Disney and Sony have been able to find common ground in their mutual desire to make butt-loads of cash off Spider-Man, today announcing a renewed partnership that returns the webslinger to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’ll recall, Peter’s participation in non-Sony pictures was placed in purgatory last month, when Sony and Disney’s existing agreement exploded under the 100-times-Earth’s-gravity-like pressure of unrestrained capitalism.
At the time, Sony was keen to continue the agreement under its original terms, which fed Disney five percent of box office gross and let the House of Mouse retain all merchandising rights. Disney wanted to switch to a 50/50 split and keep all the merch money, which Sony refused. Under today’s new deal, Disney will receive 25 percent of the gross of the next Tom Holland Spider-Man flick, and keep the rights to all the licensed toys and masks and such, in exchange for covering 25 percent of the new film’s budget and one (1) appearance by Spider-Man in a future Marvel Cinematic Universe film, according to Variety.
Everyone involved in the decision issued glowing statements today, praising the new agreement and reiterating their excitement for making money off of Spider-Man, which I’ll save you the hassle of reading. Tom Holland, who seldom tweets (but is apparently friends with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and who apparently loves golf), has remained silent on the whole deal, which is probably smart. If I were the most popular actor to ever portray Spider-Man, I’d probably avoid upsetting the people who made that decision too.
But I’m not the most popular actor to ever portray Spider-Man — I’m in the top 50 at best — so I can afford to upset as many people at Disney and Sony as I damn well please. To wit: Everything about this is stupid and all of the ultra-rich top-level executives on both sides of the deal should be ashamed of themselves and the lives they lead. Disney wanted 50 percent of the gross? Why? So it can be worth even more $130 billion than it already is?
And of course Sony doesn’t want to budge an inch, it’s finally struck gold after almost 20 years of passable movies at best. There’s an argument to be made that Sony might have been able to pull Spider-Man out of the bug zapper without Disney’s help, but that’s not the world we live in, so we’ll never know. In this continuity, Sony’s attempts at Spider-Man peaked with “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s legendary performance as Bonesaw and bottomed out with whatever the hell this was, and we have no reason to believe that Disney’s intervention isn’t largely responsible for the bewildering existence of two actual good Spider-Man movies.
The really frustrating thing about all of this, aside from how much money is involved, is that none of it is actually about Spider-Man. Sony and Disney only care about these movies because they’re profitable, and both will be more than happy to drop Spidey like a lead brick once comic heroes leave the zeitgeist. And I’m sure that there are actual people involved in these films that do genuinely like Spider-Man and care about the products that he appears in, but they’re not the ones arguing over who gets what percentages of hundreds of millions of dollars.
They’re the ones working contract jobs at digital effects companies that may not even exist by the time the movie comes out. There the ones restocking coolers of Dr. Pepper for craft services, beside themselves with excitement that they might get to go home and tell their kids about seeing the real Spider-Man at work today. They’re the thousands of names that get five seconds of screen time in 10-point font, 13 minutes after everyone has already left the theater. None of those people got a say in any of this, even though they’re the ones making the movies that make the money that Sony and Disney were fighting about.
In a world where Disney hadn’t spent millions of dollars on lobbying to mold the copyright system in its image, Stan Lee’s legacy would now be public domain, and none of this would matter. People would just make some damn Spider-Man movies, and I bet some tiny independent outfit would come up with the most incredible Peter Parker story anyone had ever heard, if only it were legal for them to do so.