What the Marvel/Sony deal could, does and should mean…

Marvel Entertainment released a press statement today, confirming that, after a long series of negotiations with Sony Pictures Entertainment, who own Spider-Man’s live-action rights, the character was finally to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside characters such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Marvel Entertainment released a press statement today, confirming that, after a long series of negotiations with Sony Pictures Entertainment, who own Spider-Man’s live-action rights, the character was finally to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside characters such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

First, it’s been confirmed that this Spider-Man will be a new incarnation, which will likely require a recasting. The top names reported are Logan Lerman – Sony’s second choice after incumbent Andrew Garfield – and Zac Efron, though America’s Matt Smith, Donald Glover, is a popular choice as well. If Glover were cast, it’s possible Sony would have chosen to start a new Spider-Man series with the Miles Morales identity rather than Parker. Personally, I find that unlikely, since it’s probably a soft reboot with little continuity than the basics, and that would mean the new Spider-Man will still be Parker. Which isn’t to say the series won’t develop into Morales being involved, but that’s only likely to happen once the new Parker’s already established. If Morales were to be featured eventually, I wouldn’t say no to Glover being cast. But I would protest to him being cast as Parker, because he’s much more suited as an actor to Morales. He’s a much more interesting character, and Glover’s probably a decent actor, so it would be a shame to miss that opportunity for combination by wasting the potential just to cast Glover as the de facto Spider-Man, rather than a character far more suited to him. Regardless of who’s cast as Spider-Man, there are a lot of actors capable of doing it. Someone we’ve seen before isn’t necessarily a stunt cast, but could help ease the transition to a new version. And a name we haven’t heard before could work, but Sony might not expect the audience to accept a completely new face. SPE Motion Picture Group President Doug Belgrad said,

“This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future”,

implying Parker will still be the cinema version of the character.

But that doesn’t mean we’ll have to experience his origin story for a third time. The press release states the new Spider-Man will first be seen in a Marvel Studios production as part of the Cinematic Universe. The implication seems to be that he’ll debut in the solo release of another character. The next MCU release, Joss Whedon‘s Avengers: Age of Ultron, has finished principal photography, so it’s likely this appearance will be in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely‘s Captain America: Civil War. Leaked Sony emails reveal negotiations were already in place for Spider-Man to appear at that point, given his significant role in the comic book storyline Civil War. As these negotiations have finalised, it’s likely to still be the case, especially as it isn’t too late to rewrite the screenplay. Black Panther’s already been confirmed to debut there as well, as it was speculated that the character’s presence was a Spider-Man substitute. Would there be space to add Spider-Man as well? Maybe not and maybe so, but if it turns out to be true, it would be interesting to see how accurately it follows the source material. From what I hear, Civil War‘s major event is Spider-Man revealing his secret identity to the press, which would be a difficult event to reverse if Sony change their mind. What is confirmed about this release is that it’s going to happen before the 28th July 2017, which means, if not Captain America: Civil War, it would be either Jon Spaihts‘ Doctor Strange or James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Making his debut Doctor Strange would be a good idea, as Benedict Cumberbatch would already have attracted audiences, and that would provide maximum exposure. I honestly can’t see it being Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which takes place throughout the Milky Way and far from Earth. I like to think they won’t come to Earth because we already lots of other characters for that. Doctor Strange would be the most effective, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would be the most unlikely, Captain America: Civil War would be the most likely, but there’s still the possibility of a post-credits cameo in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If the MCU Spider-Man’s pre-established, he’ll have already experienced his origin story. But there should still be one for clarity’s sake, and a post-credits sequence would be the best opportunity for that. We’d be able to see it, it would officially introduce the character, but it wouldn’t take up any unnecessary time in his solo release.

Which is what the 28th July 2017 date’s now reserved for, shunting future MCU releases along futher into the future. There was a five year wait between Sam RaimiIvan Raimi and Alvin Sargent‘s Spider-Man 3 and Steve VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man. Following Alex KurtzmanRoberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner‘s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there’s now a five year wait again. As it happens, we’ve only discovered this with two of those remaining, so that’s something. Plus, Marvel Studios are very efficient at manufacturing an assembly line of releases, and two years seems like a good length of time before releasing it, because that’s the average between announcement and release.

What’s pleasing is that Spider-Man‘s being produced by Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Sony’s Amy Pascal. They tend to be the equivalents of each other in their respective companies, and actually having a face to the discussions is comforting. I already know them, and respect them, and the fact that this blog post is even being written is testament to their ability to work together.

That being said, Sony still own the character’s cinema rights, and will be financing and majorly controlling future cinema releases for Spider-Man, which is slightly worrying. Sony aren’t as big a company as Disney, and from the way the agreement’s worded, it sounds as if Disney legally can’t fund any Spider-Mans because of Sony’s ownership. If Disney fund it, that gives them a right to grossing shares, and that changes their agreement. The last thing that needs to happen at this stage is for Marvel to violate that agreement, even in a small way, because that would give Sony the power to revoke their agreement. And the fact that Sony still own the character is quite disappointing, but then that’s how it would inevitably turn-out. Spider-Man’s the highest-grossing fictional character, and the MCU’s the highest-grossing cinematic series. It makes sense to unite them. But it’s for that same reason that Sony wouldn’t want to just give up the character, so them coming out of negotiations still owning him makes sense, even if I wish they’d just leave it alone and let Marvel use him how they want without having to stick to any guidelines. It’s this same agreement that says Marvel can’t fund it. And even worse, there’s Sony’s ability to overrule Marvel on any decisions made regarding the character. How Marvel expect to ingratiate the character into their own continuity while also letting Sony have the final say on that character’s releases’ creative decisions is worrying. Can this really work? I don’t know. But I’m just hoping it does. Generally, I think, since Sony need this investment, but Marvel are better at handling their properties, Sony’s only interest will be in making money. So that should mean that the only decisions they’ll be overriding are ones they think will compromise a Spider-Man‘s grossing. But given Marvel’s also a part of it, I can’t see them making the kind of decision that would do that. Hopefully, this will be a case of Sony letting Marvel do their own thing, but overruling them whenever they consider it necessary. And that kind of relationship works for me. If Sony are wise, they’ll use their major creative control to let Marvel do what they know they should.

Interestingly, the agreement specifies that Sony will only have that control over the new Spider-Man series. What that sounds like to me is that whenever Spider-Man appears in a non-Spider-Man, Marvel can use him how they like. So when Spider-Man appears in his debut, which will be part of another series, Marvel have full control. The solo release will then be controlled by Sony, but if Spider-Man then goes on to feature in Avengers: Infinity War — Part I, Sony won’t be involved in that. Which also works for me. A character in the MCU is two things – their own character, and crossover potential. Marvel are likely to care about the crossover potential more than that character’s own solo outings, which makes their compromise more satisfying than it could have been, and also more realistic.

The release also states other MCU characters will appear in the Spider-Man series. How this works between Sony and Marvel is anyone’s guess, but it could be the reverse of what we already have here. Meaning that if Sony wanted to include Antony Stark in Spider-Man 2 (which would be a good move, he’s the MCU’s highest-grossing individual character), he’d only appear on Marvel’s terms. I don’t really see that being a problem, since this agreement has already happened, and I believe in the combined power of Feige and Pascal. They’re like the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet – put them together, and you unlock literally endless possibilities.

Author: alexsigsworth

Basically... run.

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