The idea that Sony and Marvel would stockpile their toys and learn to play together was once a toy-box fantasy for fans, and while there's still some ambiguity surrounding their ground-breaking deal, it's remarkable that they've made this pipe dream a reality. Allowing #SpiderMan into the MCU has allowed for new narrative directions for both studios, and also has significant financial benefits for both parties. By extension, Marvel and Sony have broken the boundaries of what's possible in cinematic storytelling, creating potential opportunities for any number of inter-studio collaborations.
Prior to the billion-dollar #Disney hit, Captain America: Civil War, Sony had creatively exhausted their leading superhero, failing to relaunch interest with Andrew Garfield's Amazing Spider-Man. At the same time, Marvel raked in over $10 billion at the box office without a single relaunch. In retrospect, letting Marvel Studios step in as producers on a new series of Spider-Man films seems like a no-brainer, but it's important to remember that this was a groundbreaking reinvention of how properties could be utilized on the big screen.
When asked about the deal, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige shared how the partnership ultimately came to be.
"It really came down to me telling Amy (Sony Pictures producer) in her office that I think the best thing for this character is: Sony has the rights, that's not changing...Have Sony pay for the movie, distribute the movie, market the movie. Just let us make the movie and incorporate him into our universe."
Adding to this insight, Sony Pictures's Amy Pascal explained that this wasn't purely a financial benefit, and that the studio would also be learning from the world's most successful cinematic universe to date.
"It would have been silly for Sony to do this movie with Marvel and not get the benefit of what Marvel knows...The whole point was to trust other people and know when other people are really good at what they do."
So, in a manner that is reminiscent of many superhero team-ups, these studios went from having a costly rivalry to scoring a win-win collaboration. Both studios would benefit from the universe's narrative progression, while also providing fans with a deal that many thought would be impossible. However, ironing out the kinks of how Spider-Man will interact with each franchise has been a much more complex matter.
'Homecoming', The Spiderverse & The MCU:
In principle, #Marvel Studios and #Sony share the rights to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, allowing Tom Holland to appear as the web-crawler in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while Sony builds its own franchise around his multitude of supporting characters. Because there's no filmmaking precedent for a deal of this magnitude, critics and fans alike have been struggling to wrap their heads around the idea.
Speaking of the most anticipated Sony spin-off, #Venom starring Tom Hardy, Kevin Feige claimed that there were no plans to include the symbiote in the #MCU, claiming that it was purely a Sony project. However, comments made by Pascal seemed to contradict this claim - albeit with the best intentions.
“Well, those movies [like Venom] will all take place in the world that we’re now creating for Peter Parker. They’ll all be adjuncts to it. They may be different locations, but it will still all be in the same world. They will all be connected to each other as well.”
This contradiction is mostly just an issue of semantics and is likely to happen when two studios attempt such a radical move. While there's currently no intention of introducing anyone from Spider-Man's gallery of rogues into the MCU, that doesn't mean the ensuing Spiderverse can't exist in the same cinematic space. In short, Pascal clarified that the Sony-Marvel deal has created one universe with two worlds that can influence each other without crossing over.
"Here's what we're doing: all these characters are a part of the Marvel comic book universe... In that universe, they are all related to each other. Kevin [Feige] makes characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These characters are separate, except for Spidey, who belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is why he's there."
This is similar in principle to the template that Marvel implements with its TV shows. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seemingly cut ties with the MCU after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Netflix shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage haven't had close ties to the wider #MCU since Daredevil's first season. These symbiotic properties can stand on their own, leaning only on the studio's larger presence for the sake of Easter Eggs and fan service.
So, if a deal of this nature is really that lucrative, why doesn't everyone do it? Marvel Comics is an umbrella category covering the Avengers, Spider-Man, the #XMen, #Deadpool and many other widely known properties, so is there any chance we could see a future multi-studio crossover that lets all these properties play together?
Fox's 'First Family' And The X-Men:
While Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and his cohort of side-characters, 20th Century Fox owns Marvel's mutants and Marvel's 'first family', the Fantastic Four. After Spider-Man swung into the MCU, fans were optimistic about the chances of future crossovers between studios, particularly given that the studios had been forced to the negotiating table over Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - coming out with two of the best superhero movies in recent memory.
However, despite recent collaborations between the two studios over television properties, Kevin Feige has put the brakes on any movie crossovers in the near future, with a sentiment that's fast becoming the Marvel company line:
"There’s no weirdness. It is just very very cut and dry, and they’re doing their thing, and they’re doing it quite well in most regards, and we’re doing our thing."
Fox's X-Men ensemble movies have failed to hit the previous heights of the franchise, but recent spin-off success in the form of Deadpool and Logan have given the studio a new lease of life - so much so that they're releasing three X-Men movies next year. It was ultimately creative issues that led Sony to make a deal with Marvel, so the success of these titles could work against the notion of an all-inclusive cinematic universe.
That being said, Feige refuses to rule out the possibility, a characteristic that was necessary when making the Spider-Man deal a reality.
"The only reason I don't say "no, never" is because of the amazing things that have happened over the 17 years here. But I don't see that happening anytime soon."
So, while the door is currently closed on a Sony-type deal with Fox, it's by no means impossible and the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming is something the creative minds at Fox will surely be watching closely. Spider-Man has set a precedent that could be emulated in the future, and not just within the superhero genre.
The dream of a multi-studio behemoth crossover is still far from reality, but it's further from the pipe dream it once was thanks to Homecoming. Marvel has established a tentative precedent that J.J. Abrams once attempted with the Star Trek franchise. His effort to satisfy Paramount and CBS with a universe that would please both parties ultimately failed, and may have led to his departure from the Captain's chair for Star Trek: Beyond.
"Much to the dismay of Bad Robot, CBS’ merchandising arm continued to create memorabilia and products based on the cast of the original 1960s series and market them to Trekkies… Bad Robot asked CBS to stop making products featuring the original cast, but talks broke down over money… In response, the company scaled back its ambitions to have “Star Trek’s” storylines play out with television shows, spin-off films and online components, something Abrams had been eager to accomplish."
Although Abrams' plan never came to fruition, the Spider-man bargain has now shown studios like CBS and Paramount that fans will actively make an effort to understand a continuity that includes properties owned by more than one studio - so it's fair to say that his plans for Trek could have been a huge success.
Including Fans In The Filmmaking Process:
With the prevalence of social media and instant news, fans have never before been so intimately aware of the production process of their favorite franchises. It's easier than ever before to follow the inner-workings of the industry, and studios like Marvel are more than happy for fans to get a taste of the action before the film's release. In fact, this has been an aspect of the MCU's success, and is now part of a formula that other studios hope to replicate.
Marvel has already revolutionized the movie-making industry with the unparalleled success of their cinematic universe, capitalizing on a dedicated fanbase that's more than ready to ingest every new episode, movie, promo or behind-the-scene featurette under the MCU umbrella.
Similarly, the Marvel fandom has proven to be more than capable of understanding the battle-lines between studios, shrugging off multiple interpretations of characters like Quicksilver, or alternate interpretations of what makes a mutant and what it means to be 'enhanced'. In fact, a big part of why the Spider-Man deal worked is because these studios were confident that their fans would easily comprehend the bargain, and could therefore fully embrace it.
Whatever this means for future studio crossovers, the fans are bound to win in the long run. If Spider-Man: Homecoming is a box office success, it will prove to studios that striking a deal with their fellow filmmakers can be worth the trouble. In an industry where just about every major franchise is looking to kick-start a cinematic universe, the possibilities have been significantly broadened thanks to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Which non-MCU character would you most like to see join the Avengers? Sound off below!