A new Spider-Man movie is coming out this week, leading us to wonder what the hell he was doing back in 2012 when aliens tore apart New York City and the Avengers had to come in and stop them. Why didn't Spidey swing in and crack some fleshy alien skull-domes alongside Tony Stark and Captain America? New York is where he freaking lives. The odds are high that he would've accidentally been in the movie, just running into aliens while skateboarding to Whole Foods.
Sadly, a Spider-Man/Avengers team-up is just one of many things we can pretty much guarantee that you will never, ever see in a Marvel movie ... at least not in your own lifetime.
#4. Certain Characters Just Won't Get Their Own Films
Why is it that we've seen five Spider-Man movies, two Hulk reboots, two Ghost Rider movies, two Punisher reboots, a Daredevil movie, and a freaking Ant-Man movie starring two different Ant-Men, and yet plans for a Deadpool movie have been in limbo for half a decade and Marvel's producers continue to tactfully dodge questions about giving Black Widow her own feature?
"Hey, we only have things planned out until 2028. Let's not rush into things."
There are of course the obvious answers -- Deadpool is an R-rated character, and Hollywood is nervous about making R-rated superhero movies, and Black Widow is a female character, and Hollywood loves ignoring the fact that people watch films starring women. But there's actually a much simpler deciding factor at work here: whether the character wears a mask.
Check this out: Robert Downey Jr. gets paid all of the money in the universe to play Tony Stark, so much so that his salary for The Avengers broke box office records and forced mathematicians to invent a new decimal point. But any time you see Iron Man on screen, that's not Robert Downey Jr. That's either a digital effect or some stuntman in a costume getting paid less than the cost of the tires on RDJ's trailer. The same thing is true for Spider-Man, the Hulk, and any other character that wears a mask or is a CGI dinosaur Hercules.
It allows Marvel Studios to get away with paying the lead actor substantially less money, because the actor isn't actually on screen all that much. That's why the amount of time Robert Downey Jr. spends inside an Iron Man costume has gotten progressively shorter from film to film as his asking salary has increased, and why three different actors have played Bruce Banner in three different movies ... freaking anyone can be the Hulk.
"Mark was great in the role, but we can't wait to show you what Cheaper Late 30s/Vaguely Smart Looking/Mildly Broody Actor #4 does with the character!"
Meanwhile, Black Widow has become popular enough in her supporting appearances to generate fan support for a solo Black Widow movie. But as you may have noticed, Black Widow does not wear a mask. Scarlett Johansson herself would have to be present for most of the filming, and her status as a leading actress has only increased over the years. That means she'd command a substantial salary, and Marvel is simply not willing to pay it. (In Hollywood, money always comes first; sexism and racism are secondary.)
Now look at Deadpool. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Deadpool is a hideously disfigured goofball mercenary who can regenerate his body like Wolverine. Deadpool wears a mask, but the difference here is that he wears the mask all the time. In the rare cases where he removes the mask, his face looks like the Hamburger Helper glove if it got stuffed with minced beef and left in a flaming tire dump for 14 hours.
He briefly appeared (pre-face mutilation) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds, who is still attached to the solo Deadpool movie should it ever get made. So now Hollywood has the opposite problem: a handsome lead actor that the audience never gets to see. Sure, they can still get away with cramming a much less expensive stuntman into the costume for all of the action sequences, but they still need to fork over the cash to hire a good-enough character actor who can connect with an audience through a mask and 3 pounds of prosthetic scabs. Think of it as the "Jonah Hex Problem." It's much more cost effective to have a grunting digital effect smash his way through Times Square than to slap 10 hours of makeup on Ryan Reynolds and his stunt double.
20th Century Fox
"Have you even tried to be not ridiculously good looking all the time? It would really help us out here."
With characters like Captain America and Thor, who are pretty completely visible all of the time, Marvel specifically didn't hire A-list actors so they could sign them to multi-picture deals locked into relatively small salaries. Chris Evans was recognizable but by no means a headliner, and Chris Hemsworth had been in virtually nothing before tying a cape to his back and babbling in Odinspeak like a Shakespearean stroke victim. And as the Marvel release schedule continues to consist of only two films a year, it becomes less likely that they'll ever take a chance on a movie they haven't spent the least amount of money possible to produce.
#3. You Can Forget About Seeing Spider-Man or the X-Men Working With the Avengers
Superheroes routinely pop in and out of each other's comics like they're coming over to borrow the lawnmower. Spider-Man has been a member of the Avengers before, and so has Wolverine. There's no reason we shouldn't expect Tony Stark and Thor to come help Spider-Man even the odds against Electro, Green Goblin, and Robo-Paul Giamatti this Friday, right? Heck, there's an entire series about the Avengers fighting the X-Men, and we are not alone in thinking that that would be the craziest fucking movie of all time.
There would be like five Oscar nominees in this scene alone.
But we're never going to see it, just like the only way Iron Man is going to show up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is if you bring an action figure into the theater. This is because Marvel spent the previous four decades selling their characters' film rights off piecemeal like Michael Douglas in Wall Street. The X-Men and Spider-Man are owned by Fox and Sony, respectively, and as long as they keep making movies with those characters, the film rights will never revert back to Marvel Studios. It's like three kids playing with toys in separate corners of a sandbox, and they all refuse to share.
"There! Hulk make two Wolverines! Now problem solved."
The rights are so restrictive that even though Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the mutant children of Magneto, are appearing in the next Avengers movie, they can't be referred to as "Scarlet Witch" or "Quicksilver," nor can the word "mutant" be used to describe their characters in any way (because Fox owns the rights to their superhero code names, as well as the word "mutant" in the context of a superhero film). Quicksilver is also showing up in the upcoming X-Men movie Days of Future Past, which takes place in the 1970s (40 years before The Avengers 2), just to make everything extra confusing for Marvel movie fans.