Spider-Man No More, Again

     There is a ton of exciting news from Disney coming out of this year's D23 convention but all of it is going to have to wait until next week. We could be talking about the new announcements of additional MCU shows on Disney+ or the long-awaited reveal that Obi-Wan Kenobi is finally getting the screen time he deserves, but there is an elephant on the ceiling that needs to be addressed.

     Days before the convention, news broke that Sony and Disney were at a standoff concerning the future of everybody's favorite wall-crawler.

     For those unfamiliar with the backstory, a bit of a history lesson.

     Once upon a time, in the late 1990s, Marvel Entertainment was struggling to get back on their feet after the industry crash put them in bankruptcy. After untangling a web of contracts and agreements that saw the movie rights to Spider-Man bouncing across Hollywood for decades, Marvel finally reclaimed the movie rights to Spider-Man just long enough to sell them to Sony Pictures.

     This worked out well for Marvel. After all, they were in the comic book business, not the movie business. At least, until they got into the movie business.

     With the movie rights to the Spider-Man franchise under the firm grip of Sony and the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises similarly held by 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios was left with just one of the four pillars that have traditionally held up the Marvel Universe. The Avengers.

     It's probably the greatest underdog story in Hollywood of all time. Marvel Studios, a fresh new face in the industry, with one arm and two legs tied behind their back, built a cinematic franchise that not only surpassed their Distinguished Competition at Warner Bros., but also showed up their own Hollywood partners.

     Now that Disney owns Marvel, the company has been on a Thanos-like crusade to reunite the various movie rights that have spread across Hollywood. Fox held out strong against the unyielding forces of the mouse until they were simply purchased outright. Sony, meanwhile, took another approach.

     Seeing unsatisfactory returns on their own efforts to create a successful Spider-Man franchise, Sony partnered up with Marvel Studios for something of a joint-custody agreement. It's a weird loop of intellectual property rights.

     At the end of the day, Marvel owns the rights to Spider-Man, but they've licensed the movie rights to Sony and as long as Sony keeps making Spider-Man movies they have an unbreakable hold on the character when it comes to the big screen. But, since Sony isn't really great at making Spider-Man movies, they've kind of loaned the license to Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios, who would own the rights anyway if not for the deal made 20 years ago.

     Which brings us up to current events. After two financially successful Spider-Man films set in the MCU, with the recent "Spider-Man: Far From Home" becoming Sony's highest grossing film ever, Disney decided it was time to renegotiate their agreement.

     The long and short of it seems to be that Disney asked Sony for a 50/50 split on the next Spider-Man movie, giving Disney a much bigger chunk of the profits compared to the reported 5% cut they currently get. Not thrilled with the prospect of losing half the revenue of their most successful property, Sony turned them down and Disney walked away.

     Thus, we are at a stand-off.

     Both sides have strong reasoning for their stances. Incorporating Spider-Man into the MCU has been a mutually beneficial move. Marvel Studios gets to use their most iconic character while at the same time doing for Sony what Sony has been unable to do for themselves. On the other hand, 50% of a billion dollar gross is less than 100% of a $700,000 gross. A middling Spider-Man movie completely owned by Sony is better for the studio than a hugely successful movie where they have to split the profits.

     So where does Spider-Man go from here? "Spider-Man: Far From Home" was almost entirely about setting Spider-Man up as the next lynchpin of the MCU. While Sony seems committed to continuing the franchise with Tom Holland's incarnation of the character, they will have to do it without any of the MCU trappings that have been weaved into the series. This will be particularly difficult considering that the previous two movies have been so heavily tied into turning Peter Parker into, literally, the next Iron Man.

     I've long disliked the fact that the recent Spider-Man movies have felt more like Iron Man Jr. movies than anything else. The most recent one in particular sees Peter building a new technological suit in Tony Stark's plane with the help of Tony Stark's driver while Tony Stark's music plays so he can fight a villain that has stolen Tony Stark's tech. I can't say I'm unhappy to see that the next movie will be legally required to strip away all of the Iron Man influence, but how they manage to do that is going to be a heck of a creative challenge.

     Moreover, what does this mean for the other Spider-Man adjacent movies in Sony's line-up? "Venom" was unexpectedly successful, even without the presence of his red-and-blue nemesis. So much so that they've been busy preparing a cinematic universe of their own based on other characters in Spider-Man's rogues gallery. If Spider-Man is no longer welcome in the MCU, Sony may be more inclined to use the character in their own movies.

     Or, Disney may just buy Sony outright and make the whole matter moot.

     Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and doesn't really care so long as we get more "Into the Spider-Verse" movies.