(Author’s note: Spencer’s Soapbox is a weekly column here on SHH where yours truly tries to spur a conversation on specific topics. Dive in to the latest installment below and check out the previous ones by clicking here.)
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Marvel Studios and Sony have made an agreement to work on Spider-Man films together. This brings the webhead back home and means he can be included in the fold of future MCU films such as “The Avengers” and “Captain America,” but also that MCU characters could potentially appear in Spider-Man’s movies. This is the biggest entertainment news story of the year, and arguably even bigger than Marvel’s Phase Three announcement from just a few months ago. It’s an unprecedented deal that will change the landscape of superhero movies, and with it comes really good opportunities and potentially negative ones.
Spider-Man in the MCU offers a perspective that isn’t present in their characters at all. One of the reasons Spider-Man was such a hit as a comic book character was because he had actual problems, he wasn’t just a superhero. Marvel doesn’t have this in their films. Tony Stark deals with business meetings and former rivals, Cap takes down overtaken espionage agencies, Thor is an actual god, etc. With a character that’s not a 30+ year old man and is still in high school, you’ve opened yourself up to a new world of storytelling that is not possible in their other films.
The full details on the Spider-Man deal are kinda of sketchy. Can ONLY Spider-Man appear in the Avengers movies or is Feige allowed to bring the likes of Norman Osborn, Venom, or J. Jonah Jameson into other Marvel pictures? I’m going to venture a guess that character swapping is allowed, if a specific deal can be reached, since the teases of other MCU characters in future Spider-Man movies was mentioned in Marvel’s press release. Hopefully they’ve cut the fat with this deal as a whole and there’s not much red tape in allowing this exchange, because it opens up a new cache of characters for the MCU.
If there’s one group that could benefit from this deal on the Marvel side it’s the Netflix “Defenders” shows. Connecting them to Spider-Man gives the MCU an extra layer of story and characters to the continuity and makes it closer resemble the Marvel U we’re all used to seeing in comics. There’s no reason to think that the Netflix shows need much help in securing an audience, they are after all at the same home as “House of Cards,” but adding Spider-Man to the mix gives viewers that maybe lacked interest a reason to tune in. I’m not expecting Spider-Man to swing past Daredevil or knock on Luke Cage’s door, but is it too much to ask for Easter Eggs? Ben Urich will appear in “Marvel’s Daredevil” after all and he was a longtime reporter for The Daily Bugle.
Let’s get to the bad though, because I can already see some of the potential problems this deal presents. Most notably? Most of the schedule for Phase Three has been altered to make room for Spider-Man. Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Inhumans have all been delayed in favor of a character we’ve seen on the big screen five times already. This is upsetting, because we’ve been waiting for those characters to finally show up, and fielded promise after promise that they were coming. Now just four months after being told they’re on the way they’ve all been knocked back so we can get yet another Spider-Man movie. They’re still coming out though, so it isn’t a total loss, but the landscape of “Phase Three” has certainly been altered to a less attractive form that services box office returns over the desire of some fans.
Another issue, which we can’t be certain about for the time being but could pose a problem, what if Spider-Man changes how other characters are used? Captain America: Civil War is supposed to feature Black Panther (in costume) before giving him his own feature. Is that still the case or will he be playing second fiddle to Spider-Man now? Better yet, will the same thing happen when Spider-Man makes his way into Avengers: Infinity War? I’d hate for movies that are supposed to combine the entire scope of the MCU into one feature end up becoming “Spider-Man and The Avengers.” Again, these are just fears, not things that are actually happening or anything we’d even know about for years to come.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this whole ordeal. Spider-Man and Iron Man sharing the screen! Who would have thought it would happen in our lifetime? Not only that, but studios working together on giant franchises is such a step in the direction that fans have been clamoring for for years. With that in mind, it might be too early to make the claim that it’s a good thing. Marvel did in fact totally alter their release for new characters in favor of the sure-thing that is Spider-Man, and lest we forget this crucial sentence from the original press release: “Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.” Maestro Kevin Feige certainly has a say in the new film, but if we’re to take that sentence literally then it isn’t an entirely hopeful one. I want Spider-Man to work in the MCU, and Marvel has given us no reason to think he won’t, but lets keep our expectations in check. It’s fantastic news, yes, but there’s still a lot of ways this can go wrong.