Opinion: Sony Isn’t the Bad Guy in The Big Spider-Man Split with Disney and Marvel Studios
If reports are true, Sony did the only logical thing by extracting Spider-Man from Marvel again and Disney is the one to blame.
Undoing the Snap was for naught. This past week, news came down that Spider-Man was leaving the MCU, despite a boffo opening for the Web-Slinger’s second solo adventure, Far From Home. But, as it turns out, the agreement between Disney and Sony — who owns the movie rights — to share characters was not running as smoothly as we all thought. (Related: Report: Tom Holland’s Spider-Man Out Of MCU – Marvel and Sony Fail to Reach Deal)
They couldn’t broker a new deal so Sony walked away, saying they are disappointed in Disney, who reportedly wants a bigger cut — something in the range of 30-50%! Sony was happy with their old terms that settled on 5%; Disney balked, allegedly. (Related: Sony Responds to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man Exiting the MCU: ‘We Are Disappointed’)
And, of course, everybody is upset, from fans to some inside the Marvel stable. Jeremy Renner, who sent out a plea on Instagram, wants to see Spider-Man back in the fold (pretty please). People are even petitioning Ryan Reynolds — an actor playing a character Disney acquired but hasn’t introduced yet — to step in and save the day.
Those are actions by the Marvel faithful aside from the expected petitions and hashtags. An example of the former already garnered over 75,000 signatures and Twitter is blowing up with #SaveSpiderman and #SaveSpidey trending.
So the consensus is Sony is wrong and foolish and should come back to the table, right? No, not entirely. Because there are dissident viewpoints of the situation, like that of the usually private daughter of Spidey co-creator Stan Lee, Joan “JC” Lee. She accused Marvel and Disney execs of not respecting her father, his legacy, or his family and added there should be checks and balances over “Marvel and Disney seeking total control” here. (Related: Stan Lee’s Daughter JC Lee Rips Marvel and Disney: ‘No One Could Have Treated My Father Worse’)
I for one think she has a point and I agree. JC Lee is right and it doesn’t end with Spider-Man. Disney is unchecked and it’s out of control. They are getting too big, too fast. Never mind “too big to fail,” Disney is so big now they think they can’t fail and can do whatever. That’s a discussion we should be having. Think about how big the Disney Corp. is compared to a decade or so ago, back when they didn’t possess Star Wars or Marvel. They now own over 30% of the market share in entertainment. Remember how it got to that point?
Disney did another thing this year that made headlines. They acquired 21st Century Fox, only one of the major studios dating back to Hollywood’s Golden Era. Fox is still one of the biggest names in town and the world. After close to a century of existence, Disney just went ahead and gobbled it up in their merger spree of the last few years. Where’s the outrage? In any other industry, heads would turn and there might be calls for Senate hearings, but I digress. (Related: Disney Purchases 21st Century Fox in Multi-Billion Dollar Deal)
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The House of Mouse initiated the sale to get at Fox’s vast catalog of IP’s which contained the X-Men and Fantastic Four film licenses. Add to that other renowned and valuable properties such as Alien, Predator, and The Simpsons (yeah, the Mouse owns The Simpsons now too). Nothing is out of their reach and nothing is too expensive.
Imagine, if you will, Disney buying another competitor: Warner Bros. What would the reaction be? Tremendous, right? Even shocked and maybe even a little disturbed (given the foundation-shaking change that hypothetically takes place). That purchase would bring DC Comics, Harry Potter, and more into the Disney empire. Should that happen? No. Does Disney need either DC or HP in its portfolio? Absolutely not. Nothing of the sort has to come to pass regardless of how exciting the idea might be. (Related: After the Fox/Disney Deal – Could Sony Pictures Be Next?)
Just because they are a conglomerate doesn’t mean they can or ought to own everything. Granted, there is an exception to the Webhead. It’s Marvel’s stuff and they want him back. Only fair, I know, but JC Lee said something else that hit me: “Whether it’s Sony or someone else’s, the continued evolution of Stan’s characters and his legacy deserves multiple points of view.” Can we say with complete certainty back home at Marvel is the best place for that to happen?
If Into the Spider-Verse proved anything it’s that Marvel/Disney doesn’t corner the market on the best minds for a kick-ass Spidey movie. Over two decades, Sony made a handful of Spider-Man pictures everybody liked or were passable and, more importantly, made money. And they will anyway even if they only have villains to work with. (Related: What is Sony Up To with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?)
You have to admit their endeavor will work a whole lot better if they have the central character in their own film universe. We have Venom, it’s getting a sequel, Morbius is on the way, and all this was in the works while Tom Holland was building a home in the MCU. Sony owns the rights, but they couldn’t have a different live-action Spider-Man. Animation was a different story.
So Sony can utilize the villains ad nauseum without Spider-Man unless it’s a cartoon. See how convoluted that is? And now Disney might be asking for a greater percentage for their protection fee. Sony did the sensible thing in terms of their interest. They reached out to Marvel, not the other way around, and can walk away. It’s business. (Related: Rumor: Marvel and Disney Offer New Deal to Sony to Keep Spider-Man in MCU)
However, business is not static. The crisis — Spider-gate if you want to call it that — could turn around. Sony could cave to the fan outrage and petitions, but something has to happen first: the movies have to suck. Efforts by Sony Pictures have to be awful or unprofitable or both.
Is that going to happen? Possibly, but Sony is going to try their best to avoid mediocre box office results. You can’t expect them to sabotage themselves. How are they doing that when we know they are holding on to Tom Holland and Jon Watts? JK Simmons can’t be far behind. To top it off, Andy Serkis — a prime recruit for this sort of thing — is helming the Venom sequel. Somewhere along the way, all those forces will meet. (Related: Rumor: Venom to Face Off Against Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3)
No guarantees of quality, yet I want to see how the above scenario plays out — multiple points of view and all. If Sony wants another fresh take on Spider-Man let them make the most of it, or at least attempt something before you go inveighing to an MCU celebrity. Greedy old Disney did this to themselves. They had their chance; they blew it.