Today was a busy day in terms of Marvel Comics related characters in film. Earlier this morning, the Wrap posted an interview with Robert Downey Jr. confirming the development of a fourth “Iron Man” film while the Hollywood Reporter followed suit with their own news regarding a casting announcement for Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man”. Not to be outdone, Hitfix posted a rumor earlier this afternoon stating that Sony may be seeking to get their own Marvel licensed hero, Spider-Man, involved in the lucrative Marvel Studios scheme.
Earlier today on “Ellen”, actor Robert Downey Jr. – who has starred in three “Iron Man” films as well as soon to be two “Avengers” films for Marvel Studios – confirmed what some insiders in Hollywood may have already known. That is, that the juggernaut of a film studio which has been on a role since 2008 (so long as one ignores the middling performance of “Incredible Hulk” that year) is actively working to produce a fourth “Iron Man” film in the near future. What Downey Jr. didn’t confirm is whether or not he would be starring in it, even if that seems to be incredibly likely. 2013’s “Iron Man 3” grossed $1.2 billion at the box office worldwide and is currently the sixth highest grossing film in history; in addition, the entire iron trilogy as starred by Robert Downey Jr. has grossed over $2 billion worldwide since 2008 without taking 2012’s “The Avengers” into account. While Downey Jr. is easily the highest paid actor employed by Marvel Studios, he is also among their biggest stars, and may have successfully negotiated a large enough contract to be willing to don the armor for a third sequel. Currently, he is only contracted to appear in next summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and a third “Avengers” film. In addition, Downey Jr. also hinted at wanting to “cut the red tape” to have a guest appearance on ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” today as well. As Comic Book Resources notes, the confirmation of “Iron Man 4” is a contradiction to what the actor stated merely a month ago; a sign of how fast things can move in Hollywood.
The rest of today’s news centered on the fates of some of Marvel’s bug themed heroes in film. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Martin Donovan (“Weeds”) has been cast in “a pivotal role” in Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man”, slated for release July 17th, 2015. It is unlikely that such a casting announcement would have been made had the role been a “thankless cameo”. The film – formerly spearheaded by Edgar Wright before being rewritten a few times – will star Paul Rudd (Scott Lang), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), and Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyne). Marvel Studios’ insistence at bringing this franchise to film has been staggering, especially as the director who seemed to be the most thrilled about it parted company with the studio before principle photography began. This could be not only due to Ant-Man’s role within the Avengers franchise in the comics, but also because Marvel Studios lacks an intelligent, sassy, bug-themed superhero in a mostly red costume due to past licensing agreements and perhaps feels that Ant-Man can fill that gap.
However, could aforementioned licensing agreements involving red suited bug-themed superheroes be changing? Hitfix seemed to reveal the juiciest rumor of the day by claiming that Sony was seeking to arrange some sort of “crossover” between their struggling “Amazing Spider-Man” film franchise and the massively successful Marvel Studios engine. Compared to the corporate “anger” which seems to exist between Disney (Marvel’s owner and overlord) and Fox over the “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men” franchises (as reported yesterday), Sony may be seeking to stay within the “house of mouse’s” good graces. Naturally, any attempt to have Spider-Man appear in a Marvel Studios production would involve, in the least, a profit sharing contract which Disney would never agree to unless it was more lucrative towards them in some fashion. However, Sony may see themselves as having fewer better options; ever since 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”, the studio has been seeing rising costs and shrinking returns on every single web-slinging film production with little end in sight. Although the studio likely cannot afford to sell the license rights back to Disney/Marvel, some profit sharing scheme via a “team-up” film may end up being more lucrative than anything else available to them on their own with the property. After all, forty percent of something is better than a hundred percent of nothing. “Amazing Spider-Man 3” has already been delayed as attempts to stretch the franchise with a “Sinister Six” spin off film have seen little enthusiasm. The fact that such a rumor has been spun so much today suggests that Sony’s Spider-Man plans may be stuck between a rock and a hard place.