The first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home has fans buzzing. For some, the excitement of the trailer is balanced by the thought that once that film is released, Tom Holland will have fulfilled the Marvel Cinematic Universe portion of his contract. When Holland signed on to play Peter Parker, the deal was for 3 MCU team-up films (Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame), 2 MCU solo films (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home) and a third solo Spidey film (yet to be announced by Sony), the attachment of which to the MCU to be determined.
While it’s hard to imagine that Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal won’t go back to the table to extend Spider-Man’s stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, anything is possible. The financial success of Sony’s Venom and their stated wish to have Spider-Man interacting with the characters of their own universe could be problematic for Feige. It’s possible that Sony has been emboldened by Venom’s box office power and could decide they can take it from here. However, the deal with Marvel Studios is a pretty sweet one for Sony (someone makes movies for them and they get the box office) and Feige and Pascal have a good relationship and have repeatedly stated their desires to continue the compromise that has been, up to this point, highly successful.
There’s also the matter of Sony’s own slate of films. 2020 will be a key year for the studio as they find out just how much box office clout their SUMC (Sony Universe of Marvel Characters) will have. Jared Leto’s Morbius (a film about scientist turned vampire) and a sequel to Venom (set to feature, Carnage, one of Marvel’s most hardcore villains) will serve as indicators to Sony whether or not Venom was a one-off or if they can expect to continue to rake in a huge box office off of low-budget films. Should Morbius and Venom be big winners, it might be all Sony needs to take Spidey away from Feige; should one or both fail financially (let’s be honest here, if Sony was worried about the critical reception, Venom wouldn’t be getting a sequel), perhaps Sony might look to Marvel Studios for some additional creative assistance. However, given Sony’s desire to have a Spider-Man film in theaters as often as possible, the decision on whether or not Holland’s third solo Spidey feature will take place in the MCU or not is likely to be made well before Sony’s 2020 box office results roll in.
At this point, it does seem very likely that Sony and Marvel Studios will collaborate at least one more time an that the Far From Home follow-up will take place in the MCU. Sony has desired to bring the Sinister Six (a collection of Spidey’s greatest villains) to the screen for some time and the evidence is there that they have been building towards it in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. At this point, the head count of Spidey’s rogue gallery is fairly gaudy. Michael Keaton’s Vulture, Michael Mando’s Mac Gargan (Scorpion) and Bokeem Woodbine’s Shocker are all still standing from Spider-Man: Homecoming (not to mention Michael Chernus’s Tinkerer). The trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home introduced Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio and the popular theory is that Numan Acar is playing Chameleon. That makes 5 and 5 is one short of 6, so the assumption would be that the third film would introduce that 6th villain and that it would a doozy…someone capable of uniting the other villains against Spider-Man.
In the comics (1964’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, if you’re looking), that villain was Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock was last seen in 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and while Feige has stated he’d like to work with villains who have not been seen on screen, it is possible that enough time has passed to allow for Ock to return. It’s also possible that another villain could take the lead. Regardless of who it is, the first two films have certainly set up the fact that Parker has a lot to lose and at least one of those villains knows exactly who he is. So, for the sake of this article, we’ve assumed Sony and Marvel Studios finish up the trilogy with a kick ass Sinister Six movie and now we’re left to ask what’s in store for Spider-Man’s future in the MCU.
In answering this question, it might be helpful to take a look at what Sony is currently planning for their own SUMC. In doing so, I’m going to follow the logic that if we know what Sony IS doing, we also know what Sony IS NOT doing and embrace the possibility that Sony is not doing those things because plans exist for them to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course things can change in an instant in Hollywood and what is true today may not be true tomorrow. For example, Sony was once developing a Mysterio solo movie, but that seems to have gone by the wayside with the character appearing in the MCU. As far as we know, Sony is currently developing live-action films based around the following properties: Morbius, Venom 2, Silk, Kraven, Jackpot, Black Cat and Silver Sable. The studio was also deep in development on a Nightwatch solo film, set to be directed by Spike Lee based off a script from Cheo Hodari Coker, before that was halted for unknown reasons. As far as we know here are properties that Sony is NOT developing: Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacy) and The Green Goblin.
Given the success of Sony’s animated Spidey flick Into the Spider-Verse, it’s a little shocking that we didn’t hear about development on at least a Miles Morales and/or Spider-Gwen solo project immediately following its release. The studio was quick to move on an animated sequel and spin-off, but has yet to make any move to cash in on live-action versions of the two most popular characters from the film. Is it possible they haven’t done so because those characters are a part of Kevin Feige’s plans for Sony’s characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? It has to be a possibility.
Evidence is beginning to accumulate that Feige has more than a 3 film plan for Sony’s IPs. Spider-Man: Homecoming introduced Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis and his nephew, who a deleted scene indicated was Miles Morales. Both Davis/The Prowler and Miles went over to huge acclaim from fans and critics in Into the Spider-Verse, yet there is to date no movement by Sony on live-action projects for either character. Homecoming also spent a lot of time on small world building characters and Easter eggs: Tyne Daly’s Anne Marie Hoag, Selenis Leyva’s Ms. Warren, a half dozen students and, of course, the fact that Avengers Tower was being sold to an unknown buyer. Each of these things could do one of two things: be cute nods to the comics, or set up Spidey in a universe where several interesting plots and characters could be introduced.
The first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home indicates that the buyers of Avengers Tower have begun remodeling, seemingly making good on the tease from the first film. While the new owner of the building has yet to be revealed, fan theories are wide ranging, but the two most popular are that the building is intended to become either the Baxter Building or Oscorp. While I have no knowledge of which of these is true, I myself have believed that it will become the home to Oscorp. While nobody is more excited for the Fantastic Four to join the MCU than I am, it’s still a way off and I have a feeling that Peyton Reed’s pitch which rooted the team in the past might be reworked and used now. Oscorp and Norman Osborn, however, could become prominent in the MCU NOW!
Not coincidentally, when Sony was developing Silver and Black, Norman Osborn played a small role in the film. This is not conjecture; his role in the now scrapped film was real and something I saw with my own two eyes and reported on here. What I cannot prove is the information that came my way that part of the reason Silver and Black was delayed (before eventually being chopped up into two films) was because Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal had a conversation centered around the potential to introduce Norman Osborn to the MCU. Feige, I was told, desired to set the stage for Osborn to become a complex, layered villain in the MCU, much as he did during the post-Secret Invasion comics. This could begin being accomplished as soon as a post-credits scene in Spider-Man: Far From Home or even a small role in the third solo film. We’re not talking about another round of watching Norman become the Green Goblin and then die; we’re talking about Norman Osborn the director of H.A.M.M.E.R., leader of the Dark Avengers and the man crazy enough to invade Asgard. The kind of villain that could appear in 4-6 films and use his wits, will and power to bring down a group of heroes already distrusted by the public. With the Skrull Secret Invasion all but assured in the MCU, Norman Osborn is the logical “hero” in waiting.
Of course that would be a bold move by Feige, to put that much stock into a character who could be ripped away from him at any point, but all that would be necessary would be for Feige and Pascal to work out a multi-picture deal, at the conclusion of which Sony could potentially do with Osborn as they please. Marvel Studios doesn’t need him forever, just for a half-dozen years. And to be honest, I do believe Feige is trying to play the long game here. I think he does have plans for Osborn, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy and, yes, more Spider-Man. Some great Spidey stories have been told with Peter in college and beyond and Holland is young enough to keep working in that role as long as he wants. Feige has been in no hurry to introduce the Osborns and Stacys into this iteration and he’s right to do so: Peter didn’t meet Gwen or Harry until college. Allowing this trilogy to build an entire world of possibilities around Peter has been a brilliant move, but it’ll look even better if it’s allowed to continue to develop. The pieces are in place to tell new versions of old stories or to make bold moves to tell stories we haven’t seen on film. The fact that Sony, who is keen to make all the money they can on Spidey while he’s a hot commodity, has not begun to develop stories around Gwen Stacy or Miles Morales gives me hope that Feige and Pascal have discussed a long term story-telling approach that pays off in a big, big way.
The big screen debut of Miles Morales in Into the Spider-Verse could not have been any more well-received and there is no reason to believe that the live-action version wouldn’t absolutely blow the roof off the box office. As much as I love Peter Parker because he’s the Spider-Man I grew up reading, there’s an entire generation of readers who feel the same way about Miles. Additionally, he’s one of the most socially relevant characters Marvel has developed over the past couple of decades. A live-action Miles Morales: Spider-Man film would do big business and the actor that portrayed him would quickly become a star. For Sony, allowing that big a project to be developed by Feige and his team would seem a no-brainer.
Gwen Stacy is another matter entirely. When the alternate universe Gwen became Spider-Gwen, Marvel Comics had another hit on their hands. In some ways, it would be easier for Sony to develop a Spider-Gwen film than Marvel given her complicated alternate-dimension origins. Her costume, her attitude and her story would seem to assure that a solo film would fit right in with what Sony is doing, yet she’s absent from their planned films while Silk, another female Spider-girl who has proven less popular with readers, is on the list. Is this a sign that Feige has plans for Gwen? Maybe. Maybe not, but it’s certainly worth noting that such a popular character is not, as of now, under development by Sony.
Sony’s future slate is pretty busy but, in reality, not full of many of Spidey’s most popular and best selling characters. I’d also wager that it’s full of characters that Feige doesn’t care too much about. It’s possible that while Sony owns the rights to these characters, Feige may have a little more sway in the decision making process than it would seem. There’s at least two examples of characters being developed by Sony either being scrapped or taken out of projects and one of them is about to show up in the MCU. So if Feige does have his way, you can imagine why Miles and Gwen, two characters who would certainly be popular with kids, aren’t on the Sony development slate, while characters like Jackpot (who?) are.
Does knowing what Sony IS NOT developing give us some insight into what future plans Marvel Studios might have for Spider-Man in the MCU? I don’t know that it does or not, but I sure just spent a lot of time thinking about it. I know that Kevin Feige has a plan. To be fair, he has three back up plans to that plan as well, but he has a plan and the way things have been working out for his plans the past several years (Sony deal, Fox deal), I’d put my money on Kevin Feige getting what he wants.