Why Spider-Man and the Avengers will never team up

Ben Skipper
Movies Blog
7 August 2012

There's a fresh round of rumours around Fox's 'Daredevil' reboot. They've apparently made a deal with Marvel to keep the rights to the character for longer in exchange for letting some of the Fantastic Four characters revert back to the comic book studio.

It brings to mind two questions asked by film fans when 'Avengers Assemble' ran wild at the box office earlier this year: "Where was Spider-Man?" and "Will Spider-Man be in the next one?".

[Related story: Jessica Biel out of The Wolverine]
[Related story: Paltrow to get her own Iron Man suit?]

Unfortunately it's unlikely to ever happen, because of the very confusing series of uber-contracts that exist between Marvel and Hollywood studios that stops the comic book company's heroes from teaming up like they do in the comics.

The situation of who owns the rights to what among the Hollywood studios has lead to much head-scratching among film fans, so here's all you need to know about the Marvel superhero film rights.
Each superhero or super-group comes as package including all the associated side-characters and villains. Based on that, here is who owns who.

Marvel Studios own... Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, S.H.I.E.L.D, The Avengers, Blade, The Punisher and all the remaining smaller characters yet to make it to the big screen.

20th Century Fox own... The X-Men, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and Elektra.

Sony Pictures own... Spider-Man and Ghost Rider.

In the mid to late nineties Marvel were unable to fund their own film projects as they eventually did with 2008's 'Iron Man', so they made huge money deals with major Hollywood studios for the film licensing of some of their top tier heroes.

This led directly to the superhero movie boom of the turn of the century which saw 'Blade', 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man' released in quick succession.

[Related story: Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy as next film]

These deals meant that the studios had to have films with the central characters in production by certain dates or the characters would revert back to Marvel - who still own them as intellectual properties (IPs) and continue to make money from their films no matter who makes them.

This is why Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man 4' so quickly evolved into this summer's reboot when things fell apart. If they hadn't made it, Sony would most likely never get to make another.

From a creative stand point the various deals mean a lack of continuity between each IP. In the comic books Wolverine, Hulk and Spidey regularly share pages, especially in the company's major events like 'Civil War', which saw the heroes fighting among themselves.

Yesterday's rumours of a deal between Fox and Marvel reportedly involved the rights to Fantastic Four characters Galactus and Silver Surfer heading back to Marvel in exchange for more time to reboot 'Daredevil'.

This would mean that Galactus and Silver Surfer are able to show up in forthcoming Marvel Studios films like 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'The Avengers 2', where they would fit into the intergalactic nature of where those movies are heading.

The current deals mean that Fox and Sony can go on making X-Men and Spider-Man films indefinitely, which would mean only the most delicately balanced deal could see the studios working together to have certain characters share the screen.  Marvel have surely been kicking themselves for ever letting those characters go.

As fans we can only hope that one day we get to see Spider-Man and Wolverine bickering or the awesome cinematic spectacle that an all-out war between our favourite heroes would be. Unfortunately, because each character is worth so much money on their own, that's some way off.

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