How do you solve a problem like Peter Parker? News broke Tuesday that Sony and Marvel Studios have split and will no longer work on future Spider-Man films together. Sony and Marvel’s falling out doesn’t just mean that Kevin Feige won’t get a producer credit on any future Spider-Man movies; it almost certainly means that Tom Holland’s version of the wall-crawler is going to be absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe effective immediately, despite both studios having spent the last three years ensuring that Spider-Man is a central part of what audiences think of when they think “Marvel.”
Ultimately, this is far more of a problem for Marvel than it is for Sony; for all that the latter might lose the cache of having an MCU cameo or two in future Spider-Man movies — or, more importantly, the certainty of the Marvel Studios creative touch — it would be easy enough for Sony’s future Spider-Man movies to just never mention the Avengers anymore, or refer to characters and events indirectly to keep IP lawyers from getting too jittery.
Additionally, bringing Spider-Man back to a prospective Sonyverse means that the possibility of his meeting Tom Hardy’s Venom, or Jared Leto’s Morbius, currently in production, has just significantly increased, much to the delight of internet meme makers everywhere.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM except it is kevin feige listening to amy pascal pic.twitter.com/kCqHC153pK
— roby saw baywatch x52 (@iamthatroby) June 18, 2017
For those nervous that losing Marvel from the Spidey moviemaking decision process — not the most unreasonable response, considering the confused state of Sony’s Spider-slate before the Marvel partnership was announced in early 2015 — let’s remember that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse writers/producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are already developing new Spider-Man ideas for Sony, albeit the TV side. How difficult would it be to get them to start thinking of more big-screen ideas, too…?
For Marvel, however, there’s a bit more of a problem. Since his introduction in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has been an increasingly integral part of the MCU. Outside of his two solo movies since then, he was also one of the most visible characters in Avengers: Infinity War, and his death in that movie proved to be one of the primary motivators for Tony Stark’s actions in Avengers: Endgame the following year. The most recent solo pic, Spider-Man: Far From Home, not only was responsible for introducing the new status quo of the MCU, but it also seemed to tease the next big multi-movie storyline for Marvel Studios. Spider-Man, it was clear, was very important to the MCU.
And now, he won’t be there.
On the one hand, this won’t be an immediate problem for Marvel — note that there was no Spider-Man movie announced as part of Marvel’s Phase IV at San Diego Comic-Con last month — but on the other… How, exactly, is Marvel going to dance around the fact that it can no longer feature the character who — in the very last Marvel movie released — was the face of the MCU superheroes?
It could, of course, simply not mention him and hope that everyone in the audience understands why, but that seems like a somewhat risky move given the vocal demands of the fan base. There’s the potential for some comic, cosmic switcheroo storyline that literally replaces Spider-Man with characters from the Fantastic Four or X-Men franchises, which would arguably give those introductions additional narrative weight (and could explain why no one has heard of those characters to this point).
Perhaps this is too premature. In 2012, as The Avengers were hitting the big screen, it seemed unthinkable that Spider-Man would be joining them in a Civil War movie four years later. Perhaps Sony and Marvel will make peace and craft a deal to maintain the integrity of the MCU, such as it is. But if not, don’t be too surprised if the fifth Avengers movie opens with Doctor Strange looking at an indistinct corpse in a mortuary and commenting that, yes, it’s Peter and it’s such a shame that the accident left him utterly unrecognizable and he’ll be an inspiration to everyone moving forward. It’s what he would have wanted.