WELCOME TO ISSUE 75!
IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME HERE: Welcome! This is my weekly column where I talk about superhero movie news, rumors and speculation.
THIS WEEK: #SonyHack whhhhaaaaaat? Some missing pieces in the Spider-Man narrative, then I'll tell you to your face: It's now very possible for Spider-Man to join the MCU.
Big news, Marvel and Spider-Man fans.
I’m going to try and form a narrative, here.
The scene is April.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier provides Marvel a hit early in 2014 and manages to successfully ripple out, connecting Marvel’s TV and film properties. At around this time, internal screenings of Guardians of the Galaxy would have started to show that Marvel didn’t have a flop on their hands and the movie could at least be competitive in August.
At about this time, I posit that Kevin Feige set his sights on doing Civil War for the third Captain America movie, keeping his lead Avenger grounded while his future plans extended to the Inhumans (Agents of SHIELD SSN 2, now revealed to be an Inhumans setup, went into production in July).
By the time scripting began on an actual earnest draft of Captain America: Civil War, Amazing Spider-Man 2 had under-performed and there was blood in the water in the Sony Spider-franchise, Feigie wanted Civil War and Comic Con loomed.
It seems possible knowing what we know now that in order to cover all the bases to ensure that Civil War was the biggest Marvel event movie possible, Marvel Studios began moving on several fronts regarding Civil War’s cast. Here are the three I’ve been able to identify:
- They began to talk to Robert Downey Jr about Tony Stark playing a major part in Civil War, leading to RDJ’s public hinting about future Marvel projects.
- They opened the door to Sony for a Spider-Man sharing deal, trying to get Spider-Man to appear in Civil War and launch his own place in the MCU
- They seriously pursued casting Black Panther
Even if all three attempts failed, The Winter Soldier would still be back and CAP 3 would be a recognizable blockbuster sequel in-between Doctor Strange and Ant-Man.
We know that options 1 and 3 ended up working out because they were announced at the post-Comic Con Marvel press event. Feige later said that all the pieces weren’t in place to make announcements that large in San Diego (at that time, Joaquin Phoenix was supposedly our Doctor Strange).
The aggressive moves toward crossing over their franchise characters from both Marvel and DC this year lead Sony into a little crisis of confidence over what to do with Spider-Man. Rumored movies for The Sinister Six and Venom suddenly became much less solid options. There were talks of a female-lead Spider-Movie and a team of previously unseen female Spider-Characters. Not to turn my nose up at studio denials too much (certainly not this week), but I’ve recently talked to someone in the know who re-verified that, for that one week at least, a solo, Spider-Man-Less Aunt May movie was happening.
Now, in the wake of the Sony hacks, we know that in late October, directly after the Marvel Phase 3 announcement, Disney and Sony had serious conversations about sharing Spider-Man. Also, because the hacking is the hand of fate in this series of events.
The e-mails reveal extensive discussions between executives at Sony and Marvel owner Walt Disney, all the way up to their respective chief executives Kaz Hirai and Robert Iger.
In an Oct. 30 e-mail, Sony Pictures president Doug Belgrad tells Ms. Pascal about a potential scenario that would see Marvel produce a new trilogy of Spider-Man movies while Sony retains “creative control, marketing and distribution.”
In a separate e-mail, Ms. Pascal tells a business partner that Marvel wanted to include Spider-Man in its planned third “Captain America” movie.
The Speakeasy blog then goes on to elaborate on what their Sony source says is the future of the Spider-Man property, since the Marvel deal didn’t go through:
The talks with Marvel eventually broke down and Sony is now planning to go ahead with its own Spider-Man slate, according to people familiar with the matter. As of late November, executives were planning a “Spidey summit” for January to discuss future plans. Among projects in development are an animated Spider-Man comedy that would be produced by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the team behind “22 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie,” as well as previously disclosed Spider-Man spin-offs focused on villain team Sinister Six, super-foe Venom, and women from the webslinger’s life.
From a source familiar with the matter, I can report that the deal Sony finally rejected was NOT a Marvel trilogy of movies that Sony would have control over. Instead, it was a co-production deal where Marvel and Sony would split future Spider-Man film costs 60/40 (Marvel paying the larger part) while MARVEL retained control of the Spider-Man creative property with the potential to have him cross-over into Marvel’s Phase films, like an appearance in Captain America: Civil War.
That deal looked dead, then Sony got hacked.
Now, what initially looked like a retaliation attack for The Interview from North Korea might drastically alter what happens to Spider-Man. All the players on the Sony side are now in hot water regarding their very public leaking of films and data at the hands of hackers. Sony’s parent company in Japan are apparently very angry at how this is all playing out. I’ve heard that the atmosphere is that anyone could end up getting fired over this if it begins to cause serious financial damage.
What I’m hearing from my little birds is that Sony, the parent company, views Sony Pictures’s handling of the Spider-Man property as disappointing. Sony wants to be all about “quality” films (actual one-word quote, not air quotes), and the Amazing Spider-Man movies have not been that, nor have the rumors of future films in the franchise. Sony Japan thinks the Marvel deal for Spider-Man is still on the table and they want to renegotiate as a return to quality, the 60/40 split is can be negotiated and Sony Entertainment’s October hard-line stance of wanting creative control is now mostly moot in the eyes of the higher-ups.
Yes, I’m sure someone in corporate has noticed that the production team in charge of the Spider-Verse seems to be the last remaining team unable to squeeze huge profits from it’s Marvel franchise in this iteration, and now letting someone else make the creative decisions whilst reaping some tiny profit just for the luxury of not having to publicly face-plant is looking pretty good.
I’m not sure all of this is going to happen fast enough to get Spider-Man into Civil War, but - if you’ll switch your “Da7e’s heard this” toggle to “Da7e speculates this” - Wouldn’t it be neat if Sony’s “Spidey summit” ended with a call to Marvel, who made a call to Joss Whedon, who got a guy in a Spider-Man suit from ASM 2 to jump into those pick-up shots they’re shooting early next year for Avengers: Age of Ultron?
I’d lose my shit. The world would lose it’s shit, and Sony would have revitalized the character in an already hyped sequel to a billion dollar movie. It would save this iteration of Spider-Man (and-duh!-put Spidey in Captain Marvel too….and Civil War….and INFINITY WAR!). Then, there would be room to announce the out-of-Phase Spider-Man movies with Marvel and Sony finally getting to bring dubstep-voiceover into well-plotted storytelling.
At this point, Sony has bigger things to worry about. I’d think about this as a life preserver that’s sitting out there in the turbulent waters. But the life preserver is smeared with poop. The sea is getting rougher, but unless it’s actually a life or death situation: best not to be covered in poop.
I wish this happening didn’t suggest people losing their jobs, that’s the one thing. Especially team Spider-Man at Sony. I don’t see a world where Avi Arad, for instance, is actively involved with Marvel and Spider-Man simultaneously. And, I’ve always heard Amy Pascal is a stalwart defender of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the franchise, sometimes to the detriment of the Spider-Verse.
I know - and my source reiterates - that this is about a move to quality - BUT - if you look at it as a money issue, not a “will there be an Aunt May solo film?” issue, it’s hard not to see how this could be beneficial for Sony if they don’t mind it being MORE beneficial for Marvel. The reason giving up Spider-Man is such a bad idea is because Sony knows from Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 that this character can print money, but they can’t keep throwing down massive budgets and ad-campaigns on attempts to get Spidey back there. Marvel can at this point, and they have a whole world of other characters who can help.
Just a little push from SonyJapan and no Sony Pictures executive ever has to read another Spider-Man treatment. Fingers crossed.
POST CREDITS SCENE
Yeah, some big things happened on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night. My comic-book podcast co-host Joanna Robinson did a great job of breaking down the ramifications of it over at Vanity Fair if you want to see what I basically would have wrote.
Not to worry though, no more Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. until March, so I’m sure my boots will Quake all over this column sometime soon.