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Spider-Man Looks Set To Exit The Marvel Cinematic Universe

By: Steve Watts / Gamespot

A dispute over producing rights and revenue sharing appears to have done what several supervillains couldn't: knock out Spider-Man. The wallcrawler had gotten a new lease on life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he has helmed two standalone movies and appeared as a prominent character in three others. But Disney and Sony could not reach an agreement to continue their partnership, so he's swinging back to Sony exclusively.

Ahead of D23 — the annual event where Disney outlines its movie, parks, and new streaming plans — news broke that Sony and Disney were unable to reach an agreement to renew the deal allowing Spider-Man into the MCU, and that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige would no longer serve as a producer on the Spider-Man films. Sony initially said the reports had been mischaracterized, and stated it was "disappointed" in the dispute. 

At first it appeared the discussions may be ongoing, but soon after Feige began talking about the agreement in past-tense, signaling it was over. 

"I'm feeling about Spider-Man gratitude and joy," Feige told Entertainment Weekly. "We got to make five films within the MCU with Spider-Man: two standalone films and three with the Avengers. It was a dream that I never thought would happen. It was never meant to last forever. We knew there was a finite amount of time that we'd be able to do this, and we told the story we wanted to tell, and I'll always be thankful for that."

The partnership began in 2015, allowing Marvel to use Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, while Sony retained the film rights to the character. Sony secured the film rights to Spider-Man long before Marvel was acquired by Disney and began making its own movies under the Marvel Studios label. Sony was responsible for the Sam Raimi trilogy of films, which starred Tobey Maguire as the iconic supehero. The movies were rebooted with Andrew Garfield as the web-head, but the uneven performance of those films left the character in creative limbo. 

The agreement to allow Spider-Man into the MCU was mutually beneficial. It allowed Marvel to use the popular character while letting Sony benefit from having him as part of the Marvel juggernaut. The exact terms of the deal were never disclosed, but the renewal reportedly fell apart over the revenue split.

What's next for Spider-Man movies?

This breakup comes on the heels of a major plot twist for the character. In "Spider-Man: Far From Home," which served as a postscript for the universe-shattering events of the last two Avengers films, the web-slinger had his world turned upside-down. In a post-credits sequence, J.K. Simmons reprised his role as the muckraker J. Jonah Jameson, and revealed Spider-Man's secret identity to the world. 

That wild left turn, paired with fake news regarding his involvement in the death of a purported hero, could make Peter Parker public enemy number one. 

When the deal collapsed, fans wondered if this meant Sony would reboot the character altogether. That doesn't appear to be the case. ComicBook reports that Actor Tom Holland said he'll still be playing the character, and added that the next movie will be "very different." That may mean the character will pick up right where Far From Home left off, albeit without the references to the larger Marvel universe. 

Can Disney and Sony still make a deal?

It is still possible that Sony and Disney could renegotiate their terms. It wouldn't be the first time Disney appeared to cut ties and later changed course. Director James Gunn was fired in 2018 from Guardians of the Galaxy 3, the third installment in a series he helped popularize. Disney appeared steadfast in the face of fan petitions and even cast members speaking out, but the tides slowly changed. Earlier this year, the company announced it would reinstate Gunn as the director of Guardians 3. 

Spider-Man is one of Marvel's most popular characters and the deal to bring him into the MCU was an important one. For now, Marvel appears to be moving forward with its Phase 4 plans without the character, but that may change. 

Meanwhile, Sony is moving forward with its own films based on Spider-Man characters, including a sequel to "Venom," a sequel to the animated "Into The Spider-Verse", and a movie based on the vampiric antihero Morbius.

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