Marvel Entertainment and Sony Pictures have announced a new partnership involving the Spider-Man franchise that will bring the wall-crawler into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the announcement is not exactly a full return of the Spider-Man film rights to Marvel Studios that fans have been clamoring about for months, it does mean that Spider-Man will be introduced as a character into the global juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige will produce a new solo-Spider-Man film that will be set within the MCU.
Under the new deal, Marvel announced that Spider-Man will make his first appearance in a new Marvel film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This will be followed by a new live-action Spider-Man film scheduled for a July 28, 2017 release. As a result of the new deal, Thor: Ragnarok has been moved from its original July 28, 2017 release date to November 3, 2017.
Kevin Feige and his team at Marvel Studios will co-produce the film alongside former Sony Pictures co-chairwoman and studio head Amy Pascal. Pascal recently stepped down from her position to launch a new production venture with Sony. Her stepping down from her post was largely seen as punishment for the massive Sony hacking scandal from last winter. The hacking scandal saw numerous private e-mails and documents from Sony leaked, including some statements that were made by Pascal in the e-mails that were personally embarrassing.
Many news stories came out of the hacking scandal revolving around the future of the Spider-Man franchise at Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures appeared to be at a crossroads on what to do with the wall-crawler. The Amazing Spider-Man films were poorly received and were not as successful as Sony Pictures had hoped. Previously, Pascal and the studio had planned on making a self-contained Spider-Man Cinematic Universe which would see such spin-off films as the Sinister Six and Venom. Such ideas seemed faulty considering the live-action Spider-Man franchise did not have the background and support that the Marvel Cinematic Universe does.
Spider-Man being re-introduced in the MCU certainly has potential to re-energize the franchise and character, not to mention open up numerous possibilities for future crossovers and spin-offs. Specifically, Marvel confirmed that the studio is exploring opportunities with Sony Pictures to integrate MCU characters into future Spider-Man films. Just for example, perhaps this means the Daily Bugle and the likes of J. Jonah Jameson could appear in other MCU TV shows and films. Or Ben Urich could finally appear in a Spider-Man movie.
One other potential complication is that while Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios will be involved in the new Spider-Man film, Sony Pictures still holds distribution rights and final creative control of the Spider-Man films. The details of any type of financial split between Marvel/Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures for this ambitious new deal were not revealed. However, it is hard to see that the studios will be able remain friendly and cordial throughout the deal forever. In 2011, Walt Disney Studios traded all financial stake in the Spider-Man live-action movie franchise in exchange for all merchandising rights. That means that Sony did not make a cent off of merchandising for Spider-Man when The Amazing Spider-Man films were released. All of that cash went to Marvel/Disney. Under the new deal, Sony Pictures will finance the new solo Spider-Man film. One imagines that Sony and Disney had to arrange a financial split that was beneficial and agreeable for all parties in order for this deal to go through.
Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger did comment on the deal. He stated: “Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s great characters, beloved around the world. We’re thrilled to work with Sony Pictures to bring the iconic web-slinger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which opens up fantastic new opportunities for storytelling and franchise building.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige reinforced that the new deal will offer the creative continuity that fans have wanted to see with Spider-Man in the MCU. He went on to say: “I am thrilled to team with my friends at Sony Pictures along with Amy Pascal to produce the next Spider-Man movie. Amy has been deeply involved in the realization on film of one of the world’s most beloved characters. Marvel’s involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand from the MCU. I am equally excited for the opportunity to have Spider-Man appear in the MCU, something which both we at Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years.”
The news all but assures that the next solo Spider-Man film will be a reboot, and another actor will probably be cast in the role for Spidey’s first MCU appearance. The most feasible film for Spider-Man to make his MCU debut would most likely be Captain America: Civil War, which is due out on May 6, 2016. The only other two Marvel films coming out before July 28, 2017 are Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It seems unlikely Spider-Man would make his MCU debut in either film. In addition, one imagines that if Spider-Man did make an appearance in the Civil War film, it would be quite a different role in that story than the one depicted in the comics.
The best news fans can take from this though is that Spider-Man is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man appearing in The Avengers: Infinity War films to help the team battle Thanos is all but assured at this point.