It’s Official: Marvel Gets to Borrow Spider-Man. Now What?

Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures Spiderman

After years of sexual tension, shameless flirting, “will they or won’t they” questions, salacious gossip, and Jamie Foxx in blue face paint, Marvel Studios1 and Sony Pictures finally took their relationship to the next level and departed for the Fantasy Suite last night. From their sweaty loins emerged the Spider-Man/Avengers meeting the whole world2 has been waiting for.

The rights to comic-book and sci-fi/fantasy properties are the most valuable commodities in entertainment, to the point where studios waste actual money making fake movies and fake TV pilots just to maintain their legal stranglehold on their precious source material. So the fact that any major Hollywood studio would loan out a cash cow like Spider-Man is shocking. This is like an African warlord loaning me his diamond mine. OK, maybe Marvel is better at selling Spider-Man than I am at selling blood diamonds, but you see where I’m going: This is a big deal.

Under the terms of this unprecedented agreement, Marvel (through Marvel president Kevin Feige) will coproduce a new iteration of the Spider-Man series with embattled former Sony head Amy Pascal. Plus, they receive the right to use the webslinger in “a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU)” prior to the next Sony film, according to the official press release. The Wall Street Journal announced that Spidey will first appear in Captain America: Civil War, which is natural, since he was such a major part of the Civil War story line in the comics. It’s a dream come true that puts us one step closer to a unified, canonical Marvel Universe onscreen. It’s a Disney-fairy-tale ending for everyone … except Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield.

The creative team behind the last two Spider-Man films is quietly being disbanded. While you can point to the derivative scripts and stylistically inert direction as reasons for the change, it’s hard to say that Andrew Garfield is being booted because his performance was bad. It was merely not interesting. This scenario is not all that dissimilar from when Timothy Dalton exited the James Bond series. Dalton, like Garfield, was perfectly fine in the part, but his performance (and, by proxy, the films’ box office performance) didn’t quite measure up to whatever the zeitgeist’s expectations were. Dalton and Garfield were both serviceable, faithful to the role, yet dull and forgettable.

Despite the audience’s ambivalence over his work, Dalton was originally slated to appear in the 17th Bond film before the rights to the character ended up in limbo. By the time those legal questions were sorted, there was no point in bringing back an actor who engendered very little emotional response. Similarly, after sorting out the insanely complicated scenario that would allow Marvel and Sony to share Spider-Man, why bring back someone who isn’t a fan favorite? Andrew Garfield got Dalton’d and now we’re being asked to swallow yet another actor as Spider-Man.

After five entries in 12 years that vary wildly in quality,3 we’re about to hit our third reboot. Marvel and Sony get the distinct pleasure, or total and complete misery, of having to cast another Peter Parker and finding another director. Picking someone to play Spider-Man is sort of like choosing the cover of an issue of Tiger Beat: What you like is not nearly as important as what the target demographic likes. As great as it would have been to see McLovin play Spider-Man, no 16-year-old girl would pay to see him make out with Emma Stone.4

What do the kids think is sexy these days? They could play it relatively safe and cast Fault in Our Stars dreamboat Ansel Elgort. I don’t know any children, but if I did, I would bet they liked that movie. Please chime in on this if you are a child. As such, if there were a Vegas betting line on who the next Spider-Man will be, he’d be the overwhelming favorite — if you can ignore the fact that his name sounds like it belongs to a Star Trek villain. It’s like dude was born to play Spider-Man. I mean, look at him. Does he ever not pout in photos?

There’s also Nick Robinson, who you may have seen in Kings of Summer and is about to bust out for real in Jurassic World this year. He’s an actual teenager, which naturally makes him a favorite. By the time Spider-Man 3 came out, I was having a hard time accepting Tobey Maguire as a college undergrad, unless the college in question was the University of Phoenix.

Of course, whenever one of these iconic action roles comes available, the question of “Will they go ‘ethnic’?” comes up. Fan favorite Donald Glover campaigned for the part last time, but he’s 31 now. Unless they want a Peter Parker (or Miles Morales) who can grow a beard, he seems unlikely. In his place, might I suggest Bryshere Y. Gray, who plays the incorrigible Hakeem on Empire? I am very biased, because I want to see the cast of Empire in every movie, TV show, and web series, but tell me I’m wrong, Internet. I dare you.

Or they could go super-controversial and cast an actual spider. The combined economic might of Sony and Marvel surely could find a way to genetically alter a spider to convincingly act in a major motion picture. At the very least, a real spider would be more memorable than Andrew Garfield.

Filed Under: Marvel, Sony, Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, kevin feige, Superheroes, Reboots, Marvel Cinematic Universe

Dave Schilling is a general editor at Grantland.

Archive @ dave_schilling