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We May Finally Know Who To Blame For The Disney And Sony Split

In the days since it was reported that Disney and Sony were going their separate ways, unable to reach an agreement regarding their joint partnership over the Spider-Man franchise, many have been playing the blame game and firing shots at both studios involved. Thanks to a new report from Variety breaking down the Spider-Man split, we may finally know who to point our fingers at.

According to an unnamed source with inside knowledge of the deal, the X-Men franchise may be to blame for Disney and Sony divorcing. 

The insider noted that Disney was "partly motivated to walk away from the negotiations" because executives want Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to place his "full attention on the newly-acquired Fox properties," which includes the mutant group, the Fantastic Four, and many others. 

Shortly before Disney acquired most of Fox's assets in March 2019, when the two companies merged under a $71.3 billion deal, it was confirmed that Feige would be taking over the X-Men movie franchise and already had ideas as to what he would do with the gang of mutants within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Namely, he wants to recast Wolverine with a younger actor and evidently start the character over from square one.) Longtime X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who hired Feige as an associate producer on 2000's X-Men due to his vast knowledge of the Marvel Universe, stated in February 2019 that Feige was "still dealing with the wealth of characters and trying to make sense of it all."

Feige's plan for the X-Men property reportedly became much clearer in June 2019, following the release of Dark Phoenix. A financial failure and a critical disasterDark Phoenix posted the lowest opening weekend of any X-Men movie in history and is largely considered the worst installment of the franchise — which is disappointing given it was the last-ever X-Men film produced by Fox. Reportedly, Dark Phoenix's box office bombing spurred Disney brass to rework its priorities at Marvel Studios, evidently wanting Feige to focus on rebuilding the X-Men brand. A source close to Variety indicated that Walt Disney Studios co-chairman Alan Bergman "insisted talks with Sony end" after Dark Phoenix flopped, while another claimed that Bergman "led the charge on the Spider-Man deal" regardless if Dark Phoenix was actually a motivator in the split or not. 

Though it's tempting to jump on the "X-Men Killed Spider-Man" train, fans should take this report with a grain of salt. No one but the parties involved in the Disney-Sony split know what really happened, and plenty of rumors have surfaced in the time since the news broke. Some claim that Disney and Sony are secretly working things out behind the scenes, while others are convinced that what's done is done and there's no turning back. At this point in time, it's anyone's guess what's coming next — even with Feige and Spider-Man actor Tom Holland having recently addressed the situation. During the 2019 D23 Expo in late August, the men spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the studios' break-up and Spidey's MCU exit. Holland expressed gratitude for getting to play Spider-Man for "five amazing years," while Feige stated that the deal between Disney and Sony was "never meant to last forever."

It's interesting to consider Dark Phoenix and the future of the X-Men franchise being a major driving force in Disney's decision to walk away from the negotiating table and let Sony regain sole ownership over Spider-Man. Holland's web-slinging hero has proven wildly successful for both studios — with the vast majority of fans and critics agreeing that his iteration of Spider-Man is the best one yet, and with the most recent franchise entry, Spider-Man: Far From Home, earning over a billion dollars worldwide to become Sony's top-earning movie ever. One could argue that it makes little sense that Disney and Marvel would prioritize fixing a broken franchise over keeping a really good thing going. 

However, it doesn't seem totally unreasonable that Feige and company would want to end the ongoing tug-of-war with Sony over Spider-Man and instead focus their time and expertise on building the X-Men film series back up. The Spider-Man movies clearly aren't hurting for attention in any aspect, and, thanks to Feige's input, are on the steadiest ground they've been since Sam Raimi's original trilogy. 

It seems that the biggest takeaway from all the Spidey-related news is this: Sony will probably be fine, Disney and Marvel will probably be fine, and both studios will hopefully be able to co-exist in peace. Holland's Spider-Man isn't going anywhere in the immediate future, and neither are fans of the franchise.