About Spider-Man, Sony, and Disney

There is notably quite a bit of disappointment about a publicly shared business decision over the current generation of Spider-Man films. Sony and Disney could not come to an agreement about shared production of the films, resulting in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man series henceforth no longer being included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only does this mean that Spidey will no longer be rubbing elbows with the collective of characters officially considered Avengers in the last two major MCU films, it also means that Spider-Man’s cast of foes will not be incorporated into the greater Cinematic Universe as well. And to be completely honest, it’s disappointing that Norman Osborne — the Green Goblin — may not get to move in and become an incredible Earth-based enemy for the world’s mightiest heroes.

At the same time, so what? Don’t get me wrong. I love Spider-Man. Spider-Man is probably my number one superhero and has been since I was a kid. I want more Spider-Man movies. I want there to be great Spider-Man films. I don’t want anything to impede the production of fantastic films featuring this character.

Over the past 20 years, we have received exactly one great Spider-Man film. It came out at the tail end of 2018 and apparently did not do spectacularly at the box office. That film was Into the Spider-Verse, which was produced solely by Sony and did not include the bells and whistles that would come with a Disney partnership. Meanwhile, Disney and Sony managed to produce a film that was merely fine called Spider-Man: Far from Home. Honestly, the elements connecting him to the greater MCU did more harm than good. Tony Stark apparently left Peter Parker, a hormonal teenager, a pair of glasses that links him into a global defense system because he wants Spider-Man to pick up where Iron Man left off. That’s a stupid move. Nick Fury, rather than keep them for himself or out of the hands of a teenager, has them delivered to Parker via clearly undertrained Skrull agents. Ridiculous. In the end, Spider-Man is outed as Peter Parker to the world. That’s — well… That’s an interesting direction to take the story. It’s not my type of Spider-Man story, but I’m not the only person watching. But this was done as sort of an ironic echo to the “I am Iron Man” moment at the end of the Iron Man film. Because Spider-Man is now the next Iron Man.

That said, I’m more than OK with moving on from the other Marvel films. Not because I expect every Sony film moving forward to be Into the Spider-Verse. That film was somehow managed through adverse conditions. The people behind it had to fight Sony execs to make the vision come true, and the fact that it did not make back its budget despite its popularity is bound to make it easier for the execs to punch down on future projects. I’m OK with these films moving on because I don’t really expect either studio to produce great films with the characters at their disposal. Their goal is to make mildly entertaining films featuring a character who is naturally a draw for the audience, ultimately to make money. There’s no concern about art or storytelling. It’s all the same thing from different faces. It’s just business.

Disney is in the business of owning as much as possible in order to produce as much as possible to generate as much revenue as possible. They have their fingers in many pots and toss many ideas out — many of which people have pointed out are pretty by the numbers productions — because they’re just trying to figure out what works. They expect failures. They don’t want failures, but they know there will be weak films (and the armchair critics have noticed more and more lately) and hope that name recognition or the stronger films make up for them. And, really, they want to be your primary source of entertainment. Take a step back and look at all of the properties they have thanks to having purchased Marvel way back when, having acquired LucasFilm almost a decade ago, and now having acquired Fox. I’m OK with Spider-Man being one thing they don’t have.

Aside from the fact that they own him in basically every single other format. Just not film. Guess they’ll have to settle for comics, novels, cartoons, toys, clothing, etc. while they no longer have to invest money in Sony’s making cinematic advertisements for their character. This is hardly the darkest timeline for Disney.

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