What Spider-Man’s exit from Marvel Cinematic Universe means for the future of Tom Holland's character

Vinay Viswanath

Sep 02, 2019 08:45:12 IST

For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the last two weeks have been quite a downer. When we first heard that Spider-Man could be set to leave the MCU, for many, their initial reaction was flat out denial. This was just a meta negotiation tactic…it had to be. Surely after the runaway success of his last two standalone outings, Sony wouldn’t just pick up their toys and go home. Personally, I wasn’t worried since I was convinced that Disney/Marvel would have an announcement by the time D23 came around.

But here we are almost a week on from the end of Disney’s biennial convention, and though we have got a lot of great new announcements fleshing out Phase 4 even further, for those waiting for news about the fate of the web-slinger, the silence was deafening. Unless something changes, Peter Parker does appear to be out of Marvel’s control at least for the foreseeable future.

I know this gif has been obscenely over-used but hey, once more, for old times sake.

 What Spider-Man’s exit from Marvel Cinematic Universe means for the future of Tom Hollands character

So long again, kid | Marvel Studios

That said, now that I’ve had some time to think about it…and some time to come to terms with it, there are a few good things that could come from Sony taking Spider-Man in another direction. Of course, there is still plenty that could go wrong too, but maybe… and I can’t believe I’m saying this, maybe this move is not necessarily going to be a complete disaster of Amazing Spider-Man 2 proportions.

This movie was bad even before we had Tom Holland’s Spider-Man run to compare it to. | Sony Pictures

This movie was bad even before we had Tom Holland’s Spider-Man run to compare it to | Sony Pictures

The Good

Spider-Man could use more room to shine on his own

Unlike most other Marvel heroes, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has had to share the limelight with some pretty major players even on his solo outings. In Homecoming, his mentor Tony Stark stepped in more than once to pull his young ward out of whatever trouble he had gotten himself into.

In the second film, Nick Fury, the once and apparently current director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Or maybe now S.W.O.R.D. who knows), effortlessly hijacks Peter’s life in order to enlist his aid. Which once again brings him into conflict with individuals who bear him no direct ill will (at least not at first), but instead justly or unjustly have a vendetta against Stark and his legacy.

Stark’s been dead for months and Peter is still stuck cleaning up the mess he made | Marvel Studios

Stark’s been dead for months and Peter is still stuck cleaning up the mess he made | Marvel Studios

With two solo movies down, isn’t it about time that Peter had enemies that are able to hate him for who he is, and not just because he used to hang out with a man whom, on average, apparently managed to make at least one lifelong enemy before breakfast (usually while remaining blissfully unaware of their enmity towards him).

Sony does know how to make good films

While the MCU is the undisputed king of the castle when it comes superhero movie franchises today, we should always remember that long before Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios set out on its path of world domination, Sony already had three Spider-Man films out, the second of which is still considered one of the best Spider-Man films around. And last year, Sony Pictures Animation produced the surprise hit, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse —undoubtedly the best Spider-Man film ever and, in my personal opinion, quite possibly the best superhero film ever.

Seriously, how incredibly good was this movie? | Sony Pictures Animation

Seriously, how incredibly good was this movie? | Sony Pictures Animation

If Into the Spider-Verse is any indicator of the kind of quality story-telling we might see from Sony if they go solo with Spider-Man, then I’ve got to say I’d probably prefer it to having him become just another face among the dozens of heroes that Marvel has to play with. Particularly with the X-Men and Fantastic Four coming back into the fold, Peter Parker would probably be in danger of getting lost in the crowd if he stays in the MCU.

Exploring the Spider-Verse further could be fun

By Spider-Verse, I don’t just mean alternate Spider-Men/Women/Things from other dimensions (although more of that would be lovely too), I’m talking about developing more of Peter Parker’s character as well as introducing more of his classic enemies.

Although I do hope they won’t get into the whole mystic side of Peter’s powers and how he is actually the corporeal avatar of a Spider Demi-God. Oh, did you not know that? Well, never mind then.

Just Ignore this | Marvel Comics

Just Ignore this | Marvel Comics

Bringing in more spider-persons like Miles Morales, Cindy Moon, Julia Carpenter and post-exposure Gwen Stacey into the live-action films could also be interesting. With Sony said to be planning to bring in more female heroes into their own little cinematic universe, it’s possible we might see them making their debuts sooner than we think…although honestly, I’d expect they would probably prefer to introduce them through some of the as-yet-unnamed animated projects they are said to have in development

The Bad

Sony also knows how to make very, very bad films

Before I go praising Sony Pictures too much, it’s important to note that, while it does indeed make some great films from time to time, it also has a well-earned reputation as a purveyor of…not good movies, including some real shameless cash gra…err I mean cinematic ‘gems’ like Jack and Jill, Pixels, Ghostbusters (2016) and The Emoji Movie.

This trash fire somehow cost almost $80 Million to make | Sony Pictures/Happy Madison

This trash fire somehow cost almost $80 Million to make | Sony Pictures/Happy Madison

Fine, I’m cherry-picking awful movies there but even the last James Bond was pretty poorly received (because Spectre wasn’t that good), Venom was a noisy, dark mess and let’s not forget what happened the last time Sony tried to make a Spider-Man movie without Marvel poking their oar in.

Pictured: Electro killing the franchise | Sony Pictures

Pictured: Electro killing the franchise | Sony Pictures

They may try to get ‘gritty’ with Spider-Man

I feel dirty for even saying it, but Sony could try to follow DC’s lead and go for a ‘dark & gritty’ aesthetic for their future films in a bid to distinguish themselves from the far more bright and cheerful MCU. If Venom is any indication of the kind of tone Sony likes to go with when left to their own devices then we can look forward to a whole lot more of this...

What is even going on here? Is…is Tom Hardy winning? | Sony Pictures

What is even going on here? Is…is Tom Hardy winning? | Sony Pictures

It would be absolutely terrible and wouldn’t really suit Spider-Man at all, but pretty much everyone said that about Zack Snyder’s plans for Superman too and we all know how that went down.

Poorly…it went poorly | Warner Bros./ DC

Poorly…it went poorly | Warner Bros/DC

The loss of what could be

This one is just a rumour, but Marvel supposedly had up to seven solo movies planned for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man that would follow his journey through college and possibly beyond, allowing the character to grow and mature into a veteran superhero in real-time… a bit like Boyhood but with more robots and lasers.

While we do stand to gain much with Peter Parker setting out on his own back to the Sony Pictures backlot, what we stand to lose is a large swathe of Kevin Feige’s intriguing vision for this beloved character and if there was any truth at all to that rumour, that’s a terrible loss no matter how you slice it.

Now he’ll never even know that he made friends with an alien | Sony Pictures Animation

Now he’ll never even know that he made friends with an alien | Sony Pictures Animation

The Wildcard

And for my last point, how about we close out with some wild, baseless, downright confusing conspiracy-mongering?

I’ll take your silence as consent.

Tinfoil hats on people!

What if Marvel isn’t quite ready to just let Sony walk away from the table with their well-established new Spider-Man franchise in hand. At the end of Far From Home, Peter Parker’s future as a hero is already heavily in jeopardy. He’s been framed for crimes he didn’t commit. He’s been found to be in control of a completely illegal global surveillance network and hundreds, if not thousands, of weaponised drones enabling him to casually and even accidentally commit genocide on-demand…an accusation that may be unfair, but is not inaccurate. And finally, his secret identity as an unassuming youth from Queens has been completely exposed.

What if Marvel decided that Peter Parker went underground, ditching both his civilian and heroic identities choosing to start going by a new name until he was able to clear his name and the heat died down. We’ve already seen the comparisons between Peter and Tony Stark being drawn multiple times, what if Marvel were able to sign Tom Holland to play a character that is absolutely-not-Peter-Parker-living-under-an-alias. Of course, it’s not likely since Holland is signed on with Sony for two more films, but stranger things have happened.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Peter try to fill Iron Man’s shoes, though that’s probably too much to ask for| Marvel Studios

I wouldn’t mind seeing Peter try to fill Iron Man’s shoes, though that’s probably too much to ask for | Marvel Studios

Would audiences buy it? It would certainly be a bold move, but in a cinematic universe that has tackled time travel and the multiverse, I don’t see why not. Would that be enough to scuttle Sony’s plans and bring them back to the table in the future? Probably not. I’d expect Sony to just ignore the MCU and carry on with their own films, but losing Tom Holland and immediately divorcing their films irreparably from the MCU would almost certainly be quite a blow if that were to happen.

Of course, while it’s fun to think about, that’s never going to happen. It just couldn’t.

Could it?

Nah. Well, maybe as a storyline in Disney+’s What If, but probably not any further than that.

The Bottom Line

Of course, failed negotiations don’t mean that we’ll never ever see Spider-Man in the MCU again. It’s entirely possible that a deal could be struck any day and Aunt May and Happy Hogan won’t be forced to break up off-screen by the next film.

Come on Sony, Happy’s getting too old to keep playing the field | Marvel Studios

Come on Sony, Happy’s getting too old to keep playing the field | Marvel Studios

While it’s easy (and tempting) to blame Sony for walking away from the table, the truth is that Disney was/is playing hardball and pushing to secure extremely favourable terms for future Spider-Man films. In the end, what this boils down to is a disagreement between two giant corporations about which of them gets to squeeze the most billions of dollars out of cinemagoers by leveraging our love for a Man-Spider hybrid.

Really makes you think.

Updated Date: Sep 02, 2019 08:50:15 IST