be any “Iron Man Jr.” complaints, and we will likely be seeing more of Peter living in Peter’s world as opposed to seeing Peter live in the greater MCU. There’s a lot of characters and moments from Peter’s MCU past that Sony simply isn’t allowed to use anymore, and that could very well introduce us to a much more contained Spider-Man series.

Another potential pro is the idea of Spider-Man joining Tom Hardy’s Venom in the SUMC. Hype for Venom 2 is growing rapidly now that Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) is attached as director and legendary cinematographer Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill) has signed on. It’s certainly shaping up to be an improvement from its 2018 predecessor which, despite earning $856M, only received a measly 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. We already know Jared Leto is currently filming Morbius for a July 2020 release in this cinematic universe, and it’s rumored that Woody Harrelson’s Carnage will be featured in Venom 2. Now throw Tom Holland’s beloved Spidey into the mix… there’s a lot to be excited for there! Sony certainly agrees.

Tom Hardy in Venom

The Cons

Now that we’ve discussed potential pros, let’s discuss the obvious potential cons. Spider-Man is leaving the MCU after 3 years. It seemed that Marvel was going forward with a new “trinity” of Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Spider-Man: three of the only characters to earn a billion dollars in a solo film for Marvel Studios. Clearly, that’s no longer the plan. What does this mean for the future of the MCU? It’s unclear. We know Marvel has an abundance of projects they’re currently working on for Phase 4 and beyond, but now we know none of them will include what is perhaps their biggest character: Spider-Man. Although Feige does love the wall-crawler, let’s be real: he’s got plenty of other toys. Not only does he have the ever-expanding arsenal of MCU heroes he’s been working with for the past 11 years, but the recent acquisition of Fox brought the X-Men and the Fantastic Four back to Marvel. The future of the MCU itself is definitely bright, but it will be missing a piece. Out of the 5 MCU films Holland’s Spidey appeared in, Homecoming made the least amount of money, but still finished with a strong $880M. The other 4 films all crossed a billion dollars at the box office, with Infinity War and Endgame crossing $2 billion. Only time will tell if Marvel can continue its success without Peter Parker.

There’s also a concern that Holland’s Spidey is moving over to a clearly lesser franchise in the SUMC. Out of those 5 aforementioned MCU films he appeared in, all of them are certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while the SUMC only has one outing in Venom, a massive critical failure. Like I mentioned before, the hype for Venom 2 is definitely building, but there’s not a great track record so far. Venom may have been able to cash in at the box office and keep the SUMC afloat, but Morbius may not be so lucky next summer. If Sony can’t produce good movies, this deal will be a significant downgrade from the beloved Homecoming and Far From Home.

Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Tom Holland (R) in Avengers: Endgame

Conclusion

Should Disney have demanded a 50/50 split with a character they don’t even own the rights to? Probably not. Does Sony understand that a large reason for Spidey’s recent success was Marvel’s creative team, led by Kevin Feige? It seems not. There’s no good guy or bad guy here.

The fans really only want one thing: good Spider-Man stories. Sony was able to produce legendary Spidey stories like Spider-Man 2 and Into the Spider-Verse, so there’s certainly hope for the future of the Spider-Man franchise. Personally, I just hope that Sony remembers one thing as they re-acquire my favorite character of all time: With great power, comes great responsibility.

Preston Moore