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Spider-Man coming to the MCU: What that does and doesn't mean

Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." The franchise is once again changing directions.
Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." The franchise is once again changing directions.
Columbia Pictures

It’s finally happened: Spider-Man will join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In an announcement that has brought smiles to the faces of comic geeks everywhere, Sony and Marvel jointly revealed via a press release that ol’ web-head will take his place alongside Iron Man, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers on the big screen, and soon — most likely in the upcoming "Captain America: Civil War."

The deal was announced Monday night after months of speculation about Spidey’s possible movie future in the wake of the less-than-stellar box office for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

According to the press release, “the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017.”

This development is a huge win for both Marvel and Sony — not to mention the fans clamoring for a more integrated superhero universe — but there’s potential for some confusion about what this actually means going forward, so let’s break it down.

Out with the old Spider-Man, in with the new

One question that’s popped up is whether or not “The Amazing Spider-Man”’s Andrew Garfield will reprise his role as Peter Parker. Although not directly addressed by the press release, it makes numerous references to a “new Spider-Man."

According to an unnamed source for the Daily Beast, the actor met to discuss the possibility of returning before all agreed that it would not make sense.

News outlets ranging from the Wall Street Journal to The Wrap have backed that up saying Garfield is out and Marvel is now on the hunt for a younger actor to play a high school-aged Spider-Man, with Variety naming “Percy Jackson” star Logan Lerman and “The Maze Runner”’s Dylan O’Brien as two candidates already being eyed by Marvel and Sony, although no actors have been approached.

Other names that have been tossed around, according to Dark Horizons, include Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”), Asa Butterfield (“Ender’s Game”), Donald Glover (“Community”), Zac Efron (“High School Musical”) and current Best Actor nominee Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”). No official announcements have been made though. In fact, it's not even clear yet if this Spider-Man will still be Peter Parker and not, say, the Ultimate line of comics' Spider-Man, Miles Morales. So take that all with a grain of salt.

Marvel still does not own the film rights

Amidst all the hoopla surrounding the news of Spider-Man appearing in the MCU, there has been a lot of talk of him returning to Marvel.

Not that this should necessarily temper the excitement, but to be clear, Spider-Man’s film rights — and therefore, creative control — still belong to Sony, as is made explicit in the press release: “Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.”

In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter, this deal did not even involve any money changing hands between the two rival studios; it was brokered on an entirely quid pro quo basis.

Taking a pessimistic view of things, this could ultimately turn out not to be as big an improvement as fans might hope since this is still the same Sony that pushed Sam Raimi to include Venom in “Spider-Man 3” and rebooted the franchise a mere five years later and whose interference, according to Garfield, may have sabotaged “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

The key difference will be in the producers. The new Spider-Man film, says the press release, “will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web-slinger.” “The Amazing Spider-Man”’s production team of Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad, meanwhile, will be demoted to executive producer status, meaning they will have no creative input.

Of possible concern to fans are more recent reports from sites like saying that Sony’s other Spider-Man-related projects like “The Sinister Six,” “Venom” and an as yet unnamed female-led superhero movie (possibly “Black Cat” or “Spider-Woman”) are all still in development but that Feige will not be creatively involved with any of them.

Fingers crossed this does not include the rumored Aunt May prequel film that supposedly retooled the character as a swinging 1960s spy. I kid you not.

Presumably, whatever Spider-Man spinoffs are produced will be brought into line with the new direction and the larger MCU, but for many fans, Feige's involvement would do a lot to guarantee a certain level of quality.

This could be just the beginning of the studios’ collaboration

In addition to Spider-Man appearing in Marvel films, negotiations are also reportedly under way to possibly have Marvel characters appear in future Sony Spider-Man movies.

This opens up interesting possibilities to see some classic Marvel team-ups on the big screen, such as, for instance, Spidey and his Hell’s Kitchen neighbor, Daredevil, who is also in the process of being rebooted by Marvel with a Netflix series premiering April 10.

The two characters share many of the same villains, including Daredevil's main baddie, Kingpin, so it would make a lot of sense for them to join forces. Additionally, it would be a smart way for Marvel to bring Charlie Cox’s Daredevil to the big screen without having to do a standalone Daredevil movie.

As one of Marvel’s most beloved characters, Spider-Man has crossed paths with pretty much everyone, though, so the possibilities are endless.

So, what about the other non-MCU Marvel properties?

Now that Spider-Man has returned to the fold (sort of), fans are already wondering how long before Marvel strikes a similar deal with Fox to have the X-Men and Fantastic Four join the MCU.

The simple answer is probably “don't hold your breath.”

Whereas “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”’s box-office numbers left Sony doubting the direction it had taken with the wall-crawler — it was the lowest-grossing of all five Spider-Man movies — Fox is currently riding high on the success of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” With “Fantastic Four” coming out later this year and the Ryan Reynolds-led “Deadpool” and Channing Tatum-led “Gambit” in the pipeline, Fox already has its shared universe to play in.

After hearing the news of the Sony/Marvel deal, Hugh Jackman, who has talked openly in the past about wanting to see more collaboration between the studios so Wolverine could someday tussle onscreen with Iron man, told, “There’s so many forces at play there, man, beyond what anyone would want. The thing I’ve always loved about the comic-book world is how the fun thing was how a writer of a comic book could just pull all these characters together and what became a Friday-night discussion of ‘it would be cool to see Batman fight Wolverine’ and bang, Monday morning they’re working on it, you know. But that’s an idealized world.”

If there’s one thing this new deal proves, though, it’s “never say never” when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website