Sony's Three Spider-Man Movie Universes Explained

Sony is currently producing no less than three Spider-Man movie universes at once. Just a few years ago, it had looked as though the Spider-Man films were in serious trouble. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4 fell through, and Sony hurriedly rebooted the franchise under Marc Webb. The studio fell in love with the idea of building a Spider-Man cinematic universe, inspired by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was overstuffed with different characters and concepts for a range of spinoffs. The film collapsed under the weight of it all, and the Spider-Man franchise was badly damaged; things only get worse when leaked emails revealed just how confused Sony's plans were for it all.

Fast-forward just four years, though, and Sony has turned Spider-Man around. An unprecedented partnership with Marvel Studios has seen a (re-)rebooted Spider-Man enter the MCU, more popular than ever before. Venom has made over $800 million worldwide, outgrossing even the likes of Wonder Woman; it will hopefully serve as the launchpad for countless other spinoffs. And Sony is even launching a whole range of animated Spider-Man movies as well. Without even leaving the movie theater to take in hits like the PS4 Spider-Man game, Sony's built up an incredible brand.

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This unexpected success means that the Spider-Man franchise has essentially splintered into three parts: the Tom Holland MCU films; the live-action villain-centered spinoffs; and the animated movies. It's a rather complex position, and it's easy to get confused between these three sub-franchises. Here, we'll explain how each Spider-Man movie universe works.

Spider-Man In The MCU Explained

Spider-Man Homecoming Iron Man

The core Spider-Man films are now set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring Tom Holland as the third iteration of the wall-crawler. Holland's Spider-Man is different to all previous big-screen versions; he's a younger, more inexperienced webhead who lives in a world already jam-packed with superheroes. The character was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, when Tony Stark successfully identified Peter Parker as Spider-Man and recruited him for the famous Airport Battle scene. He proved to be a breakout success, with the late Stan Lee even declaring that he believed Holland to be a perfect fit for Peter Parker.

The first Tom Holland Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, released last year. This saw Spider-Man eagerly audition for the Avengers, developing a sort of mentor-student relationship with guest star Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man. Holland then reprised the role in this year's Avengers: Infinity War, playing a major and well-marketed part in the battle against Thanos. He was killed in the cliffhanger ending of Infinity War, when Thanos succeeded in his insane goal of erasing half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. It was a powerful, heartwrenching scene, all the more effective because of Holland's spot-on improv acting.

Why Spider-Man Is In The MCU

Spider-Man Homecoming Marvel and Sony Deal

But how did Sony's Spider-Man make his way into the Disney-owned MCU? That rests on Marvel Studios. Spotting an opportunity after the poor critical and box office reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, they approached Sony with an unprecedented offer: Sony would keep the film rights for Spider-Man and all his characters, but Marvel would produce a new series of Spider-Man films on their behalf. The movies would be paid for and distributed by Sony - and, crucially, Sony would be the ones who profited from their success. In return, Marvel would be able to use this new version of the wall-crawler as a character in their own films.

Read More: Spider-Man in the MCU: The Marvel/Sony Deal Explained

It's a win-win deal: Sony got a relaunched Spider-Man, with cameos from major MCU actors like Downey and Jackson; Marvel get to integrate the most marketable superhero of all into the MCU and use him as part of their core Avengers franchise. It's important to note that Marvel already owned the merchandise rights for Spider-Man, so they profit through tie-in merchandise as well.

Spider-Man's Future In The MCU

Tom Holland in Spider-Man Far From Home Suit

Holland's version of Spider-Man died at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, but he's expected to return in Avengers: Endgame, along with all the other characters killed when Thanos snapped his fingers. He'll then return in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the second solo Spider-Man movie to be set in the MCU. This will be set minutes after the end of Avengers: Endgame and, according to Marvel's Kevin Feige, will set the stage of Phase Four. It features Spider-Man teaming up with MCU stalwarts Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders as Nick Fury and Maria Hill.

Looking beyond Spider-Man: Far From Home, it's been confirmed that Holland is contracted for six Marvel movies, including a trilogy of Spider-Man films. That contract is running out at surprising speed; as things stand, the third solo Spider-Man movie should be the end of the Holland run. Fortunately for Marvel, Holland has most definitely expressed interest in extending his tenure, which would allow them to continue their Spider-Man films and bring the character back in future Avengers movies. Indeed, the placement of Spider-Man: Far From Home - the first movie in the MCU's Phase Four - suggests Marvel hope the wall-crawler will remain central to their future plans. It is worth noting, however, that all this hinges on the relationship between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures not being renegotiated.

Page 2 of 3: Sony's Spider-Man Villain Universe

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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