Ever since Sony and Disney’s stalled negotiations reached the public, people have wondered if there will be a resolution before it’s too late for Spider-Man 3. Currently, Tom Holland has one more movie left on his current contract while director Jon Watts is a directorial free agent. This puts the Spider-Man franchise on fragile grounds as we could see a situation where Tom Holland walks away from the role.
Likely this wouldn’t happen, without Sony pushing back, as Tom also has a few projects in the future produced by Sony. For Disney, it puts them in an awkward situation as they’ve positioned Spider-Man to be the new lead superhero of the MCU with Robert Downy Junior’s Iron Man no longer in the mix. Regardless of decisions made in the coming days, Disney will win this battle against Sony.
The Court of Public Opinion
The “court of public opinion” is a powerful thing, especially in the age of the internet. While details of the negotiations are largely behind-the-scenes, details have been leaked by news outlets around Hollywood. According to them, Disney was creatively producing, casting, writing, and having their teams edit both Spider-Man: Homecoming & Spider-Man: Far From Home. Because of this, they offered to co-finance future Spider-Man films with an expectation of 30-50% of profits (percentage differs based on source) instead of the 5% they were receiving. Along with this, Disney wanted Kevin Feige to receive proper producer credits on Sony Marvel projects as he’s done uncredited creative work on films such as Venom.
Sony appeared to be shocked and hesitant to believe Disney’s new demands were justified which is at the core of rough negotiations. Based on this information, Disney doesn’t look so bad. Sony has infamously mistreated the Spider-Man brand on film, excluding Into the Spider-Verse, ever since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. The leaked Sony emails also reveal pretty clearly how lost the Sony executives were in developing The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Since Disney was offering to also co-finance half the future films’ cost, it makes sense along with creatively producing the movies they’d want a larger cut of profits. After all, nobody thinks Sony was responsible for Spider-Man: Far From Home breaking $1 billion.
Sony Picture’s Brand < Disney’s MCU Machine
This distrust of Sony’s creative handling of the Spider-Man movies will help push the favor towards Disney. FOX saw first-hand how indifferent fans could be to a Marvel-based superhero film with a negative reception and no connection to the MCU. That type of energy towards a Spider-Man franchise is a possibility, and fans would let it be known it’s because of their views on Sony Pictures and not the character.
Outside of the strength of Disney’s MCU brand, the talent behind the films aren’t loyal to Sony. When actors Michael Keaton and Jake Gyllenhaal signed on to play Vulture and Mysterio respectively, they mentioned how excited they were to join the MCU. When Tom Holland was cast as Spider-Man, it wasn’t just because he was a great actor for his age. The defining part of Holland’s audition was his chemistry test with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. The character arc over the last few movies and supporting casts such as Happy Hogan and Nick Fury are well-established within the MCU.
To remove Spider-Man from the MCU at this stage would be a mistake. While you could attempt to make a film absent of MCU connections, chances are you’ll isolate this adaptation of Spider-Man from what makes him unique compared to previous adaptations. Especially with the ending of Far From Home, a Spider-Man 3 without MCU references or connections would be like a tiger without stripes.
For these reasons alone, Sony will lose its negotiations battle with Disney. Disney already pulled off a smart move strategically by not announcing Spider-Man as a Phase 4 slate project. This gives them the luxury of time while developing an exit strategy for the character within the MCU. Sony Pictures, on the other hand, risks poisoning recent good graces with the general audience.
It’s likely the parent Sony organization in Japan could get involved with negotiations, as they’re notable fans of the deal and Holland’s interpretation of Spider-Man. Besides owning the IP for the Spider-Man movies, all other factors are in Disney’s court. Disney likely knows this too, putting themselves in prime position to pressure Sony into their demands as the success of MCU Spider-Man is greater than anything Sony could accomplish with the character alone.