Spider-Man: Winners and Losers
Spider-Man is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That long-rumored deal was announced this week. It’s a major turning point for Marvel’s film properties. Being able to bring its flagship character into its successful movie universe is a huge “get” for Marvel.
As with anything having to do with the entertainment industry, the deal creates winners and losers.
Marvel gets to incorporate the most popular and visible character from its publishing line into its hugely successful film franchise. Just having Spidey share screen time with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor in its own MCU movies would be a big enough triumph. But in the process, Marvel has gained significantly greater influence over the future course of Spider-Man’s solo movie adventures. While Sony remains the owner of the Spider-Man movie rights, Marvel looks to enjoy an expanded role, coming aboard as an active co-producer. That gives Marvel the opportunity to champion the best ideas for Spider-movies going forward. With a more “insider” role in the films, Marvel is also better positioned to exploit multimedia cross-promotional opportunities. There’s no way to look at this deal that doesn’t favor Marvel.
Just a few months ago, Sony found its ambitions for a Spider-Man “family” of movies in jeopardy with the latest franchise entry underperforming. Now Spider-Man is going to enjoy a major boost by appearing in some MCU films, before Marvel actively helps Sony re-boot the solo Spider-Man series, with a new movie slated for July 2017. Some well-known MCU characters might make appearances. Given Marvel’s impressive winning streak, why wouldn’t Sony want Marvel to shepherd the production of its most valuable franchise property? With the promotional benefits of Spider-Man’s appearances in MCU films and Marvel’s golden touch, Sony is poised to reap major benefits from a revived Spider-Man movie franchise. Closer coordination with Marvel can help ameliorate some aspects of a glut of superhero movies cannibalizing the same audience. And Marvel’s hype machine for its films has topped what Sony’s been able to do itself. Sony still retains distribution rights and final say on its Spider-movies, so they’re basically getting access to a suite of production and promotional capabilities at the cost of loaning out Spider-Man for supporting roles in Marvel’s movies. That’s a pretty damn good deal.
The cooperation between Marvel and Sony makes the antagonism that FOX seems to court with Marvel seem all the more foolish. It’s true that FOX’s last few X-Men universe movies went a long way to righting a foundering ship. But given the global popularity of the X-Men franchise, FOX still seems to be leaving a lot of money on the table. FOX’s inability to launch a proper Fantastic Four movie series has been an ongoing embarrassment. The advance buzz from this August’s attempt to re-boot the FF onscreen is suffering from wildly inconsistent buzz and negative perception among the core fans. FOX could take a page from Sony’s playbook, allow Marvel to use characters like Wolverine and Beast in their Avengers movies and play nice with characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch that straddle both worlds. In exchange, FOX would get Marvel’s expertise in guiding the film franchises of its Marvel properties. Making Marvel an active production partner could have solved many problems with rebooting the Fantastic Four movies. Instead, FOX seems content to defiantly go its own way, ignoring the significant benefits the studio could derive from a more collegial collaboration with Marvel.
WINNER: Amy Pascal
This might be one of the quickest redemption arcs in recent memory. Fairly or not, Pascal became the face of the “hacking” scandal that Sony endured this winter. Last week, when she stepped down as Chairwoman of Sony’s film division, it seemed like the veteran film executive had a difficult road ahead. Statements that Pascal would continue to be affiliated with Sony as a producer seemed like PR puffery. Now, only a week later, Pascal has emerged as the woman who brokered the deal bringing Spider-Man into the MCU and as a key producer of the Spider-Man films moving forward. In Hollywood, nothing erases a black eye like a big win. Pascal’s savvy dealmaking has extracted her from an increasingly untenable situation as a Sony executive and set herself up for significant future success.
LOSER: Andrew Garfield
It’s really not fair to blame the relative underperformance of the last two Spider-Man movies entirely on Garfield. He was actually quite good in the role. Rather, the decision to take the character back to an origin story so soon after the Sam Raimi trilogy seemed to turn off a lot of fans, who found the last two films to be something of a retread. When Garfield’s name was absent from the Sony/Marvel announcement, that wasn’t a good sign. His exit from the role has been confirmed. While some reports indicate it was Garfield’s choice to walk away, that can’t help but feel like a “you can’t fire me, I quit” scenario. Hollywood power comes down to perception. Riding one of the biggest movie franchises to its lowest grosses and exiting just when an exciting new chapter looms can’t help but dim Garfield’s star just a bit. Long-term, Garfield will be fine. He’s a genuine talent and has a lot of good roles ahead of him. But in the short-term, fairly or not, Garfield will be the face of what’s considered the low point of the Spider-Man movie franchise.
WINNERS AND LOSERS: Thor, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, The Inhumans, The Sinister Six
The announcement of a Marvel co-produced Spider-Man movie had a domino effect on Marvel’s release schedule. To avoid competition, the previously announced July 2017 release of Thor: Ragnarok was pushed back to November 2017. That in turn caused Marvel to move back by a few months previously announced films centering on Black Panther, Captain Marvel and The Inhumans. To some extent, fans realized that the ambitious calendar of releases that Marvel announced a few months ago wasn’t entirely carved in stone. Movies relocate for a variety of reasons. Certainly fans don’t take the new dates as a lack of confidence in these movies on Marvel’s part. The importance of Spider-Man is well known. But it is unfortunate that fans of these characters will have to wait several additional months to see their stories come to the big screen. On the other hand, additional production time could be a benefit. Captain Marvel and The Inhumans don’t even have leads cast and none of the films has announced a director. The luxury of additional time could help Marvel make these movies as good as they can be.
Meanwhile, the previously announced Sinister Six movie, scheduled for November 2016 release, wasn’t mentioned in the Marvel/Sony announcement. The film is in pre-production, with writers, a director and the first cast members announced. Whether Sony will want to go forward with production is unclear, especially since the Spider-Man movie series from which Sinister Six spins off is going through significant changes. With Sony’s focus now on a new Spider-Man movie for 2017, the studio may not have the attention to spend on Sinister Six just now. That doesn’t mean the concept is dead. Indeed, with Marvel onboard as a co-producer, it could be a benefit to a Sinister Six movie, opening up numerous other Marvel characters that could play roles. And perhaps Marvel might convince Sony to go in a direction more akin to the recent, critically-acclaimed Superior Foes of Spider-Man series than a mere action spectacle. For now, the future of this project is unclear, until Sony reconciles its ambitions for a “Spider-Verse” of movies with its new deal with Marvel.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on February 11, 2015.