With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility (to please the fans and not be greedy)

The last decade has redefined the capabilities of a movie franchise with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In an unprecedented cinematic event, The Avengers (2012) was a culmination of five years of stand-alone superhero films starting with Iron Man (2008) in which all those heroes fought side by side in a big budget production. Seeing Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk fight on screen together was a big deal for comic book fans and moviegoers alike. During this first phase of films, Disney saw an opportunity and purchased the film rights to the franchise in 2009. There was one major Marvel superhero we never thought would join these heroes, and he is possibly the most beloved. His name is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is owned by Sony Pictures and thus separate from the MCU. Fans dreamed that one day he would fight alongside the other Marvel heroes. After the box office disappointments of The Amazing Spider-Man films, Sony decided something needed to change. This was based on consumer demand. Candace Jones’ “Creative Industries: A Typology of Change” defined demand as “an exogenous pull for change when consumers have purchasing power and organizations’ markets expand” (Jones 7). Audiences weren’t thrilled to see a Spider-Man reboot with more of the same just five years after the last series ended. We just watched Uncle Ben die not ten years ago! With great power comes great responsibility, again? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) grossed only $700 million worldwide, a new low for the character. Box office returns said it all, the consumer voted with their wallet, and people were ready for change.

Enter 2015, Sony finishes a long negotiation with Disney to finally allow the character to enter the MCU starting with Captain America: Civil War (2016). Sony would produce Spider-Man films in line with the direction of the character from the MCU and would keep 95% of the profits. This mutually beneficial agreement allowed Sony’s new Spider-Man series to prosper and fans to delight at the inclusion of their favorite Marvel hero in upcoming Avengers films. A charismatic young actor was cast in Tom Holland, and the series seemed destined for greatness.

The first image of Spider-Man in trailer #2 for Captain America: Civil War (2016), which currently has almost 83 million views.

With the massive success of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) becoming the first Spider-Man film to surpass $1 billion worldwide, Disney decided it was time to renegotiate the agreement. They jumped from being content with their 5% to demanding half the earnings. Sony declined almost immediately, as they had just achieved their greatest studio success to date. After failing to reach an agreement, Spider-Man was pulled from the MCU and Far From Home’s cliffhanger ending will likely remain as such.

This is a sad case of corporate greediness ruining a winning partnership. If the terms are not renegotiated, Spider-Man will never visit the MCU again due to public policy. Public policy “allows for collection of revenues but also potentially marginalizes individual creativity” (Jones 8). Ownership laws prevent more crossovers like this from happening. This is why you’re unlikely to see Batman (owned by DC/Warner Brothers) fighting the Hulk any time soon. This strict copyright system ensures that a company owning rights to a character has complete control over that character’s portrayal in all forms. The company could even deny rights for a young boy’s grave to bear his favorite superhero. The Walt Disney Corporation certainly does not need 50% of the box office take away but saw an opportunity to increase their never-ending amount of wealth and took it. Creativity was stifled and millions of fans were let down. The deal seemed too good to be true, and it was.


  1. ICYMI, looks like Sony and Disney took your and other Spider-Man fans’ feelings to heart and were able to reach an agreement to reinsert him back into the MCU.


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