- On Monday night, Marvel and Sony announced Spider-Man will be appearing in an upcoming Marvel film
- On July 28, 2017, Sony will release another Spider-Man film that will be produced by Marvel producer Kevin Feige and former Sony studio head Amy Pascal
- The new film will be a "new creative direction" for Spider-Man, possibly signaling the end of Andrew Garfield's work on the franchise
Spider-Man and the Avengers is now a possibility
Because of deals hammered out by Marvel in the '90s, Marvel Studios doesn't possess the film rights to all of its characters. Spider-Man and his universe went to Sony, while The X-Men, the Fantastic Four and their respective worlds went to Fox.
In the comic books, these characters all mingle with one another and cross over into each other's stories all the time. But in the movies it's largely been thought that seeing a crossover between these sets of characters was a pipe dream because of the way the rights were divided.
That's what makes Monday's deal so important. We are now getting the guarantee of Spider-Man crossing over with one of the properties that Marvel owns — most likely one of the Avengers since Spidey is an Avenger in the comic books.
Going by the timeframe in Marvel's release, the Marvel movie that Spider-Man will appear in has to be before July 28, 2017. If you cross-reference that with Marvel's schedule of movies, it looks like Spidey will be in either Captain America 3: Civil War (May 2016), Doctor Strange (November 2016) or Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 2017).
My best guess is that Peter Parker will appear in Captain America 3: Civil War, since Spider-Man plays an crucial role in the comic book arc the movie will be based on. Guardians looks like the longshot, since those characters largely exist in a different universe altogether.
This is not good news for Andrew Garfield
Over the past couple of years, we've been hearing that the executives at Sony have been disappointed with the Spider-Man franchise. Amazing Spider-Man 2 did not live up to its box-office expectations, and Sony re-shuffled and delayed its planned movie schedule. Then there were also whispers that Andrew Garfield, the actor who currently plays Spider-Man, would be getting the boot.
But here are two sentences that seem to be the final nail in Garfield's coffin:
Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger
"New creative direction" sounds like studio-speak for a reboot. And it could be hard to take Spider-Man in a new direction if Garfield is still in the role.
What does Sony still own?
"Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own, and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films," Marvel explained in its release. That sort of makes it sound like Sony is the landlord, and Marvel is a renter when it comes to Spider-Man.
What's fascinating is what "final creative control" actually means. It could mean that Spider-Man could appear in more Marvel films in the future. And it could also mean that Sony, if it wanted, could start loaning out characters from the Spider-Verse to Marvel.
This creative control is probably a two-way street.
The agreements between Marvel and other film companies have always been a murky grey area. The documents outlining the agreements are notoriously hard to find or sealed. But if you look at a 2001 lawsuit between Fox and Marvel, it's noted that Marvel has some semblance of a say over its characters:
It should be noted that, as written, the Agreement provides Fox with the right to storylines of the X-Men Property "which are contained in a Story or Screenplay approved by Marvel." (1993 Agreement ¶ 6.) Although this provision suggests, on its face, that Marvel controls the scope of the license as to storylines, the approval provision does not suggest that Marvel may veto Fox's choice of storylines. Rather, Marvel's approval role appears designed to ensure the integrity of the Property as portrayed in a theatrical motion picture. (Id. ¶ 11.)
It wouldn't be out of scope to think that Sony has been working under a similar set of rules.
What happens to Sony's plans?
Back in August, Sony announced that it was going to take a female character from the Spider-Man universe and give her a motion picture. A script was reportedly in the works, with a release aimed for 2017. There are also movies on Sony's slate which include a Sinister Six film in 2016 and a Venom movie reportedly scheduled for 2017.
It's unclear how this news affects these films.
Does this mean there's hope for Fox to loan out the X-Men?
Sony and Marvel have been on more amicable terms than Fox and Marvel. And there were rumors during the Sony hack that this deal was in the works. There's been nothing close to any kind of that headway when it comes to Marvel and Fox.