Sony swings ‘Spider-Man’ deal with Marvel: What’s Next?

I know what this month's cover story is going to be on “Duh” magazine.

In news that makes sense to anyone who likes (A) Spider-Man, (B) Marvel Studios, or (C) money, a deal has finally been struck that returns Spider-Man to the fold so that he is now free to appear on occasion in the giant cross-over team movies that Marvel will be making, like the two part “Infinity Wars” movie.

This also means that we'll see a Sony Spider-Man world that feels like it is taking place in the same universe as the rest of the Marvel movies, something that is very promising and exciting. This is something we first mentioned on “Ask Drew” last year, when Sony was still struggling to figure out how to make the deal work. One of the reasons it was so hard to pin down the reporting on that story was because it was a completely liquid story. From day to day, it sounded like new ideas and new possibilities were being discussed, with no single voice in charge of how things would go. When the Sony hack happened, it proved a lot of what we were saying was right, and then Latino Review pinned the story down hard a week after that. This is something that all involved wanted… but it still wasn't easy to make it happen.

One of the things that has helped make the Marvel movies work, regardless of whether you like them or not, has been clarity of vision. Because there is a team of people at the top of Marvel, including Kevin Feige and Louis D'Esposito and Jeremy Latcham and Alan Fine, all of them united in their idea of what the films should be and how these characters can work in live-action, there is a consistency of tone and style and voice from film to film. It is easy to believe that these things are all taking place in one larger connected universe, and when Marvel got to “The Avengers,” it was an easier conceptual leap for the studio to make than many pundits had predicted when they first laid out the plan.

One of the things that makes me most happy about the Marvel/Sony plan is that Marvel is well aware of how familiar origin stories have become, and they're starting to push to introduce characters in media res in this next wave of films, assuming that they can flesh out the origin in a few smartly crafted scenes instead of spending an entire film setting a character up. Obviously, I don't know what the first stand-alone Sony “Spider-Man” film will be, but considering they're going to introduce him in one of the Marvel movies first (is it too late to find a way to work him into “Civil War”?), it wouldn't make much sense to then back up and do an entire feature-length retelling of a story that has been told too many times on film already.

I know that the popular stance is that the Marc Webb films were cast perfectly but had bad scripts, but I'm not so sure I agree. I think Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were cast perfectly to play opposite each other, certainly, but I'm not sure how Garfield's character became anointed as the perfect Spidey. The Peter Parker I've loved for most of my life would never swing into a graduation ceremony and skateboard across the stage high-fiving his bros as he goes. There's a weird sort of hyper-confidence to Peter in the Garfield films, and it seems to me contrary to what I love so much about him. Peter has always been the Job of the Marvel Universe, perpetually one step short, one second late, one dollar shy. He's the guy it rains on. He's the guy who almost gets the girl, only to get his heart broken. He's the guy trying to figure out if he can pay rent or each lunch. I won't miss anything about the Webb films, and I'm hoping Marvel is able to work the same magic on Spidey that they've worked on so many of their other characters.

While I agree with some of the points being made tonight about how competition can often lead to better films from all involved, I think this is a case where Sony has mis-managed the property with enough force that it needs to go back to Marvel for a while. They need to rehab the character and show Sony how to build a world in steps instead of making an entire film that might as well have been called “Spider-Man: Gwen Dies, Electro Raps, and We Show 9000 Easter Eggs For Films You'll Never See.” Their impatience, combined with a bizarre misunderstanding of what makes the character great, is what led to such a terrible mega-sequel last year. It's exciting to think that we're going to see that character side-by-side with Iron Man and Thor and, god willing, some of the stranger corners of the Marvel Universe, too. I'd pay good money to watch Peter Parker try to make sense out of Groot, for example.

If Sony's smart, this is the beginning of that golden age of Spider-Man movies they've been dreaming of but could never quite solve for themselves. What I find most interesting about the press release is how there's no mention at all of Avi Arad. His name's just gone now, as it would have to be if Kevin Feige is going to have any serious involvement. Now it's just Feige and Amy Pascal listed as producers, with brief comments from Disney's Bob Iger and Sony's Michael Lynton and Doug Belgrad.

There has been a major shake-up in release dates because of this, too, according to the Twitter feed of Borys Kit. Since this new “Spider-Man” will get his own stand-alone film on June 28, 2017, he's got to appear in a Marvel film before that. It really does look like they're going to have to work him into “Captain America: Civil War” somewhere, which finally gives them someone with a secret identity that they can unmask. That's the whole reason they moved up “Black Panther” and put the character into “Civil War,” since they started to fear they'd never get this deal worked out in time. Over at Marvel, “Thor: Ragnarok” is now set for November 3, 2017, with “Black Panther” set for July 6, 2018, “Captain Marvel” on November 2, 2018, and “Inhumans” now set for a July 12, 2019 release.

The only other place Spidey could make his debut would be in “Doctor Strange” in November 2016, and I'm not sure they're going to want to do that. Still, Spidey and Strange are both in New York, and that might make the somewhat riskier “Strange” into an irresistible notion for Marvel, and an audience-magnet.

Make no mistake. This is giant news. This is pillar-shaking news. This is the news that Sony's stockholders have been praying for, and it looks like their prayers were answered in the best possible fashion.

Bring on the brand-new web-slinger. I can't wait. Now let's see what happens when I sit down with Donald Glover in a few weeks…