Here’s a question for you hybrid comic book/professional sports fans – what usually happens when rumors of a struggling head coach being put on the chopping block, or a star player being put on the trade market begin surfacing in the sports media?
The answer is those rumors have a way of often being … or becoming true.
And what happens when a team owner gives their head coach or manager a “vote of confidence”..?
…the dreaded “vote of confidence”?
The head coach usually has about 14 to 21 days to polish his “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family” speech.
Rumors like this in the sports world tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies because a.) where there is smoke there is often fire; and b.) there are human beings with very human egos on each end of the rumors.
Reports of bad marriages in sports almost always lead to divorce, because no matter how tenuous the reports or rumors were in the first place, having a situation that inherently generates uncertainty, bruised feelings and mistrust play out in the public arena produces a toxicity that’s hard to undo.
And this is part of the reason it’s nearly inevitable Marvel Studios and Sony will eventually work out some deal to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The now-infamous Sony hack has revealed both parties have entertained the idea at least enough to take meetings on the possibility. While that practice may or may not be commonplace between parties involved in complicated rights agreements like the one between Sony and Marvel Studios, they usually don’t become as public as these have.
And now neither Marvel nor especially Sony can do much in the way of unringing that bell, and they can’t do anything about tempering their audience's newly reset expectations.
But we’ll get back to that in a moment. First let’s take a brief moment to address the reasons Marvel and Sony should strike a deal. We’ve already seen several comic book press sites argue why Marvel doesn’t “need” Spider-Man, either in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general or for Captain America: Civil War specifically … and they’d be absolutely right. No studio that can turn the Guardians of the ‘f-ing Galaxy into a $730m global franchise needs Spider-Man.
But this isn’t an issue of “need” .. It’s an issue of “want.” And Marvel should want Spider-Man.
Q: Out of this past year’s smash-critical hits Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, and then the tepidly-received Amazing Spider-Man 2, which of these films earned the most in the increasingly important foreign market?
A: It was that last, tepidly-received one.
As Marvel Studios prepares to deal with life after MCU-glue Robert Downey Jr. and perhaps having to give the original Avengers trio of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man a well-earned sabbatical from solo films, the future of the MCU is not guaranteed.
Sure, they’ll be printing money through the Infinity Wars during the latter half of this decade, and while there’s every reason to believe Marvel can successfully launch Black Panther and Captain Marvel solo films, whether or not those characters can anchor the larger MCU as it begins approaching Phase 4 remains to be seen.
Spider-Man is perhaps the ideal solution to assure an MCU anchor remains in place after RDJ.
As licensing revenue demonstrates, Spider-Man is not only Marvel’s top character around the globe, he’s all of comic books’ top character around the globe . Not to mention he’d do wonders to inject some youth into the not-exactly-spry MCU power brokers.
And Marvel themselves have indicated they well know how Spidey works best.
Yes, Spider-Man alone is solo icon. But even icons can get tired when they have to go it alone, at least cinematically. It happened to Warner Bros.’ Batman and at least in the U.S. it’s happening to Spider-Man as we speak.
But place Spider-Man in a larger superhero universe where he gets to play off other characters, a chemical reaction occurs that is greater than the sum of its individual parts - a reaction Marvel right now uses to great effect in their homegrown Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, which is all about Spider-Man interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe. In 2014 and beyond this is arguably his ideal big screen role, particularly having already been the subject of five solo films since 2002 already.
The introduction of Spider-Man into the MCU would have untold benefits to the brand and even Marvel knows their brand still has lots of room to grow around the world.
As hardcore comic book fans we're all well versed in the delineation of the Marvel properties between Marvel Studios, Sony and 20th Century Fox. Those distinction, however, become blurred among the broader moviegoing populace, and again, particularly in foreign territories. Striking a deal with Sony to get Spider-Man back under their creative control cannot be understated as positive for the overall Marvel brand, which does exist separately from and in addition to the Marvel Studios brand.
As for Sony, the franchise’s domestic recipes are absolutely headed in the wrong direction and momentum like that is difficult to reverse. While a Sinister Six film and the crafting of their own Spidey-centric shared universe might have seemed like the logical move prior to the performance of Amazing 2, now in hindsight Sony has to be reevaluating.
Heck, as it stands right now a Sinister Six film risks the odds of being perceived as the lesser, second-to-the-punch, supervillain ensemble film with an alliterate two word title that starts with ‘S’ of the latter half of 2016 alone.
And pushing Spider-Man 3 back two years to an unspecified date in 2018 didn’t look like a positive development even before the hack revelations.
Sony has a 'buzz' problem on their hands that two years will only exasperate and now that their conversations with Marvel have been unearthed in the public arena, they’re going to be living both in the shadow of renewed fan expectations of a Spider-Man-MCU dream team-up and under the public microscope of having to figure out how to get the wheels back on a tiring franchise when the obvious and best answer is now under everyone’s noses.
Which brings us back full circle.
Remember, there are people behind the current and planned future incarnations of the Spider-Man movie franchise – executives, producers (lots of them), writers, potential directors. And not to mention actors.
All of these people know what we all do – a clear path to a win-win scenarios exists (and may have already been walked) and getting the public back on board anything less than the dream scenario will be next to impossible.
Winning back the confidence of anyone involved that they plan a long-term, go-it-alone future for Spider-Man in which they and not Marvel Studios retain creative control is a stunt Sony may not be able to pull off.
The cat's out of the bag… the train has left the station … Spider-Man is probably on his way over to the MCU.
Sure, the two sides will likely play it out for a while longer trying to main their leverage to get the best deal for themselves they can, but right now it's quite possibly not a matter of if, but simply just a matter of how and when.