Tom Holland is sad, Jeremy Renner is mad and Marvel fans are boycotting Sony. Marvel has lost the rights to use Spider-Man in any future Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or Avengers film. Spider-Man’s departure from the MCU happened after Disney, Marvel’s parent company, and Sony, the owner of all webslinger content, failed to agree over what percentage of profits each studio could make from all future Spider-Man movies.
Marvel got hit with Spider-Man’s departure just after the studio’s unparalleled success with the third phase of the MCU. In 2019 alone, “Avengers: Endgame” shattered box office records with a $1.2 billion global opening. A parallel to the success of “Endgame” is the triumph of “Spider-Man: Far from Home” in theaters.
From Sony’s point of view, it would fair to say Disney (and, basically Marvel) executive Kevin Feige, in the face of enormous success, grew too arrogant, attempting to change the profit-sharing of the Spider-Man films to an unreasonable 50/50 split.
However, Feige is also likely overworked from being involved in the production of all Marvel properties and no longer has time to produce a film for Disney that they doesn’t have full ownership over.
Feige invested serious amounts of work into Spider-Man, but, more importantly, Marvel also centered much of the upcoming Phase Four narrative around the Queens-based webslinger. After “Endgame,” Marvel established Peter Parker as the successor of the deceased Iron Man, a de facto leader of the Avengers.
“Far from Home” shifted the burden of carrying Phase Four onto Tom Holland’s young shoulders. This failure in negotiation negates years of narrative planning Feige and Marvel executives have done for the MCU’s next chapter.
Even though Marvel counted on having Spider-Man, the comic giant has other potential heroes it can turn to in order to reassemble a successful franchise for Phase Four. Feige will have to adjust the carefully-built narrative while ignoring what was set up from previous films.
Spidey’s departure means Marvel will have to ask the same question Johnathan Watts played with in “Far from Home”: Who will lead the Avengers?
The most likely candidate is Black Panther who, despite Spider-Man’s iconic status, has the most successful solo movie of the Marvel franchise. Ryan Coogler’s groundbreaking film has become a cultural phenomenon, and fans and critics widely consider it one of the best superhero films ever.
“Black Panther” became the first superhero movie to ever be nominated for best picture at the 2019 Academy Awards. Marvel might already have its beloved leading man in Chadwick Boseman. However, a “Black Panther” sequel does not hit theaters until May 2022 as Coogler is taking the much needed time to craft a worthy follow-up.
Captain Marvel will likely play a large role in Phase Four with the old guard resigning. Oscar-winner Brie Larson’s first stab at the character brought in over $1 billion at the box office. Despite her success, fans and critics ask whether Captain Marvel is too indestructible. Marvel will have to answer that question in the Captain Marvel follow-up, slated for release some time in 2022.
Another hero likely to step up in Spider-Man’s absence is Thor. Yet, the Thor presented to audiences in Phase Four might not be the same God of Thunder to which audiences are accustomed.
Director Taika Waititi announced Natalie Portman would return to the franchise in “Thor: Love and Thunder” and wield Mjolnir itself. Portman, an Academy Award-winner, could certainly carry a Thor movie and play a key role in the new Avengers Feige is assembling.
Portman’s return surprised fans, and the actress herself seems just as shocked. Yet, with Hemsworth being the last original Avenger still in the MCU (fine, Hawkeye too), the character of Thor is ready to undergo needed change. Marvel plans to release “Thor: Love and Thunder” in November 2021.
Marvel truly surprised fans at Comic-Con by announcing the revival of the Blade franchise. Instead of Wesley Snipes, Feige has recruited two-time Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”). The half-human, half-immortal vampire hunter will hunt supernatural threats across the MCU.
Feige certainly intends for Ali’s character to play a key role as a member of the Avengers in Phase Four. Marvel has not yet mentioned a release date, though, and fans will likely have to wait a bit for Blade’s return.
If Marvel has worries of losing star power with Holland they quickly eliminated that threat by signing Jon Snow. Kit Harrington has joined the already stacked cast of Marvel’s “The Eternals.” Harrington stars alongside “Game of Thrones” former co-star Richard Madden, the legendary Angelina Jolie, Brian Tyree Henry (“Get Out”), Kumnail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) and Gemma Chan (“Crazy Rich Asians”).
Along with “Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings,” which will see the return of The Mandarin to the big screen, Marvel is releasing films with new characters such as The Eternals before turning to veterans such as Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor. Feige is very confident in these new projects, counting on moviegoers empathizing with new characters in Phase Four.
However, with the exception of the horror film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Marvel movies will retain their classic elements, as Feige sticks to the tried-and-true formula. New types of stories will appear in serial form on the streaming platform Disney+.
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is first up as actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan take their bromance to the small screen in their own buddy comedy series, streaming in fall 2020. After “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Marvel is planning to get weird.
Scarlett Witch and Vision return in “WandaVision” a ’50’s style sitcom that even the actors are calling “bonkers.” The quirkiness of “WandaVision” likely stems from the revelation that the ’50’s setting is the result of Wanda creating a fake bubble reality in which she can live with her deceased love, Vision, in a mid-century dream world of her own creation. “WandaVision” will air in spring 2021.
Additionally, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki will return to Disney+ in spring 2021 on “Loki.” Marvel is pumping in more multiverse madness as the series takes place in the alternate timeline created in “Endgame,” where Loki escapes with the Tesseract during the warped events of “The Avengers.”
Marvel’s most bizarre potential project has to be “What If?” This will be Marvel’s first animated series with MCU actors returning to voice their own characters. Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”) will, however, be constant as The Watcher. “What If?” seems to have a “Twilight Zone” vibe as an anthology exploring potential alternatives that could have happened in the MCU, like a zombie Captain America.
Holland’s departure does hurt the MCU, but Feige and Co. can recover easily. With the end of Phase Three, legends, such as Downey and Chris Evans, are already gone, so Holland is just another lost star.
Since Phase Four has not even begun, Marvel has more than enough time to adapt and focus on other heroes such as “Black Panther,” “Captain Marvel” or new heroes, like “The Eternals.” In the face of “Endgame,” Marvel has to adapt, regardless of Spider-Man’s status.