Last week, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tom Rothman (the chief of Sony Pictures Entertainment) confirmed that his company and Marvel Studios were planning to create a whole Spider-Man universe of films.
Despite this article saying otherwise, I don’t think there’s going to be more of these collaborations, whether it concerns Marvel or DC. Certainly not for a while at least.
We start with a very interesting, insightful interview with Rothman; the chair of 20th Century Fox, who own the rights to the X-Men characters and universe,including this year’s runaway success Deadpool.
Rothman was in fact, responsible in part for how long it took the film to get made. Director Tim Miller has stated that while the producer loved his and Ryan Reynolds’ enthusiasm, he hated and did not understand the script, or its appeal. According to rumour, Rothman was originally brought to 20th Century Fox to cut costs, and that he had a big disdain for superhero films – that was in part why the X-Men have spent the vast majority of their films in bland, military-esque leather jumpsuits, instead of the flashy, and brilliantly mad costumes of their comic origins.
Which is why it was so strange to see Rothman be so enthusiastic about Marvel and Sony’s partnership. In response to a question about trimming the cost of Spider-Man, he said “I don’t want to trim costs. I want to make money… A movie like Spider-Man, by Marvel, that’s not inexpensive. But it’s a great investment.” The Sony deal was actually made under Rothman’s predecessor Amy Pascal, as a last-resort response to a string of financial failures, a terrible hacking in 2014, and the continual decrease in the profits made by the Spider-Man films. Conversations had been taking place for a while, but until it actually went through the prevailing attitude of most entertainment journalists was “there is no way Marvel gets Spider-Man back”.
Let’s look at 20th Century Fox. Their last three Marvel films have had very mixed responses. X-Men Apocalypse may be in the Top 10 worldwide grosses so far this year, but (at the time of writing) it’s only the 26th highest grossing Marvel Comics movie in the U.S., behind even 2005’s rather dismal Fantastic Four. Only Deadpool has done Fox any favours. In fairness, it’s been a huge favour. It’s now the 7th highest grossing Marvel comics film in the U.S., boosted by an astonishingly inventive marketing campaign that gave the film a totally fresh feeling, which is why audiences kept going back to it.
Deadpool is at least half of the reason why 20th Century Fox wouldn’t start making deals with Marvel. Never mind how utterly confusing and nonsensical the X-Men timeline is in the central films, and how they appear to be repeating themselves – if Deadpool is making money, there’s hope for producers Laura Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg yet. Get Gambit off the ground eventually, along with Josh Boone’s New Mutants feature, and they’re in business.
The other reason behind this is trickier to explain. Back in 2012, Fox held the rights to Daredevil, but they were time-restricted. If there was nothing in production by October 10th of that year, the rights would revert to Marvel, who were coming off the incredible success of The Avengers. When Fox let those rights revert to Marvel, Marvel gained the upper hand. They turned a character that Fox presumed was relatively worthless, into a hit TV show with Netflix.
So what about DC then? The other big players with the superhero game are lucky that all the rights to their major characters are centralised with the Warner group. The main problem then is the divide between their film and TV branches: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl on the CW in particular. Once upon a time, the conflicting needs of this “multiverse” of stories always hurt the TV shows.
The recent casting of Tyler Hoechlin to play Superman in Supergirl however, suggests that there is change afoot in the management of these different universes. In fact, records show that the execs in charge of these universes – including new DC Films chief Geoff Johns – are perfectly happy for this to continue. In theory, it allows freedom to create stories without intra-company conflicts. It means that fans can find alternate interpretations of their favourite characters. And it means that DC keeps distinguishing itself from Marvel.
I don’t think there’s anything I’d love to see more than an Avengers film in which Wolverine has to contend with the chatterbox personalities of Tony Stark and Peter Parker; to see a Fantastic Four adaptation that is not only fun and weighty, but contains someone asking The Thing if he could win in a fight against The Hulk; or for Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen to run across Ezra Miller’s in a future Flash film. But none of these things are going to happen, certainly not soon.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is currently in production, and is due for release in the UK on 28th July 2017. Watch him below in Civil War: