For half a decade, Marvel Studios has set a new bar for a shared comic book universes on film - kicking-off their "Avengers Initiative" in a post-credits tease for Iron Man in 2008. Since that time other studios have followed suit: Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are preparing an interweaving Justice League movie universe, 20th Century Fox mashed-up past and future X-Men teams in the time-bending Days of Future Past, while Sony attempted to launch an entire shared universe on the shoulders of a single man - Peter Parker.
In the superhero genre, team-ups and cross-overs have transitioned from being high profile "event" films to status quo. Following the news that Batman and Superman would team-up in Dawn of Justice, we now know that Captain America and Iron Man are set for Civil War - once again raising audience expectations for blockbuster superhero action. However, in spite of all the shared universes that are popping-up, we've yet to see competing studios actively work together to bring non-Marvel-owned characters into the ever-expanding Avengers universe. Considering all the films that Marvel has in development, it's a no-brainer that they're focused on the characters they own but will we ever see Spider-Man (or Wolverine) suit-up for battle alongside The Hulk and/or Iron Man?
Following Marvel's announcement of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans, not to mention Avengers: Infinity War, studio head Kevin Feige was asked for clarification regarding all the rumors that Disney and Sony are in talks to bring The Amazing Spider-Man into The Avengers' shared film universe. After all, Spider-Man has regularly teamed-up with The Avengers in the comic books and, even more interestingly, plays a major role in the Civil War storyline that has now been confirmed for Captain America 3.
Unfortunately, Feige would not confirm or deny any deal that would include Spider-Man in a future Avengers series film - stating outright that he wouldn't comment until something is official. Nevertheless, in an industry where non-denials are usually a sign that there's some truth within a rumor, many fans began to wonder if Marvel and Sony might actively be working toward a cross-over appearance from the iconic Web-Slinger.
Given that Captain America 3 is still six months from shooting, it's possible that the studios could pull-out a surprise announcement since Spider-Man's own franchise is facing major restructuring following heavy criticism of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (most notably its clumsy attempt to prep for a supervillain team-up movie). What better way to reignite interest in the Wall Crawler than to loan him over to Marvel Studios for Civil War?
For those who are less familiar with the Civil War plot, Spider-Man was an extremely important character in the source story - caught in between the warring philosophies of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. During today's Marvel presentation, Feige indicated that Black Panther (to be played by Chadwick Boseman) would be put in a similar position - forced to choose sides when Captain America and Iron Man go to war. As a result, it's possible that the studio will simply hand the broad strokes of Spider-Man's Civil War arc over to Black Panther but, for many, a Civil War story without Spider-Man would be missing a key component.
Andrew Garfield has expressed interest in joining the Avengers before and could, in theory, be available for Civil War, given that Amazing Spider-Man 3 isn't releasing until 2018 (it's unclear how involved the actor will be in Sinister Six or Venom) but the notion that he'll be brought into an already character-heavy and "huge" Captain America sequel is far-fetched at best. Captain America 3 is going to have a lot ground to cover: post-Avengers Age of Ultron and Ant-Man fallout, the clash between Iron Man and Captain America, not to mention a big part (as mentioned) for Black Panther.
Yet, even if Spider-Man misses out on Civil War, the character has also been heavily featured within original Infinity Gauntlet storylines - even going head-to-head with Thanos in the comics. For that reason, it's possible the hero could make an appearance in Phase 3 - given that we're already expecting an altered Avengers line-up in the aftermath of Age of Ultron.
That all said, including Garfield's Spider-Man in the MCU would be a nightmare for the larger canon - since Sony was initially focused on building their own separate shared universe (i.e. no Stark Tower in their film series). Given that there's no mention in Amazing Spider-Man 2 of the Battle for New York or The Lizard's plan to turn all of the Big Apple into hybrid monsters in Iron Man 3, the cross-over has the potential to raise more questions than excitement (in the long run). The idea itself is intriguing and there's no doubt that it'd be fun to see Spider-Man team-up with an Avengers cast but, ultimately, fans would be the first to freak out if the character wasn't introduced in a way that actually made sense. They could always cast a different actor for the MCU's Web-Slinger but, without question, that would undercut one of Sony's major incentives - to raise interest in their Spider-Man.
For that reason, it's up to Marvel Studios and Sony to figure out what is best for their respective properties - and whether or not a cross-over is as good of an idea as some moviegoers might think. Sony and Marvel have both expressed interest and, without question, comic book studios continue to raise the stakes in each subsequent installment. It's inevitable that they'll eventually look outside of their own characters for fresh surprises - but we might not be quite at that point yet.
After all, Feige's refusal to confirm or deny could be nothing more than a way to keep fans chomping at the bit - since, for some, speculating about what Marvel Studios might be planning is often just as fun as actually sitting down for the final film product.
Captain America: Civil War on May 6, 2016, and Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 on May 4 2018, and Part 2 on May 3 2019. Sinister Six remains set to hit theaters on November 11th, 2016, while The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will arrive sometime in 2018.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.
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