At the beginning of 2018, I would never have thought I’d be typing out this piece. It isn’t like Sony has had a good track record with Spider-Man movies for a while. While Spider-Man: Homecoming was a booming success, it was largely due to Marvel’s involvement in the project. To make matters even more puzzling, the studio decided to release a Venom movie without Spider-Man, as well as the overly ambitious Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated film.
Well, kudos to Sony. It made me eat every single crumb of humble pie this year. Even with the all-out assault from the snooty critics and edgelord fans, Venom crushed it at the box office and it’s still going strong (FYI, I loved this wild romcom). The good news keeps coming for the studio as the early buzz around Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse suggests it’s a possible Oscar contender and the best superhero flick of the year (in a year where we got the mother of all team-ups in Avengers: Infinity War).
All of a sudden, Sony is the big boy on the block again, like it was when it released Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002. Maybe – just maybe – it should hang onto those Spidey rights and not let Marvel have them after all.
Now, before you pop an artery, take a deep breath and consider this: Marvel has a formula for making movies. That style is nothing like what we saw in Venom or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Like a big corporate that claims innovation is at the heart of everything it does, there’s absolutely nothing innovative about the Marvel way of making films. This isn’t a criticism, because the studio sticks to what it knows works and makes business sense. Marvel is pretty much the equivalent of a Coca-Cola factory; you like the way that Coke tastes, so the company continues to give you the exact same taste in each bottle.
However, there comes a time when you want to drink something else. It doesn’t mean you’ll never want Coke again – just that you’d like some variety. Sony is an example of this. The studio seems more confident than before, and it’s embracing the dissimilarity in how it makes movies to Warner Bros. and Disney.
“But what about the shared universe?” you ask. Well, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter anymore. As the likes of Warner Bros. and other studios have found out, a shared universe doesn’t mean instant success. Sometimes, it’s better to watch a good movie than to see something that connects to another 10 years of productions. Looking into my crystal ball, you’ll find that smaller shared universes will be the way of the future, as these allow for more creativity from the film-makers and ability to define clear parameters. Take nothing away from Marvel’s success with its shared universe – because it did what no one else managed to do – but don’t be surprised when its own MCU gets smaller and more contained.
Alternatively, there’s the possibility that Sony will extend its agreement with Marvel and allow Spider-Man to continue playing in the MCU from time to time, as long as it holds the rights for his solo films. In that way, everyone wins. Judging by Sony’s two massive successes this year, however, it looks like the studio holds all the aces for the future of Spider-Man and his amazing friends. Your move, Marvel.