“Honorable representatives of the Republic, I come to you under the gravest of circumstances…” I choose to echo Queen Amidala’s opening remarks to the Senate in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” because this is truly the gravest of circumstances. Marvel and Sony’s negotiations over the distribution rights of Spider-Man have stalled, resulting in Marvel no longer being able to produce and distribute films or any type of media starring the iconic superhero. Or more simply put, Spider-Man, perhaps the most famous superhero in the world after Batman and Superman, will no longer be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though he has starred in 2 solo films and 3 major crossover films in just the past few years. Indeed, the character that was being groomed to be Iron Man’s successor in the most profitable movie franchise in history was defeated by corporate negotiations…
If you aren’t familiar with Spider-Man’s weird situation, you might be thinking “Why does Marvel need to work with Sony over a character that was created by Marvel?”. Well, in the 1990s, Marvel was not doing so hot, so they sold off the rights of some of their most profitable characters to other major studios to stay afloat. Powerhouses like “The Fantastic Four” and “The X-Men” were sold to Fox, Sony got “Spider-Man”, and Universal got “The Hulk”. Since then, movies starring those characters have been produced and distributed by their corporate step-parents, except for “The Hulk”, so long as he is not the title character in a Marvel Film.
As Marvel regained its financial strength and was eventually purchased by Disney, they have been slowly rebuilding their lost property. Just this year, Disney agreed to a merger with Fox, giving them back the rights of the characters they once sold. But even before that, Sony’s failure to successfully reboot their own “Amazing Spider-Man” movies convinced them to rent out the character to Marvel, resulting in the Tom Holland version we know and love. (You can read about that deal here.) But the agreed-upon deal only lasted for 5 films and when it came time to renegotiate terms, both sides were greedy. Marvel asked for a 50-50 split, which is an astronomical increase from the measly 5% they take from their current deal, and Fox did not even give a counteroffer, saying they were unwilling to stray from the original terms. And because 2 multi-billion-dollar studios couldn’t figure out a way to fairly divide up a few billion dollars, we, the fans, are the ones that lose.
Frankly, it is criminally irresponsible of Marvel to allow this situation to get to this point. They knew they really had no leverage when it came to negotiations and they asked for way more than they should have, Furthermore, they were putting a lot of their eggs in Spider-Man’s basket to be one of the new faces of their entire franchise, knowing fully well that the possibility of them losing the rights to the character was real. Now, they are in a difficult situation with regards to their main overarching story that they spent so much time and financial resources to set up. But I think this is mainly Sony’s fault. They rented out Spider-Man to Marvel just to make the character profitable again, then once there was a film that crossed a billion dollars grossed, they said: “We’ll take it from here”. They were already making north of 90% of the profits from the Spider-Man films without having to do any of the work. Marvel made them so much money (“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is actually Sony’s most profitable movie ever and they didn’t even make it) and they were unwilling to move an inch.
Sony making Spider-Man movies is definitely a bad thing. They were successful with the first two films that Sam Raimi made in the early 2000s, but they couldn’t leave well enough alone after that. They insisted on studio interference on the bloated “Spider-Man 3” with too many villains and stupid stories, which ultimately killed the beloved series. And when they tried to reboot the franchise into “The Amazing Spider-Man” with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, they learned zero lessons and drove the franchise into the ground after just two sub-par movies. If you can’t make a freaking Spider-Man film with talents like that profitable or even good, you are biblically incompetent as a studio. No one trusts them to do this right, but even so, it doesn’t even matter because it removed one of our favorite characters from possibly the most popular story in the world right now because of corporate greed. Who cares if Sony can make a competent “Spider-Man” film if it took hurting the MCU to do it? I don’t see how at even in the best of circumstances we could even break even as a society.
And here we are. Our best friend’s parents just got divorced, the deadbeat dad got sole custody, and they moved to North Dakota to be a famous singer or some shit that definitely will fail. No one is happy and everyone loses. And I am out here flipping tables, screaming into the ether to no avail. I say we riot! Or start a fire! That’s always a good way to get attention. I know we live in really strange times with real pressing issues to take care of, but I’ll commit my vote to any Presidential Candidate who promises to put Spider-Man back into the MCU. The removal of Spider-Man from its home is surely a sign of impending Armageddon. Tony Stark did not sacrifice himself to save all of existence just for petty financial contracts to take away his protégé and pseudo-son! He deserves better. Stan Lee’s legacy deserves better. We deserve better!