You have to understand what these companies are in it for….
On Tuesday, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) were dealt a huge blow when it was revealed that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man character is to be removed from the ongoing comic book franchise because Sony who still hold the rights to the character and Disney, who own marvel studios and were now largely manning the production of Spider-Man movies, couldn’t seemingly come to a decision on the a renewal of the deal they made in 2015 to share the character and thus Sony would be essentially taking back full control of Spider-Man movies and removing him from the MCU entirely. The blow back from this online has of course not been pleasant, with fans clamoring for Sony and Disney to make another deal, #SaveSpiderman trending on all major social media platforms and even multiple actors from the MCU or otherwise joining in on both those activities and finally, Spider-Man actor himself Tom Holland along with co-star Zendaya both unfollowed Sony on Instagram. To put it simply, no one wants this, but this impasse between Sony and Disney only serves to remind us that the movies we love so much today are rarely projects of artistic expression and escapism, and more likely money making machines for the companies that own them.
So how did this happen in the first place? Well, it all largely involves film/image distribution rights, which are basically the rights to use a certain character in a certain form of TV or Film media. Marvel Comics, back in the 1990s sold the rights to most of its popular characters to Sony, Twentieth Century fox, New Line Cinema and Universal Studios. This is what caused the movies from the late 90’s and early 2000’s (the first X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk) movies to all be independent unconnected stories yet as Marvel studios later went on to show, this wasn’t the way they wanted things done when they created the MCU. It’s also why Marvel and Disney have spent the past ten years trying to buy back all those image rights, being successful in some cases (Daredevil, The X-Men, Fantastic Four) , having borderline success in others (Hulk) and straight up failed in cases like Spider-Man. Marvel Studios and Disney found Sony at it’s weakest spot back in 2015 after the failure of Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a blockbuster and then-Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield was having disputes with Sony themselves. Hence Disney offered Sony what seemed like a life-saver solution: offering to integrate Spider-man into the billion dollar Juggernaut that was the MCU and letting Sony gain a new Spider-Man that could be partnered with the now seemingly more popular heroes Iron Man and Captain America. As for profits, Sony would cover most of the production and costs and retain all the profits Spider-Man movies would gain at the box office. Disney would instead gain money from Spider-Man merchandise sales which should not be discounted at all because Disney makes billions off of those anyway. However, the recent shift seemingly came after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which grossed over a billion dollars and became Sony’s highest earning movie of all time. Both Sony and Disney/Marvel studios decided renegotiating the standing contract was necessary, and Disney made the offer of now covering 50% of production and marketing costs with the condition that it also regains 50% of box office profits as well, along with all the previous merchandising revenue they had before. This is where things got dicey, because of course Sony wasn’t willing to cough out 50% of a franchise that’s arguably become its biggest single paycheck. And thus, after Disney failed to accept a counter offer Sony made, Sony decided to walk out and take Spider-Man with them.
Now to be fair, when reading all the facts, one could decide that Disney is to blame here for being greedy when it comes to profits, after all considering Disney is a company big enough to buy its competitors now(FOX), the last thing the company is missing is money. Some of you may still think Sony is stupid for pulling out entirely, especially since Spider-Man being in the MCU nearly always guarantees them a piece of a franchise that makes 4-6 billion dollars a year. But whoever you side with on this split, one thing is clear: Corporate greed is the real enemy here. Greed, control and money are what have robbed Marvel fans of one of their favorite characters , to the point that everyone involved in the creative process of these movies, the actual artists that still believe in bringing art to the big screen, are just as hurt by this decision as the audience.
All this serves to prove that movies, as much as we love them, are barely ever art or anything artistic anymore. At the very top, they aren’t made with the intention of bringing an amazing story to life as much as they’re focused on bringing whichever studio owns them the biggest paycheck. And it’s that exact focus on profit over passion that many could argue is actually killing the modern day movie and even series business. Creativity tends to be drowned out by a need to capitalize on trends and lock down intellectual property. Think about it, Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings ushered in the epic fantasy phase, Twilight and all its series clones brought about the vampire phase, and with the success of the MCU and movies like the Dark Knight and Logan, the superhero movement has gone from being a semi niche genre in modern entertainment to being an unstoppable dominant monster that honestly speaking, I sometimes get sick of despite being a big comic book superhero fan. The fact that every major US-based TV Channel, streaming service and movie studio has a superhero based project goes on to prove this as well, and it just adds to my key point; none of these studios actually care about what they’re making, not as much as they should anyway. Instead they’re much more focused on how much money they can make with it, which when it comes to art, which is what films of most kinds should be, focusing on the money just tends to diminish the final product. Multiple examples of this exist; the fifth Die Hard movie, James Bond’s Spectre, the 2015 horror show that was Fant4stic, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Last Knight. All of those movies belong to franchises that at least in some way originally aimed to create something authentic, relatable, or just straight up fun, and because those original movies made a whole lot of money, the companies behind them decided to keep pushing for more sequels, often contractually manipulating or pushing away key talent that made those initial movies great in the first place. Just look up Daniel Craig’s interviews about Spectre if you want proof of this, and it’s obvious that once an actor, director or other key production member decides they don’t like the job they’re doing at that time, there will be repercussions that hurt the final product. No one wants to see a mediocre Spider-Man movie because Tom Holland was contractually obliged by Sony to act it, and of course this again makes fans hate the fact that Sony even owns the marvel film rights in the first place. But Marvel’s rights are one thing, these intellectual property situations can be confusing even within the same company.
Warner brothers have owned the other powerful side of the comic book movement, DC comics for a while now, and they’ve started two main franchises based on the comic maker’s properties: The CW’s Arrow-verse and the DC Extended Universe. The former is home to popular TV series Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, while the latter has given us movies like Wonder Woman, Justice League and Aquaman. Now if you’re wondering why all the characters from these projects don’t just meet up in one big Avengers Endgame-like movie, especially since in the comics they’re based on they all do, well Warner Brothers has one simple reason for you: they don’t want the two franchises to mix. Honestly speaking, that’s not actually a bad thing. In fact I like the differences between the Arrow-verse and DCEU so much I would keep them separate as well if I ran things. What is the bad thing however, is how Warner Brothers intentionally stifled the Arrow-verse in order to promote the DCEU, as the movie franchise would likely bring more money to the table. WB went so far as to ban the Arrow-verse from using certain characters or even saying certain words in their shows (Arrow couldn’t use the word Batman for many seasons for example) along with killing off already established characters that had DCEU versions as well (Deadshot and the Suicide Squad from Arrow being prime examples here). It all comes down to your favorite stories, imaginary worlds and beloved characters all really being nothing more than tools for someone else to make money. And that’s not to say these studios should not make money, if anything, anyone who watches a good movie often goes on to state how much it was worth the price of admission or worth even more. It’s the greed that’s twisted the movie industry that people tend to have a problem with, especially when experiences we mostly watch for some version of immersion or escapism actually becomes another point of concern or stress for the average person.
In the end, all this becomes another sad fact of our power hungry and less than ethical world. Spider-Man really might leave the MCU, your favorites series might be cancelled because it’s not making enough money, you might have to live through another million reboots of things you watched when you were 3 years old. All of this is the film industry as it stands, and we just have to accept its money hungry ways without completely losing our minds. After all, it’s not like any of us are going to give up watching movies and series entirely because of this, and if anything, it helps us appreciated the more sincere projects whenever we can find them.
Tell us your thoughts on all this , and how Spider-Man leaving the MCU makes you feel.