Just when it looked like the rip-roaring success of Spider-Man: Far From Home - which became the latest member of the billion dollar movie club and continues to pull in money (with talk of an extended edition also hitting cinemas soon) - was going to mean we'd definitely get a third Spider-Man movie in the MCU, along comes Sony to piss on our parade.
On the cusp of Disney's D23 event, which was widely expected to come with more good Marvel news, Spider-Man's part in the MCU is now done, at least according to Deadline. Their report says that Marvel Studios and president Kevin Feige won’t produce any more Spider-Man films annd it's all down to money. Quelle surprise!
It boils down to the apparent inability by Disney and Sony Pictures to reach new terms on the rights deal that saw Spidey come to the MCU for Captain America: Civil War, because Sony flatly refused the co-financing rearrangement Disney were looking for. Deadline claim talks have been going on for months with Disney asking for a 50/50 split on financing and the prospect of extending it to other films in the Spider-Man universe. Sony said no and apparently won't be coming back to the table to compromise any more than keeping the current tersm that see Marvel receive around 5% of first dollar gross. Disney said no to that, so here we are.
There ARE still two new Spider-Man movies planned, according to Deadline's source, with Tom Holland and director Jon Watts in position, but they would presumably now exist entirely outside of the MCU. And apparently, unless something dramatic happens, Feige won’t be the head creative producer of those pictures now, which is not good news.
Sony might believe they're better off without surrendering so much profit, but can they really count on the same sort of response at the box office without Marvel's banner overhead too? They relied heavily on Iron Man's position in both Homecoming and Far From Home to help boost income and while there's now a map for both of those movies set, it's going to worry a lot of people.
Perhaps this isn't the end, though, because we all sat and reported similar events in the Fox/Disney merger deal that looks like an impasse and that eventually went ahead, so maybe there is a compromise to be made here. A source has already told Variety that a deal can still be made between Sony and Disney/Marvel Studios, after all.
But with Disney and particularly Feige already heavy-laden with new Marvel projects - including the X-Men, of course - and Sony buoyed by the performances of Far From Home AND Venom, one party is going to have to shift position and realise they need the other for this to move.
Is it going to be disastrous to jettison Kevin Feige from proceedings? Well, it's certainly not a SMART marketing decision, and rumour has it that Feige also helped with Venom in part too, off the books, so they have to at least acknowledge somewhere that he's been vital. But then again, Sony aren't ENTIRELY unentitled to say that Disney probably don't need a bigger slice of the pie: they already own the Spider-Man merchandising rights and that remains the biggest merchandising pot there is for Disney (which it has been for some years now). Sony could be forgiven for questioning the need for them to take more of the profits.
Sony have since commented on the whole affair twice. First, they told io9 that the dispute between studios is over a producer credit and negotiations are still ongoing, and then they released a statement to THR via a spokesperson to share their disappointment at the deal's end. Given how quickly Sony were blamed for it falling apart, it should come as no surprise that they are distancing themselves from the reason and putting the blame onto Disney:
Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise. We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film. We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own. Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.
It's a strange one. That statement looks like Sony are saying Disney didn't want to make Spider-Man movies at all, which is demonstrably untrue, given their financial benefits, but it obviously makes a lot of sense that they would take money out of the equation to reshape the narrative in their favour.
There is now some question over whether the end of Far From Home will have to be changed, given the ties to the MCU, but in reality, there isn't anything ongoing that would be fatal to that story. Happy Hogan will drop out as Peter Parker's new stand-in Dad (but he was already dumped by Aunt May anyway), Iron Man is over and endlessly exploring Spidey solely as his legacy is reductive at best and everything else amounted to Easter Eggs. Even the Nick Fury revelation was designed to seed a different off-shoot project rather than Spider-Man 3.
It's most likely that Spider-Man 3 is going to be something like The People Vs Spider-Man as he's public enemy number one. The villain of the piece is likely to be Norman Osborn working to pull the strings of J Jonah Jameson and we're likely to see a version of the Sinister Six - or at least a collection of villains coming after Peter (probably including Michael Mando's Scorpion now that he knows who Spider-Man is). None of that needed an MCU grounding, none of it needs to change now. It's not like Sony have to go and start again.
For now, we can look forward to two more Spider-Man films in this iteration, plus Venom 2 and the Morbius and Kraven movies and at least now Tom Holland might have been freed up to play some part in them or their sequels now...? There has to be some sort of silver lining to this.
Just imagine the possibility of seeing Tom Holland, Tom Hardy and Jared Leto (plus whichever bonkers casting they pull off for Kraven) all smushed together for one giant on-screen orgy of weirdness. Now say that isn't exciting...