Sony announces ‘Spider-man’ to leave Marvel Cinematic Universe

September 6, 2019 — by Leo Cao and Alan Zu

Sony’s chairman Tom Rothman and Marvel’s president Kevin Feige were full of smiles at the Hollywood premiere of “Spider-man: Far From Home” in late June. However, these happy expressions belied an inner turmoil. While the executives were on the red carpet, talks to extend the partnership between Sony and Disney, which owns Marvel studios, were breaking down over the future of the “Spider-man” franchise.

Sony announced on Twitter that Disney will no longer have any role in future “Spider-man” films on Aug. 20 because Sony refused a deal from Disney that would split the income from future films in half.

This is not the first time Marvel has been forced to part ways with one of its most popular characters. During an economic crisis in 1990, Marvel was forced to sell its ownership of “Spider-man” to Sony. 

Soon after gaining ownership, Sony successfully launched Toby Macguire’s “Spider-man” series in 2002. However, when director Sam Raimi withdrew from the studio, Sony was forced to reboot the franchise with Andrew Garfield’s version of “Spider-man” in 2012, which failed to gain as much popularity.

Around the same time as Garfield’s “Spider-man” movies, Marvel successfully produced three “Iron Man” films, developing the concept of the Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU.) As part of the concept, Marvel formed a deal with Sony to resurrect the “Spider-man” franchise and incorporate Tom Holland’s “Spider-man” into the MCU in 2016. 

In order to contribute to “Spider-man” films, Marvel was granted a license so that they would have the rights and permissions to help produce “Spider-man” content. The license came with many conditions, including one that stated it would lose its license unless it released a new “Spider-man” film every 5.75 years. The terms have been renegotiated many times over the years, but the two companies essentially shared “Spider-man” until Aug. 20, when it was confirmed that Feige would no longer be involved in “Spider-man” movies.

The split in partnership comes after the last two “Spider-man” films broke all-time records. Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” became the highest grossing film of all time and “Spider-man: Far From Home” surpassed the James Bond film “Skyfall” to become the highest grossing film for Sony Pictures. 

The announcement of the split angered much of Marvel’s fanbase and raised many questions, such as how to account for the loose ends the divide will create. Not only is the friendly neighborhood web slinger a crucial comedic component to lighten the mood in Avengers films, Spider-man has been set up as Marvel’s future leader of the Avengers, as the previous leader, Tony Stark, sacrifices himself in “Avengers: Endgame.” 

This raises an obvious problem in splitting “Spider-man” from the MCU. Holland’s Spider-man has worked with MCU characters in past missions, and none of them would be able to appear in any future “Spider-man” films. 

As a result, reforming and maintaining the relationship would be beneficial to both Marvel and Sony, as well as the audience. Marvel’s experienced hand is a major factor in the success of “Spider-man” in recent years and it would be rather difficult for the MCU to move forward without the iconic character at the front and center. 

The split of the two companies over the production of “Spider-man” will be a loss for all those involved. “Spider-man” would be split into its own lonely universe, while both film companies would earn less from future films. However, Holland remains optimistic despite the changes. 

He spoke to Entertainment Weekly, issuing an official statement. “I’ve had the time of my life,” Holland said. “Who knows what the future holds? But all I know is that I’m going to continue playing ‘Spider-Man’ and having the time of my life. It’s going to be so fun, however we choose to do it.”

Now only time will tell which path future “Spider-man”films will go down.