A Little Bit of Spider-Man: No Way Home Speculation!

Don’t worry, there are no ‘spoilers’ here, I’ve not seen the film yet, but tomorrow, finally I’m seeing ‘No Way Home’!

(You can now read my first thoughts HERE)

By the end of the week, most of the world will have had a chance to see it. So now is the last chance for a little last-minute pondering, speculating, and guessing as to what we’ll be treated to in this movie.

It’s almost certain we’ll be getting Venom, if you’re not expecting that, you haven’t seen ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘. I think there could possibly also be another villain from past movies they’ve not already specifically revealed, maybe other characters too. It would be strange if we don’t briefly get an Avenger or two cameoing, and, many hope to see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprising their roles as alternate Peter Parkers, though it’s far from confirmed. 

Beyond those ‘obvious’ predictions, what less-expected surprises could be in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’? 

Firstly, like ‘Infinity War’, I don’t think the problems will be fully resolved by the end of the movie. ‘Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness’ seems to be following on very directly from this, and I don’t think it will just be Steven Strange that ties the two together, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more unfinished at the end of this film that needs resolving.

Something people are hoping to see, though there’s no firm basis to think it’s imminent, is Miles Morales. The MCU is in a phase where they’re bringing in successors for their hero roles, most distinctly a new Captain America and we’ve also been introduced to a new Black Widow though she’s not yet taken on that role in the Avengers roster. Despite not yet being named as such we’re seeing the introduction of a new Hawkeye on Disney+. Beyond that we’ve also had alternate Loki, soon to be getting an alternate Thor, and sadly for other reasons, it looks likely there could be someone else taking on the role of Black Panther. It’s not Marvel Studios’ decision, it’s Sony’s, but if it were, then this wouldn’t even be a question, we would be certain of a different Spidey by this phase of the MCU. 

Whether we get it in this movie or not, it’s time for a Spider-Man that isn’t Peter Parker. Introducing a live-action Miles would mean there are two, one for the MCU, another more focused on appearing in Sony’s Universe. We’ve not had Peter’s origin story shown yet with the Holland MCU version, so any similar elements can be explored with Miles without feeling too repetitive. A fresh Spidey could also be fresh, unsupported by the Avengers and expensive tech, which would work better if going into the Sony films to face off against their current version of Venom.

Another thing I’m guessing is that we’ll see Tony Stark, from another universe. Sure, they got to say goodbye but only briefly, and we know from ‘Far From Home’ that Peter is struggling with his death and the weight of the responsibility he has to shoulder. 

I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Happy Hogan is retconned to be Benjamin Hogan, and becomes new Uncle Ben… sure, it would be weird, but also not far off what they’ve done with Zendaya’s Michelle being known as MJ to her friends. She’s not Mary Jane, but she’s taken the place of MJ in all other ways. So Happy could step into the role of Ben in many ways, something that hit me as a possibility after rewatching ‘Far From Home’ the other day. 

Will we see any of these things? I don’t know, but it’s a lot of fun pondering because this movie has the scope to do almost anything, and I really hope they grab that opportunity with both hands and make it unlike anything else!


Is Disney+ about to release Black Widow? I think so!

Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ is coming to Disney+ very soon! Before ‘WandaVision’ debuts on the 15th of January. I’m certain of it!

After over a decade of approximately two movies a year, the momentum of the MCU has been severely impaired by the pandemic. Now that they’ve had to push ‘Black Widow’ a few times the whole universe is very nearly a year behind schedule and it’s holding up not just the cinematic side, but also reshuffling the Disney+ series, as there’s near-certain connectivity from ‘Black Widow’ written into ‘Falcon & Winter Soldier’. Marvel’s already having to rethink a section of the universe as it pertains to ‘Black Panther’, working out how best to proceed given Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death. So the one hitherto reliable part of Disney’s movie business is in a terrible state of uncertainty and isn’t making them any of the big box office dollars they’ve become accustomed to. 

‘Black Widow’ being held up is not just a problem for Disney and the Marvel Universe, but there are probably also many product sponsorships and brand endorsements that will surely be coming to nought. I don’t know for sure, but MCU films often feature phones, cars, watches, etc, as product placement that is then intended to tie-in with their own advertising campaigns or even new product releases scheduled and timed for success. For example, there might be company holding on to their big new flagship phone or some other product because it was set to feature in the movie, or maybe just because their ad campaign features Scarlett Johansson. 

Only a few months ago they revealed that there’s infrastructure on Disney+ for ‘Premier Access’, did they develop it for just one single use? I seriously doubt it. They’ve also restructured recently to put more focus on their streaming services, including plans which are set to go beyond just the family-friendly Disney+.

Cinemas are still shut in some U.S. states, and recently many that had reopened closed back down for a few months. That’d be a surprising business decision to make if they’d seriously thought Pixar’s ‘Soul’ was coming in November followed by ‘Wonder Woman ’84’ in December. Within days of exhibitors making that choice ‘Soul’ jumped to Disney+ (at no additional cost to subscribers) and that other hopeful box-office hit while remaining on the schedule has taken a rare multi-platform approach with a simultaneous release via cinemas and HBO Max. That’s practically unheard of for a film of this size. If Warner Bros are able to do that with their 13million HBO Max subscribers (according to a recent Deadline article) in just the U.S. it’s now many times more conceivable that Disney+ with their 70-something million subscribers (rapidly rising and no doubt about to jump up over the holidays) in many more territories, might try something equally bold. 

In the interests of balance, I was going to argue some reasons they won’t do this, however, it’s really hard to argue against. As I see it, the only reason they won’t put it on ‘Premier Access’ for a fee, is if Disney just pop it into the library at no extra cost to subscribers as they’re about to do with ‘Soul’ in a couple of weeks and WB are doing with ‘WW84’. I even think it’s imminent. My prediction is they’re about to announce ‘Black Widow’ is coming to Disney+ in the first weeks of January, before ‘WandaVision’, which would explain why that show was pushed out of the announced end of 2020 into the start of 2021. It wasn’t production delays, it was because of a release schedule rethink. 

Will they charge extra to watch it? Numbers for ‘Mulan’ are not available, Disney are keeping that info to themselves, but still, Disney have said they were happy with the way it performed via their ‘Premier Access’ service, other sources have disputed this, wondering how, as it clearly lost them money. They clearly weren’t convinced by the release strategy as they moved ‘Soul’ onto the service at no additional cost, measuring success with the Pixar film in terms of seeing if it drives a spike in subscriptions. They will then have the data and experience of the two ends of an alternative release spectrum, and feedback in the industry towards WB’s plans, fully able to better navigate their future options, calculating sweet-spot for films like ‘Black Widow’. 

The biggest live-action Disney remake was 2019’s ‘The Lion King’ with nearly.$1.7b. That is low when you remember that ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ made nearly half a billion dollars more, and ‘Endgame’ made $2.8. Maybe I’m focusing on the very top of the scale a little too much. So, a better comparison might be that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ made $1.27b, yet that’s only a little more than ‘Iron Man 3’ and less than ‘Black Panther’, ‘Age of Ultron’, and ‘Avengers’. So, it’s fair to say that ‘Black Widow’ could reasonably be expected to be at least as big an audience draw as ‘Mulan’, though, based off reviews of it, and knowing the general reception of Marvel movies, I think it’s fair to say it would do better, not least in China, where reception of Mulan was at best underwhelming, really closer to unfavourable. ‘Endgame’ was the 4th biggest film ever in China, the biggest non-Chinese. The MCU and other comic-adaptations have done really well there, Disney live-action films haven’t come close. So, even opening ‘Black Widow’ in exactly the same way as ‘Mulan’ with theatrical release where possible and elsewhere a home option with some level of cost, would almost certainly be a success.

Plus, Disney will absolutely gain new subscribers, which is now their primary focus. Families who wanted to see ‘Mulan’ were likely already users of Disney+. People who love the MCU, though they too may be subscribed for easy access to the movie titles on the streaming service, may have been taking a break from it, or waiting for the interconnected series to debut. With no ‘Wandavision’ or ‘Falcon and Winter Soldier’ released they may not have been actively subscribed, biding their time and holding on to their pennies. ‘Black Widow’ would instantly change that, causing a surge of fans who’d then be likely to stay active with those series now imminent. If it’s at no added cost, just the reasonable subscription, that also offers an alternative to illegal piracy, which was rampant with ‘Mulan’.

So in summary, why was ‘Wandavision pushed back two weeks? Simple. They’re going to release ‘Black Widow’ beforehand, maintaining something closer to the original release order, and regaining momentum for the Marvel Universe.

Could Black Widow Get A Wonder Woman 1984-Style Release?

Here I was, putting the finishing touches on a post entitled ‘Could Disney do a Mulan-style release for ‘Black Widow?’. Yet the perils of writing about film in 2020 overtook me, as things in the movie world have shifted yet again, and there’s now a different release strategy that looks far more likely.

To summarise briefly, I was going to argue that between their reportedly underwhelming results from the ‘Premier Access’ release of ‘Mulan’, and the upcoming release of Pixar’s ‘Soul’ at no added cost to subscribers, I expected Disney to take the data gained from these two approaches and find a middle ground between them. Arguably it seemed likely Disney wouldn’t develop the PVOD infrastructure that we now know is built into Disney+ for a single-use, ultimately leading to them offering ‘Black Widow’ on ‘Premier Access’ for a more modest fee and with extended exclusivity.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Warner Bros just confirmed that they’ll be releasing the highly-anticipated tentpole ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ on their streaming service HBO Max on December 25th, the same day as the cinematic release in the US, though it will be available internationally a week earlier where HBO Max isn’t an option.

Simultaneous releases for big movies like this have been almost unheard of because the theatrical exhibitors don’t agree with them. Until now it’s been considered a strategy that would cannibalize their audience, but this year, it’s a pandemic that’s cannibalized the audience, so studios and theatres are willing to try anything to stay afloat. The theatres know they can’t keep their side of the deal like before, the box office numbers they’re bringing in are a fraction of what they used to be, so they are more willing to compromise to avoid films going entirely to streaming because they hope to get as many customers as legal capacities allow with a big tentpole like a DC movie to show. There’s an eager audience with a strong desire to see it on the big screen as intended, and the number of people wanting that experience doesn’t have to fill every seat, it can’t, so they just have to equal 50% or less, which dare I say it, should be easy enough for a four-quadrant sequel like this.

There’s also the international aspect to consider. ‘Wonder Woman’ took more than $412 in the US and $409 internationally at the box office, hugely outperforming expectations. Where HBO Max isn’t an option, WW84 should be able to fill many cinemas to their reduced capacity limits quite easily, especially around the end of year holidays as it’s more likely to appeal to the whole family than WB’s last attempt at reigniting cinemagoing, ‘Tenet’. Here in the UK, we don’t yet have HBO Max unless you want to get clever with a VPN, so I’m already making plans to get a nicely distanced seat booked at the boutique cinema near me, which I believe will adjust their screening schedule to make sure it’s there on opening night. So making a big movie like this available in cinemas wherever possible, while also catering to your locked-down biggest market via a home-based option, seems like a pretty good plan. 

So, the question now is, will Disney follow a similar approach for their delayed MCU movies like ‘Black Widow’? There are some solid reasons to think they might.

Rather than going the route of PVOD for $30 again, it seems there are already signs Disney’s moving away from that system. Their subscriber numbers for Disney+ far exceed their original projections, so they’re taking more than they were forecasted to anyway, without having to add an additional fee. Currently, there are only 9 million subscribers to HBO Max (though that will jump up in December in time for WW84’s release) while Disney+ has over 70 million, the latter having rolled out to a number of countries earlier this year. 

Disney+ ‘Premier Access’ backfired badly with ‘Mulan’. Firstly reviews weren’t overly glowing, leaving a lot of buyers feeling like it wasn’t worth the premium cost they’d just shelled out. Then stupidly just weeks later Disney released it on all other PVOD services, ones that didn’t require a Disney+ subscription on top of the cost of the movie, essentially giving a better deal to non-subscribers than their Disney+ customers, which was a really bone-headed move. Now, many who would have been tempted to pay for something via ‘Premier Access’ will be wary, holding off for a better deal, or just, like myself with ‘Mulan’, waiting a few more months for it to be included for free. 

A few weeks ago Disney announced they’d be accelerating their plans to focus on direct-to-consumer services, restructuring the business considerably in aid of their streaming services. This has had an almost immediate impact on the release schedule as it looks like they’ll be moving a number of their big films to premiere on Disney+. There were already some live-action family-focused ones such as ‘Godmothered’ set to go to the service, but I expect that will soon be followed by others including ‘Cruella’ and ‘Pinocchio’, films that would otherwise have been expected to go well in cinemas like the other live-action remakes of classics such as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King’.

Some of those are far off anyway, while ‘Black Widow’ has been ready to release for months, and it potentially an instant huge earner, maybe close to a billion dollars if it’s anything like the rest of the MCU. However, like ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ I don’t think it will be shifted exclusively to streaming on Disney+ as there are still some countries where the service isn’t available, and even where it is, there are still some cinemas open and eager to show the film. Some of my local independent cinemas regularly show films that are simultaneously on PVOD, if the film is good and will be worth seeing on the big screen they sell enough tickets to make it worth it. A cinematic simultaneous release could suit ‘Black Widow’ very well indeed, covering most eventualities if circumstances shift, and presenting tempting avenues for the audience to finally see this film they’ve been waiting so long for. 

I’m really looking forward to finally seeing ‘Black Widow’ whenever it’s released in whatever way I can, hopefully at the cinema though I’ll be happy enough to watch it at home if needed, especially if it’s included at no extra cost in my Disney+ subscription. While nothing quite makes up for not being able to see films like these on the big screen with an audience, what’s worse is not seeing new films at all, especially when we know they’re finished and ready to be seen.