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Spider-Man in 'Avengers 2'? It could happen

Will Perkins
Wide Screen
June 15, 2012

Did you feel like "The Avengers" was maybe lacking a little something? A visit from everyone's favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, perhaps?

Spidey exists in the same comic book universe as Iron Man, Thor, Cap, the Hulk, and others, so why can't he help the superteam battle supervillains on the big screen? The answer is kind of complicated, but there may be hope for the future if Marvel Studios founder Avi Arad gets his way.

Marvel has two major comic book tentpoles out this year: the superhero ensemble "The Avengers" — which destroyed box office records last month — and "The Amazing Spider-Man" — a relaunch of the popular wall-crawling movie franchise. Despite both films starring major Marvel Comics characters and being set in the same city, Spider-Man and the heroes that make up the Avengers aren't able to interact with one another on the big screen. Disney (parent company of Marvel) may own all these characters on the comic book page, but it doesn't own the film rights to all of them.

In the early 1990s, a cash-strapped Marvel Comics sold the film rights to many of its characters and properties. The sale of the film rights resulted in some terrible low-budget movies, including a hilariously bad 1990 "Captain America" and a Roger Corman-produced "Fantastic Four" adaptation that was so awful, it was never even released.

Around the same time, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to Marvel's then-extremely popular "X-Men" characters and a few years later, in 2000, it redefined the comic book movie with its film adaptation "X-Men." Similarly, Sony acquired the rights to "Spider-Man" and created a hugely successful film franchise out of it. Seeing the value of these comic book characters in the form of massive box office takes, Fox and Sony wisely decided to hang on to the film rights — meaning that the two studios called the respective shots when it came to the big-screen iterations of the X-Men and Spider-Man.

Skip ahead a few years and Marvel Studios has since taken the reins of most new Marvel Comics movies coming out (e.g., "Captain America," "Thor," "Iron Man 2"). It still has a hand in producing the Fox and Sony Marvel movies, but the final say goes to those studios. However, control over the bulk of the Marvel universe characters means that Marvel Studios can basically do anything it wants with them. And it's done exactly that, slowly but surely building a contiguous movie universe for all its heroes to play in. Years of shared lore and cross-movie cameos by certain characters — namely General Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson — eventually led to the big-screen tag team that was "The Avengers."

The massive success of "The Avengers" has seriously whet people's appetite for more superhero crossovers. Even Warner Bros., which owns Marvel rivals DC Comics, hastily began preparing its own superteam movie, "Justice League," in the wake of "The Avengers." People want more, but the question on every fan boy/girl's mind is whether the full Marvel hero stable will ever get to team up with one another on the big screen. At a recent press conference for "The Amazing Spider-Man," Marvel Studios' Avi Arad sounded hopeful when asked about Spidey's potential appearance in "The Avengers 2."

"Everything is possible," Arad told Crave Online. "If something like that happens, it's great for Disney, it's great for Sony."

Arad went on to discuss the planned "Spider-Man" spin-off, "Venom," and a potential crossover by Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker in that film. Of both an "Avengers" and a "Venom" crossover, Arad said that as long as the pieces fall into place technically and creatively, there's nothing stopping a big screen team up from happening.

However, what the Marvel Studios boss failed to mention is the ridiculous money involved in producing these films. Any big-screen team-up between the Sony-controlled "Spider-Man" and the Disney-controlled "Avengers" members would have to involve an enormous financial agreement between the rival studios. Hollywood law firms would make a killing out of a deal like that.

Would you watch an "Avengers" movie where Spider-Man showed up to help, or an "X-Men" movie where the Hulk or Captain America joined the fray? Of course! Any self-respecting comic book fan would want to see that on the silver screen. The fans want to see it, but it's completely up to Disney, Sony, and Fox to make it happen.

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