OK, fanboys and girls, this is huge. This is bigger than huge. This is Marvel-ous!
Ever since Sony Pictures Entertainment was electronically hacked last year, the blog-o-verse has been flooded with reports of Sony and Marvel Studios negotiating the return of the motion-picture rights to Spider-Man, Marvel’s most iconic hero, to the studio that is currently at the forefront of the recent wave of super-hero blockbusters. Every day, another rumor; every day, another denial or “no comment” from Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige.
Then came the blockbuster announcement to bust all blocks: Sony is retaining rights to Spidey, but it is partnering with Marvel Studios to bring the web-slinger into the expertly crafted, multi-billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which means that before long, Spider-Man could be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, and a potential gaggle of Marvel super-heroes who have not yet made their big-screen debut (Dr. Strange, the Black Panther, etc).
So what can the fans look forward to, now that Spider-Man, comicdom’s first truly literary character, has come home to roost?
First and foremost, they can expect that the character upon which Marvel Comics arguably was built (for years, his face was the company logo, and it adorned the cover of every comic it published) is now in the hands of expert storytellers who have established themselves as the undisputed masters of the comic book-based movie. The 10 MCU features already released, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man through last summer’s mega-hit Guardians of the Galaxy, have grossed over $7 billion worldwide, and the sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening May 1, is one of this year’s most highly anticipated films. And while Sony’s $4 billion Spider-Man franchise has seen its share of success, many argue that it reached its creative peak with its second film, Spider-Man 2. Reaction to last summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the second film in the rebooted series, was slightly better than lukewarm at best.
Secondly, we can expect a new Spider-Man, and we might expect him to appear soon. Reports suggest that Andrew Garfield, star of the last two Spidey films, is out. Comicbook.com speculates that we may see the new Spider-Man as early as the post-credit sequence to Age of Ultron, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the web-slinger will play a part in the recently announced Captain America: Civil War, scheduled to hit the screens in May 2016. Spider-Man played an integral part in the comic-book run of Civil War, and the thought of Chris Evan’s Captain America, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man (Downey has already been announced to play a major part in the film), and a new Spidey together for the big-screen adaptation of the Civil War tale is enough to make our geeky heads spin completely around.
Fans can also look forward to a slew of Spider-Man marketing when the character appears in his next solo movie in 2017. Marvel is shifting the release dates of four of its previously announced films (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Inhumans) to make room for the Spidey feature, which will be made jointly by the two studios, but for which Sony will retain final creative control. Look for this to be a close and highly collaborative arrangement, however, since the money that can be made from ancillary marketing (toys, books, et cetera, which Marvel controls) as well as Spider-Man’s potential involvement in the upcoming two-part Avengers: Infinity War saga (set for 2018 and 2019) boggles the mind. The two companies have plenty of incentive to play nice together.
Finally, if the Sony/Marvel Spider-Man partnership is successful, it might put pressure on 20th Century Fox to bring two of Marvel’s other cornerstone franchises, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, back to the fold. The X-Men films, including last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, have generally been successful, but reclaiming the X-Men might at last bring Black Panther’s epic romance with Storm to the screen. Previous attempts at cinematic adaptations of the Fantastic Four have not fulfilled expectations, although the studio will try to reverse that trend with a new Fantastic Four reboot launching in August.
In the meantime, comic-book fans around the world can celebrate. Their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has returned to the neighborhood in which he was born, and we’re crawling the walls with anticipation of his first MCU appearance. Welcome home, Spidey—it’s great to have you back!