Epic movie plot twist: Sony, Marvel reach Spider-Man deal

Epic movie plot twist: Sony, Marvel reach Spider-Man deal

The biggest news in Chicago—and one of the biggest in America—this week was Little League stripping Jackie Robinson West of its U.S. championship title.

But there was a lesser-known news story this week that will have a much bigger impact on your life than the JRW story (unless, of course, you are directly part of the JRW team).

On Monday, Sony Pictures Entertainment agreed to share the iconic Spider-Man character with Marvel Studios. Sony has owned movie rights to the character since 1999, when Marvel sold those movie rights to Sony for a mere $7 million.

Before Monday, Marvel had been fruitlessly negotiating with Sony for quite a while to reacquire the movie rights to Spider-Man.

Here's how the deal goes

  • The benefit to Marvel: they can use Spider-Man in its films as early as 2016.
    That means no Spider-Man appearance in this year's Avengers: Age Of Ultron. We may hear Spidey being referenced in Age Of Ultron but it does not look like Spider-Man will actually be in the film.
    Since Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange are the only Marvel Studios movies planned for 2016, we are almost certainly going to see Spider-Man in Civil War. This makes sense given his importance in the comic book Civil War storyline.
  • The benefit to Sony: Kevin Feige will help Sony Pictures produce a solo Spider-Man film for 2017.
    After Spidey's appearance in Marvel Studios' Captain America 3 in 2016, he will be back in a Sony Studios solo movie on July 28, 2017. Only this time, the Sony film will be co-produced by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
    After the disappointing box office of Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony had pushed the release date for the third movie in the planned trilogy to 2018. Then the studio decided to nix the third movie altogether. Sony had basically ruined the movie status of the beloved wall-crawler. This deal with Marvel Studios basically admits that.
    In allowing Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige to co-produce a Sony movie, Sony is hoping that bringing in Feige will also bring in his Midas touch to resurrect the sagging Spider-Man franchise. Feige has been at the helm of ten consecutive Marvel Studios blockbusters, including the surprise blockbuster involving a talking tree and a talking raccoon that earned more than Amazing Spider-Man 2.
    Though the deal officially says Sony retains final creative control on Spider-Man in movies, you can bet that Sony will let Feige have full creative authority.
  • A new Spider-Man will be cast.
    While Andrew Garfield was widely well-received by both fans and critics, a younger actor is being sought to replace the 31-year-old Garfield. That's unfortunate, as I personally thought he physically looked the part of Peter Parker more than Tobey Maguire.
  • The real Peter Parker will be used.
    In likely a shot at Fox Studios' choice of the Ultimate version of the Fantastic Four in its upcoming reboot, this deal will have Peter Parker. Not Miles Morales, the Ultimate version of Spider-Man, as some short-sighted people are apparently clamoring for. Thank God.
    Part of Marvel Studios' mammoth success is that—unlike other studios—it leverages the audience's familiarity with their main characters. Iron Man is who we all thought he would look like. Thor is who we all thought he would look like. Captain America is who we all thought he would look like.
    But when you change major characters (like Jamie Foxx as Electro—who not only was black but also didn't wear the iconic electricity-styled mask—in Sony's Amazing Spider-Man 2 dud, or Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fox's questionable Fantastic Four reboot), you are immediately working uphill to win audiences over.
  • Neither studio will get any money from the other.
    Surprisingly, Marvel Studios did not pay a penny to Sony to get access to Spider-Man. At the same time, Marvel does not get a penny from Sony Pictures despite Feige working on their movie. Likewise, Sony won't get any cut from any Marvel Studios films that have Spider-Man in it. Marvel will incidentally benefit from increased Spider-Man merchandise sales if Feige can resurrect the movie franchise, though.
  • Several Marvel Studios film release dates have changed.
    To accommodate the new release date for the Feige-helmed Spider-Man movie on July 28, 2017, Marvel Studios has pushed back Thor: Ragnarok from July 28, 2017 to Nov 3, 2017.  In turn, Black Panther—which originally had the Nov 3, 2017 date—is pushed up to July 6, 2017. Inhumans is pushed back from Nov 2, 2018 to summer 2019. And Captain Marvel is pushed back from Jul 2, 2018 to Nov 2, 2018.
  • There's a chance some Marvel Studios characters show up in Sony's Spider-Man movies.
    This would seem to be a move to restore some fanboy credibility to the Sony Spider-Man movies, which in turn can help boost Marvel's Spider-Man merchandising sales.

This deal is a movie game-changer. In fact, it may literally change the storyline for Captain America: Civil War. Originally, it was widely rumored that Black Panther would play the movie role that Spider-Man played in the comics—being torn between choosing Iron Man or Captain America's side. This was because at the time, Spider-Man wasn't available to Marvel Studios. But now that the web-head is available, screenwriters may have to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. It may be as  simple as making Spider-Man and Black Panther both being on the fence in the movie. Or not. Who knows?

It may even change some of the scenes for Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Given that Spider-Man resides in the same city as Iron Man, it's now a bit surreal to watch the world blow up in Age Of Ultron and Spider-Man is nowhere to be found. My guess is a passing reference to Spider-Man will be made.

One thing's for sure. Marvel Studios knows what to do to make good movies. Even my wife, who is not an avid movie watcher, makes an exception for Marvel Studios movies. It's laughable that people want to offer advice to Marvel Studios, as if Marvel Studios needs your dubious advice. That's like people telling God how He should run the universe. It's one thing to try to predict what Marvel will do, but it's quite another to tell them what to do. You can tell Sony what to do. You can tell Fox what to do. But don't tell Marvel what to do.

The bottom line

I for one am supremely excited to see how Marvel Studios will handle their most famous asset. Given the quality of all their other movies, it should be a treat to see Spider-Man properly used on the big screen, back "home" where he belongs. (And isn't it ironic that a comic book company makes better movies than movie companies?)

Next, Marvel needs to get the X-Men back from Fox for more fun crossover action. And Marvel needs to get the Fantastic Four back from Fox just to save the classic superhero team from the disaster that Fox is doing to it.

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