Why Iron Man in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Is a Big Deal

The movie rights to all the various superheroes in Marvel‘s vast library of comics is nothing short of a maze. We have odd exceptions that let Marvel Studios share Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch with 20th Century Fox, but not any of the other X-Men. Sony, despite having held the rights to Spider-Man since the mid-’80s, loaned the web-slinger to Marvel for Captain America: Civil War. No one seems to be able to agree on who owns Namor, evidenced by Marvel’s tug of war with Universal.

Further complicating matters, Iron Man will be appearing in Sony’s Spider-Man: HomecomingThat being so, this sets a massive precedent with wide-ranging implications.

1. Sony and Marvel both end up winning

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming | Marvel

The decision to combine the Sony universe and the MCU is a no-brainer for both parties. The former gets to infuse life into a twice-rebooted franchise that petered out after just two movies the last time around. The latter gets at least partial rights to one of its most iconic heroes.

Already we’re seeing the accord work to everyone’s advantage, and with the rest of Hollywood intently watching, it could end up being the first domino toward Marvel Studios bringing all of its wayward characters back under its expansive umbrella.

2. Spider-Man is finally in the right creative hands

Criminals wearing Avengers masks in Spider-Man: Homecoming
Criminals wearing Avengers masks in Spider-Man: Homecoming | Marvel

The Sony/Marvel partnership is based around one ideal (whether or not Sony is willing to admit it): The best superhero hands are Marvel’s. Sony did manage to make two stellar Spider-Man movies with Sam Raimi, but then fell off a cliff with the third installment in the trilogy. One reboot and two average-to-sub-par Andrew Garfield-led Spider-Man films later, and the studio was knocking on Marvel’s door, hat in hand, begging them to make the web-slinger profitable again.

To get a sense for just how much Sony swallowed its pride: Marvel head Kevin Feige holds complete creative control over Spider-Man: Homecoming.

3. This has implications across the realm of superhero cinema

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man in his suit looking angry
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man | Marvel Studios

While Marvel and Sony both make money hand-over-fist together, you can bet that studios like 20th Century Fox are paying attention. Iron Man is the box office centerpiece of the MCU, and the Spider-Man deal infuses Robert Downey Jr.’s star power directly into Sony’s flagging franchise. Meanwhile, Fox is struggling to resurrect the withered husk of the Fantastic Four saga, having fallen flat on its face with the last attempt.

They’ve already denied rumors that they’d consider ceding the Fantastic Four rights back to Marvel, and yet the siren song of the MCU is tough to resist. When Iron Man is dangled as the carrot, suddenly things start to seem all too tempting.

4. Sony’s Marvel deal proves why it’s time for Fox to hand over the Fantastic Four

A screenshot from Fox's failed Fantastic Four reboot, of the characters looking at a beam of light in the sky
Fantastic Four | 20th Century Fox

In the end, it’s a question of how confident Fox is in its ability to make Fantastic Four movies. History so far tells us one thing: it can’t. The first two installments have aged horribly, and the latest was a joyless affair considered by many to be one of the worst superhero movies of the modern era.

It’s not hard to imagine Fox peeking over the fence at Sony and Marvel who are holding hands and skipping through the tulips. It’s even easier for Fox to see that there’s a lot of money to be made with the backing of the well-established MCU. While Iron Man helps Sony make the Spider-Man franchise profitable for the first time in over a decade, Fox is forced to churn out sub-par Fantastic Four movies to avoid reverting the rights back to Marvel.

5. The first domino is about to fall

Spider-Man in mid-air jumping toward the ground
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming | Marvel

Iron Man’s Spider-Man: Homecoming appearance is just one piece of Marvel and Sony’s lucrative partnership, but it’s an important one nonetheless. It shows Marvel’s willingness to give as much as it receives and kicks the door wide open for the rest of the studio’s various heroes in Sony’s Spider-Man universe.

The price may have been creative control, but who can really argue with the almost across-the-board success of the MCU? The rest of Hollywood will be watching intently to see how it pans out, but we’d be shocked if the outcome was anything other than “everyone makes Scrooge McDuck money.”

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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