Fans were confused and upset when Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced that the beloved Tom Holland Spider-Man will be separating from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in mid August. Although the exact details have not been released, it has been rumored that the split was over money. The success of the second Spider-Man movie, “Far From Home,” pushed Sony to be more involved and gain more profit from future Spider-Man movies.
When Sony and Marvel first began this cooperation over Spider-Man in 2014, the companies were both struggling. Sony had just released the second “Amazing Spider-Man” movie in the franchise with Andrew Garfield. It had not been as successful as they had hoped, grossing $709 million worldwide with only a 52% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Marvel, although successful, had just started “Phase Two” of their MCU franchise. “Thor: The Dark World” grossed $644 million worldwide with a 67% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. They both were uneasy about the future of their projects. On top of this, there was a question of how successful mass franchise superhero movies would be. With that in mind, the companies made an agreement: Sony would loan the copyrights to Spider-Man for one film, “Captain America: Civil War”, and in exchange, Disney would give Kevin Fiege’s producing service for two movies. This deal was later amended to include “Avengers: Infinity War”and “Endgame” in addition to “Civil War.” The problem with this agreement was that Sony made little profit from the movies made under Marvel Studios that included Spider-Man. Disney made a yearly royalty payment to Sony of around $30 million. However, the more successful the movies were under Fiege’s production, the more the royalty decreased. Thus, when “Far From Home” grossed $1.126 billion dollars, Sony did not have any share in that success.
There have been other speculated reasons as to why Sony is establishing independence from Marvel; they have had two very successful superhero movies released in the last two years. “Venom,” although receiving bad reviews, grossed $856.1 million and has a sequel in the works. “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” has become a fan favorite, winning the Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars this year. It seems that Sony believes that they no longer need Marvel’s help to produce successful superhero movies.
But what does all this mean for Spider-Man in the MCU? Basically, all future Spider-Man movies will be excluded from the MCU. The audience has fallen in love with Tom Holland’s portrayal of our friendly neighborhood hero. The past two movies developed a relationship between Spider-Man and the other MCU characters, in particular Tony Stark/Iron Man. Their father-son bond captured audiences’ heart. Many wonder what Sony will do in the future with Spider-Man, especially with the ending of “Far From Home.” Spider-Man rising to the occasion to fill the shoes of Tony Stark to be the new Iron Man. If Iron Man or any of the other important MCU characters, such as the endearing bodyguard Happy, cannot appear in the movie, how will the story develop? Will Sony completely disregard that storyline?
There have been whispers that Sony and Disney are still discussing agreements, so it may not be the end of Spider-Man yet. Some argue that Disney needs to let go of some of its power. With the introduction of Disney+ which directly leads into “Phase Four” of the MCU, they have more than enough projects to profit from. Letting Spider-Man separate from the MCU is waste of potential in the new generation of Marvel characters and storylines. Then again, this split will hurt Sony much more than it will Disney. Sony will have a difficult time living up to Marvel’s Spider-Man especially without Fiege’s producing skills while Disney is comfortably situated on top of numerous Marvel projects.