What's wrong with Sony's Spider-Man Universe?

Hold onto your web-shooters, because the Sony Spider-Man Universe has been swinging through some rocky territory! Let's dive into the web of anti-heroes, villains, and missed opportunities.
Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man Far From Home"  - After Party
Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man Far From Home" - After Party / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

Imagine you have a friend who has known you from your childhood. You went to school together, where you did remarkably well, but your friend trailed behind. You're both in the same grade and take the same subjects each time. He is included in every activity you are, and when the teacher asks you to write an assignment, he copies your assignment and gets an A. He copies you at each and every step. During the final exams, he pokes you to tell him answers. However, as they say, "Even imitation has the limitation of common sense." So your friend copies the word "spider" as "spooder," but he still expects to get full marks because he copied from you. Unfortunately, he does not pass the exam.

What is this friend's name? Their name is Sony, and you are Disney.

Tom Holland, Zendaya
Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man: No Way Home" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals / Emma McIntyre/GettyImages

The Disney-Sony Spider-Man deal

Spider-Man has a complicated position in the film industry. For many years, Sony held the movie rights to the character, and used them to make Spider-Man films starring Tobey MaGuire and later Andrew Garfield. That prevented Spider-Man from joining Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). However, after the relative commercial failure of 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony Pictures collaborated with Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, where he's played to this day by Tom Holland. Still, Sony retained rights to several other Marvel assets. It's since gone about creating a series of films revolving around supporting characters from the Spider-Man comics like Venom, Morbius and Madame Web.

Tobey Maguire
Spiderman 3 - Rome Premiere / Franco Origlia/GettyImages

Recently, Sony and Disney announced a landmark deal that significantly impacts where fans can watch Sony Pictures' extensive catalog of films. Here are the key points:

1. Streaming Rights

Kemp Powers, Shameik Moore, Issa Rae, Hailee Steinfeld
CinemaCon 2023 Opening Night - Sony Pictures Entertainment Photocall / Gabe Ginsberg/GettyImages

The new agreement allows Sony's extensive library to stream on Disney+, Hulu, and linear television networks owned by Disney.

2. Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield
Celebrity Sightings In New York City - June 22, 2013 / Ray Tamarra/GettyImages

The centerpiece of this deal involves Spider-Man and his Marvel peers. Spider-Man's fate has been a topic of interest for fans due to his dual presence in both Sony's standalone films and the MCU. Now, Disney+ will have access to Spider-Man movies, allowing fans to enjoy them alongside other MCU content. Sony Pictures to continue to own, finance, distribute, and have final creative control of the solo Spider-Man films, with Disney distributing the films where he appears in a supporting capacity.

3. Other franchises

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Photo: Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan star in JUMANJI: The Next Level... Image Courtesy Sony Pictures /

There are other franchises included in this deal, including:

Jumanji: This adventure franchise has seen recent success with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Disney now has an opportunity to leverage it.

Hotel Transylvania: Although this franchise may be coming to a close, Disney can still explore spin-offs or related content based on this property.

So what does all of this mean for Sony's Spider-Man universe?

Sony's Spider-Man universe

The SSU kicked off in 2018 with Venom, followed by Venom: Let There Be Carnage in 2021, and then Morbius last year. This year they're released Madame Web. Kraven the Hunter and Venom 3 are still to come later in 2024. Despite being part of Sony's Spider-Man Universe, none of these films are set to feature Spider-Man.

Michelle Williams, Tom Hardy
Photo Call For Columbia Pictures' "Venom" / Steve Granitz/GettyImages

After two films with Andrew Garfield, the second of which didn't perform well critically, Sony decided to reboot the franchise. Marvel then stepped in, signing a deal to integrate Spider-Man into the MCU. Sony continued to explore characters from the Spider-Man universe, with Venom and Venom 2 being hits at the box office. However, they eventually realized that the movies needed to feature Spider-Man himself if they wanted to make audiences happy.

They initially planned to connect Tom Holland's Spider-Man into the Venom franchise by taking advantage of the multiversal shenanigans which took place in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but Marvel might have told them no, and thank god for that. Next they decided to make a movie about Madame Web, a supporting character from the Spider-Man universe with clairvoyant abilities. The story involves three Spider-Women who have to save an as-yet-unborn kid who will do something big in the future. That kid ends up being Tom Holland's Spider-Man.

According to industry insider Jeff Sneider on The Hot Mic Podcast, they were originally going to be trying to save Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man, but changed things in reshoots, when the timeline of the movie was shifted from the 1990s to 2003. All references to Garfield's Spider-Man were removed. In the end, Madame Web ended up feeling very jumbled and confused.

Dakota Johnson
World Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Madame Web" - Arrivals / Frazer Harrison/GettyImages

Sony has never cared about keeping continuity straight when it comes to Spider-Man. Remember when Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man poster — with "Murderer" written all over it — appeared in the trailer for Morbius but wasn't even in the final movie, to say nothing of it having any effect on the plot?

Madame Web was released to terrible reviews and poor box office. Still, Sony is forging ahead with Kraven the Hunter, currently set to release in August 2024, with Venom 3 coming after that. There's no reason to expect that either of these movies will have any more references to Spider-Man than any of the other films in the SSU, which is to say they'll have as few as possible.

All of this is very dire. However, there are bright spots in the Spider-Man universe. The animated Spider-Verse movies have been excellent, as have the Spider-Man video games from Insomniac. Perhaps Sony can give the SSU a reboot in the same way that James Gunn and Peter Safran are currently rebooting the DC Cinematic Universe. Meanwhile, we expect Tom Holland to eventually return in another Spider-Man movie made under Marvel supervision. Given his history, it will probably be worth watching.

Per reports from industry insider Daniel Richtman, Marvel wants to make Tom Holland's next Spider-Man movie a grounded film along the lines of the upcoming series Daredevil: Born Again. However, Sony wants to make it No Way Home 2.0, with all the multiversal mayhem that implies.

Dear Sony, when your live-action films are not working, please stop. Your other Spider-Man IPs are already performing very well. As a sign of good sportsmanship, you should not spoil the superhero content market. There are already too many superhero films out there, and unless you can find a way to make yours better, they're just clogging an overcrowded pipe, which could end up hurting other franchises and fans.

When Batman & Robin came out in 1997, it effectively put an end to Batman projects for many years, which harmed fans. Eventually, they realized it's not the character that was the problem, but the interruption. Then Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy came out and changed everything. Since then, we've had three live-action Batmen onscreen, and fans have continually shown up to see them. I don't want Sony's sub-par Spider-Man-adjacent movies to do the same thing to Spider-Man.

At the end of the day, it all affects fans. When they decided not to continue the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, fans were hurt. We are still demanding another movie with Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man. When Sony spoils the Spider-Man villains, fans are hurt. And when you get hurt again and again, you stop caring.

Next. dune part two. Dune: Part Two is a cinematic triumph that flourishes on all fronts. dark

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