Over the last few weeks, Disney and Sony had major tensions over the future of Spider-Man. While frustrations between studios emerge periodically over creative decisions, the biggest hurdle to extending Spider-Man’s stay in the MCU appeared to be financial. Disney asked for 25% equity in the next Spider-Man film and in return would co-finance 25% of the film, which was believed to be a deal Sony previously rejected. What was the cause of Sony’s change of heart? The friendly neighborhood Spider-Man himself Tom Holland.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, talks of extending the Spider-Man partnership was 100% dead, even with the cliff-hanger ending in Spider-Man: Far From Home. However, seeing the social media reactions, Tom Holland was moved to try mediating the relationship and talks between Disney CEO Bob Iger and Sony Films chairman Tom Rothman. According to those familiar with the negotiations, Tom Holland pressured both with the fan reactions and now the door may be open to more than three Spider-Man films set within the MCU. With this newfound stability for the character, it appears Tom Holland saved the character in a few ways.
The first way is based upon the benefits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Carefully constructed over 10 years, Kevin Feige has carefully developed a film universe with history, rich character development, and fan investment. This is heightened by the extensive crossovers that have surrounded each Spider-Man appearance in the MCU since Captain America: Civil War. While some fans may be happy to see no reference to Tony Stark, supporting characters such as Happy Hogan are also connected to Aunt May as well. Not being able to cross over with the Fantastic Four or X-Men would also be a true loss for fans, considering those two teams have the most cross overs with Spider-Man out of any Marvel comics team.
The second way Tom Holland saved Spider-Man’s future is by ensuring creative mismanagement doesn’t continue with the brand. This mismanagement was seen during both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s tenure as Spider-Man. With Tobey, the success of Spider-Man 2, unfortunately, resulted in Sony executives wanting more creative control. According to Raimi, “I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man. If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it”. This executive interference and creative frustrations ultimately led to Raimi and Maguire leaving the Spider-Man 4 project.
Andrew Garfield’s take on Spider-Man also suffered from studio interference as Sony wanted to build a cinematic universe connecting Spider-Man to a Sinister Six franchise among others, stemming from The Amazing Spider-Man’s universe. They also reportedly cut many character-centric scenes from the final version to make space for action scenes or scenes setting up spin-offs, something that angered both Garfield and director Marc Webb.
If Tom Holland’s Spider-Man had to suffer a similar fate, it could create damage to the IP in ways seen by FOX’s treatment of the Fantastic Four and recent X-Men films not relating to Wolverine. Based on fan reactions, interest in a Spider-Man movie no longer connected to the MCU may have been lower than the interest in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which alarmingly underperformed.
Keeping steady hands such as Kevin Feige and Jon Watts creatively in control of Spider-Man, with connections in the MCU, was the best decision for the character’s future. Tom Holland saved the Spider-Man IP from the cycle of self-destruction Sony Pictures has commonly exhibited with Spider-Man movies, something fueled by corporate greed and a lack of fan understanding.