We both know that a man can’t swing from building to building with the power of spider-webs and his acquired radioactive spider skills, but the wizardry at play on the big screen can trick the mind for a few moments and suddenly we are 10 and anything is possible. Sadly, those moments pass quickly. The lights come up and our feet are stuck to the floor of a theater that time forgot and you’re waiting to merge into a sea of people that are trudging up a slight incline toward their sub-compact cars and the next item on their To-Do list.
If you strip the thing down to its barest truths, you just completed a financial transaction. Movies are magical but that magic is either fleeting or hollow, depending on your view. One thing is for sure, though, they sure are big business.
When Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out, it will include a brief scene following the end credits that will be in service to X-Men First Class: Days of Future Past. This level of co-operation is unheard of in this era of dueling cinematic universes. Though both Spider-Man and the X-Men fly the Marvel banner, each property is held by a different studio — Sony owns the rights to Spidey and Fox has Professor Xavier, Storm, and the rest under lock and key. But while many hoped that this might signal the birth of a new era in cooperation, wherein we might see Spider-Man and Wolverine share the big screen, it turned out to be little more than a bit of appeasement from Sony to Fox for the latter’s consent to let Marc Webb direct Amazing Spider-Man 2 while under contract with Fox.
Was the teasing nature of this odd arrangement a bit cruel? Yes, but it the real fanboy gut punch came during an interview with IGN when Spider-Man producer Avi Arad shot down the possibility that there would ever be any real amalgamation between the splintered Marvel properties.
“I think I’m probably a little bit of the militant here,” said Arad. “I think it will take a moment in which we’ve run out of ideas. There’s so much to tell about Spider-Man. There’s so much to tell about the Sinister Six. The relationship between Spider-Man and Venom will bring a whole other world in.”
He even drew a parallel with the source material behind the films. “We did it in the books; we did team-ups all the time. Even with DC. You know, we’d flip a coin, ‘Okay, who’s going to win, Batman or The Hulk? We’ll make a cover out of it.’
“But we really feel very confident that we have so much to do […] Peter Parker is unique; he’s really different. He’s not an Avenger. He’s not an X-Man. He’s unique and we revere that. And we’d rather work really hard to have the right ideas than – you know in the toy business we used to make toys glow in the dark when they weren’t selling well and it gave at least another Christmas. We don’t need it yet.”
Adding to the dream killing was Matt Tolmach, a co-producer on Amazing Spider-Man who said:
“You know Avi always refers to that question as a stunt,” he says. “If you were to do that, you know, Spider-Man in the Avengers is a stunt. And I get why everybody – you know, fans and audience members and movie goers – I understand it. […]
“Stunts can be cool but it’s also a business, and so the other side of the answer is they’re owned by different companies.”
So, do Arad and Tolmach have a point? Ultimately, that’s subjective. Is a sweeping comic book event like Civil War a “stunt” that signaled that creators had run out of original ideas, or was it an epic event that justifiably used every facet of the Marvel U to tell a tremendous story? What about Joss Whedon’s Avengers superhero team-up film?
I get Arad’s Amalgamation Universe comparison, but it’s just not the same — these characters have justifiably stepped into each other’s comic book stories for decades in some cases (and, point of order, Spider-Man has been a member of The Avengers in the past). If you forget their corporate division, these characters all occupy the same world, whereas DC and Marvel did not.
Unfortunately, we can’t forget those divisions since they are the reason why we will never see a full Marvel Movie Universe, even though such a move — even on a small, cameo-sized scale — would likely reward each side with a hefty bit of buzz (you can never have enough buzz) and additional box office (ditto).
What’s a Spider-Man appearance worth to the box office of The Avengers? Lets relive the cover of Fantastic Four #25 and see The Hulk face off against The Thing in a Fantastic Four movie, how much is a Hulk appearance worth to that film?
These are the impossible valuations that have and will likely always keep this dream marooned in the pages of a comic book, because when you strip this all down, all it is is a financial transaction.