Marvel Comics fans have been chomping at the bit, so to speak, for almost a decade for a single, all-inclusive Marvel Cinematic Universe to come to fruition. But with several key characters and franchises tied up in various states of ownership across multiple film studios reluctant to play ball, this seemed like an impossible pipe dream. The faltering status of Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man films lead to rumors that the studio had reconsidered their previous stance on this issue and the web slinger might actually appear onscreen with his comic book brethren. When talks broke down, fans' hopes were dashed yet again as it seemed that the studio was going to ill-advisedly limp forward with their misguided plans for the franchise.
Then , last week, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios stunned everyone by announcing that Spider-Man would appear in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, after which Sony would release a Spider-Man film co-produced by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and former Sony Pictures Chairperson Amy Pascal on July 28, 2017; with Sony Pictures continuing to own, finance, distribute, and having final creative control of the Spider-Man films. This comes full-circle for the studio, as their original plans for Captain America: Civil War were to include Spider-Man in a similar role to the one he played in the original comic book version of the story. When the negotiations stalled, Marvel Studios chose to substitute him with the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up, 42). A lot of fans feel that including Spidey will (on the one hand) fill out the world a little more, but also take away from the screen time and development of the Panther, who has been trying to make it to film since the late 90's.
The reshuffling of Marvel's other Phase 3 films is also putting a bad taste in fans' mouths, as the studio is making big changes to its already solidified and well-received plans just to accommodate one character; which begs the question if including Spider-Man will end up resulting in a case of "Be careful what you wish for"? As it stands, Spidey and the Panther are battling it out for the #3 spot in Civil War's character roster, which if done wrong could spell disaster for the MCU and put it in almost the same predicament the Spider-Man franchise was in to begin with. If it's done right though, it could spell a new beginning for the franchise.
The plan is after Civil War to have all future Spider-Man and related films take place in the MCU, which as previously stated is what fans have wanted all along. This not only gives a bigger breadth of characters and inter-universe connections to make, but also is a huge step forward to the MCU being just as cohesive as the comic books that spawned it. It will have little effects such as Ben Urich now being able to be employed by the Daily Bugle and Spider-Man's parents being re-characterized as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as in the source material). First things first though, a new actor has yet to be cast to take over from Andrew Garfield. Marvel has said many times that they want to skip the origin story this time around and take the character "in a new creative direction". Rumors also indicate that we could see the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man or a suspiciously similar substitute be introduced into the MCU, but unconfirmed sources have reiterated that their version of Spider-Man will indeed be Peter Parker. We won't know for sure until an official cast announcement is made, but in the meantime the list of names rumored to be up for contention are all people who have been previously rumored for the role; such as Logan Lerman (Gamer, Fury), Dylan O'Brien (The Maze Runner, "Teen Wolf"), Donald Glover (The Lazarus Effect, "Community") and Jaden Smith (After Earth, The Karate Kid). At this point, it's anyone's guess where the studio will take this, but the fact that it's even happening at all is the point. Everybody said that a cohesive, single film universe for Marvel would be impossible because of Sony and 20th Century Fox's ownership of several flagship franchises. Well, you can scratch one off the list.
Which brings us to Fox, the last hold out. They currently control the film rights to the Fantastic Four and X-Men, including all related characters. The FF franchise is attempting the same sort of franchise relaunch that both Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2) and X-Men (X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past) franchises have already undergone, to various results. Many are dreading and outright hoping for the new FF reboot to fail and force Fox to seek out a similar deal to the Sony one. Like Sony, Fox has talked about forming their own cinematic universe based on the Marvel characters they control. They even hired comic book writer Mark Millar (Kick Ass, The Ultimates) to act as a creative consultant on this undertaking. But as the Spider-Man franchise has shown, trying to make a self-contained universe with a handful of supporting characters is much harder than it looks on paper. Fox has had success with this model thus far with the X-Men films, since it gives them access to pretty much every single mutant main and supporting character ever created. Sony wasn't able to do this with Spider-Man because he's the only top-tier hero they have access to.
Fox has managed to bring the X-Men films out of its 2-film slump (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and is now both critically and financially successful again, making the likelihood of them crossing their films over with the MCU pretty much a long shot. Plus, the MCU has already had to answer for the lack of mutants in its universe by bringing up the Inhumans to fill the void. Adding mutants back into the mix would actually over-saturate the films which is something that was able to work on the comic book page but would more than likely not be received well on film. Also, there are already two different versions of Quicksilver running around (no pun intended) so it'd be extremely hard to rectify that if Fox were to make a deal with Marvel somewhere down the line without rebooting and starting from scratch. And while it sucks that we will likely never see Wolverine teaming up with Captain America and the original Human Torch in WWII, perhaps for now it is for the best. It's still not even a guarantee that their Spidey gamble is actually going to work. If it does though, it just might leave the door open later on down the road for Marvel, Sony and Fox to collaborate on a fully formed cinematic universe featuring all the Marvel comic characters existing in continuity with each other. One can only hope at this point but that hope looks good.....