Hold onto your Underoos — Marvel Studios can now do whatever a spider can.
In a deal long-sought by Marvel Studios, Spider-Man — the character licensed to Sony Pictures years before the comic book company got into the filmmaking business — will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers team.
The deal means Spider-Man will appear in one of Marvel’s upcoming movies next, the studio said in its announcement late Monday. That will most likely be Captain America: Civil War, which is set for release May 6, 2016. Neither Sony nor Marvel specified a project, but Spider-Man was a key component in the comic book story line that inspired this movie — a clash between Cap and Iron Man over whether superheroes should be registered and monitored by the government. Spider-Man makes a critical decision about which side to take in the Mark Millar 2006-07 crossover series that pitted hero against hero.
After the webslinger does a tour within the Marvel Studios realm, Sony Pictures will release a stand-alone Spider-Man film on July 28, 2017, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige — who engineered the concept of a interconnected superhero franchise — will help produce it along with Amy Pascal, who stepped down last week as head of Sony Pictures (following the fiasco of the studio’s infamous hacking scandal last year.) Will Andrew Garfield be back in the mask? Probably not.
The announcement said Feige and Pascal will “collaborate on a new creative direction for the webslinger.” It’s unclear whether this will annihilate Sony’s planned Sinister Six villain team-up in 2016.
The announcement of the July 2017 Spidey film has pushed back the release of four Marvel Studios movies: Thor: Ragnarok previously occupied that spot, so it will movie back about to Nov. 3 of that year — a date previously listed for Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther film. That movie will now open nine months later on July 6, 2018 — a date previously held by Captain Marvel, the first Marvel Studios film to star a female in the lead. Now that project, which doesn’t yet have a star attached, will come out Nov. 2, 2018. You can see a pattern here, of course. That date was when initially reserved for Inhumans, which will move back to July 12, 2019. No other Marvel movies have been changed.
The third (and, um, fourth) Avengers film, which is being split into two installments, will not be changing, according to Marvel Studios parent The Walt Disney Co. Avengers: Infinity Wars — Part 1 is still slated for May 2018, and Part 2 remains on the calendar for May 2019.
Marvel has always wanted to win back its webslinger, but Sony has been reluctant to release such a valuable commodity — which led it to reboot the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films that, arguably, helped launch the current wave of superhero cinematic saturation. Raimi balked at Sony’s timeline for a fourth Spider-Man film and, feeling the third one suffered from lack of care, the director has said he chose to walk away rather that deliver another badly conceived sequel. That led Sony to start from scratch, hiring (500) Days of Summer filmmaker Marc Webb to relaunch the character with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
That title was financially successful but alienated fans who felt it was too much of retread. This past summer’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, featuring Jamie Foxx as the villain Electro, was poorly received by critics and fans alike and its middling box office for such an expensive tentpole picture added momentum to Marvel’s quest to reclaim the character: if Sony was struggling to figure out what to do with Spidey after five films, maybe it was time to join forces?
Last fall, sources at Sony told EW the studio was reluctant to share its toys, but having been persecuted relentlessly by a cyber-villain over the release of its controversial Kim Jong-Un-killing comedy, The Interview, the leadership was shaken, Pascal was destined to step down, and Marvel and Sony brass sat down to make a deal that would put both of them in the webslinger business.
In the announcement, Feige praised Pascal for her work shepherding the character to the screen over the past 15 years. But this pairing was something that has been making comic-book movie fans tingle for a long time. Marvel gets to have one of its icons back in its community of heroes, and Sony gets the benefit of Marvel Studio’s creative expertise. “Marvel’s involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand from the MCU,” Feige said, adding that this was something the workers at “Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years.”
Now, the two studios just have to make sure not to blow it. As someone once said: With great power … comes great responsibility.