A Few Things about The Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Films in General…

The Avengers, as they’ll (probably) never appear on film

I’m going to be posting a review of The Amazing Spider-Man. This is not it. Before diving into my thoughts on that film, there were a few things that I wanted to clear up for people who may not be as knowledgeable about these things as I am.

When the topic of The Amazing Spider-Man comes up, there are two questions I get asked, the first being “Why isn’t Spider-Man in the Avengers?” and the second being “Why are they rebooting Spider-Man so soon?” Well, in order to understand the answer to the second question, you kind of need to know the answer to the first question.

First of all, no, Spider-Man won’t be showing up in The Avengers 2. More casual fans of these films seem to have a lot of trouble with this concept, so I’m going to do my best to spell it out as plainly as I can. Way back in the day (prior to films like Spider-Man and X-Men), superhero films weren’t really a thing. Yeah, you had your Superman’s and your Batman’s, but they weren’t the hot commodity that they are today. Something like “Marvel Studios” (the production company behind The Avengers and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) wasn’t really possible. Marvel couldn’t afford to produce and release these films themselves, because unlike their rivals at DC Comics, they didn’t have a studio like Warner Bros. backing them (Warner Bros. owns DC Comics). So they went about licensing the rights to their stable of characters to various studios. Properties such as X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider found their home at 20th Century Fox. Universal Pictures received the Hulk, New Line Cinema got Blade, and Lionsgate had the Punisher. The rights to Spider-Man were acquired by Columbia Pictures, which is a holding of Sony Pictures. Marvel sold off the rights to a ton of their characters and we all know what happened next – X-Men and Spider-Man went on to become huge hits and spurred on 12+ years of superhero prosperity in theatres.

In 2004, Marvel smartly decided that they wanted to begin self-financing their superhero adaptations. Skipping all of the technical business mumbo-jumbo (it’s all on Wikipedia if you’re interested), Marvel ended up teaming up with Paramount Pictures to produce films based on 10 properties – Ant-Man, The Avengers, Black Panther, Captain America, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Power Pack, and Shang-Chi. Yes, it was a disparate group of characters, but everything else had pretty much been taken. Over time, however, Marvel began re-acquiring the rights to various properties: Lionsgate gave up Black Widow, New Line gave up Iron Man, Universal gave up the Hulk, and Sony gave up Thor. With their new Paramount Pictures deal and a decent stable of characters, Marvel Studios was ready to begin developing their own films.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Now that Marvel Studious was shepherding their own herd, they could begin building towards something as ambitious as a shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, they could only do so using the characters that they had the rights to, which is why Spider-Man won’t be appearing in anything produced by Marvel Studios anytime soon. That isn’t to say that it won’t happen someday, but as long as Sony keeps making Spider-Man movies, it’s not very likely (but not altogether impossible – more on this later).

Which brings us to the second question – why release a Spider-Man reboot a mere 5 years after Spider-Man 3? Well in short, The Amazing Spider-Man was made because it had to be made. I don’t know all the intricacies of the deal that Marvel made with Sony, but I know that if Sony isn’t actively using the rights to the Spider-Man franchise, they’ll revert back to Marvel. This isn’t something that Sony wants to happen because Spider-Man is a cash cow. Who would want to give up the film rights to one of the most popular, enduring characters in all of pop culture? Fox is facing the same issues with all of its properties as well; the X-Men franchise has been kept busy with the Wolverine and First Class spin-offs, but it’s been 5 years since we’ve seen a Fantastic Four film and 7 years since Elektra (which would fall under the Daredevil property). This is why they’re frantically trying to reboot both Fantastic Four (presumably for a 2014 release since the rights will revert back to Marvel in 2015) and Daredevil (David Slade is currently attached to direct).

“Okay, but why not just make Spider-Man 4?” Well… they were going to. Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst were all ready to continue the franchise with a new trilogy of films. Spider-Man 4 even had a release date set for May 6th, 2011. Negotiations were underway for John Malkovich to play the Vulture and Anne Hathaway to play Felicia Hardy (who, instead of becoming the Black Cat, would have been a new villain called the Vulturess – ugh). Sony didn’t like the direction that Raimi was taking the franchise, however, and pushed back against the idea of having the Vulture in the film and it was reported that Raimi “hated” the script, even after several rewrites. The director, the studio, and the writers continued butting heads until the entire project was put on hold. Sony lost the May 6th, 2011 release date (which Marvel Studios conveniently slotted Thor into) and eventually announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be rebooted with a different director and cast. And let’s be honest – did you really want to see another movie with Maguire and Dunst? I didn’t. While it’s true that we really didn’t need another origin story (who doesn’t know it at this point?), this franchise needed a breath of fresh air, and it looks like Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield, and Emma Stone were exactly the people to do so.

The Amazing Spider-Man will undoubtedly be a success, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is already slated for May 2nd, 2014. Sony’s also looking to follow in Marvel’s footsteps by creating a “shared cinematic universe” for the Spider-Man franchise – director Josh Trank is currently attached to a Venom spin-off (hopefully they’ll be able to do a better job than Spider-Man 3 did). This is all to say that it looks like Sony’s going to continue making Spider-Man films for a long, long time.

All hope is not lost, however. It has been revealed that Sony and Disney (the company that now owns Marvel and all of its properties) were in talks to have the Oscorp Tower (a central location in The Amazing Spider-Man) show up in the skyline of The Avengers’ New York City. It ended up not working out logistically, but it’s pretty amazing that this sort of “crossover” was even in talks. Now, this would probably have ended up being nothing more than an easter egg for sharp-eyed fans, but the possibility exists that one day, Marvel could cut a deal with Sony and/or Fox to incorporate their franchises into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Either that or a miracle occurs and Marvel regains the rights to some of their most successful properties. Until that day comes, however, you’re not going to see the amazing Spider-Man standing alongside Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.

And now you know. So stop asking. Alright?

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