For a long time now, many of us have been wondering the same thing: WTF are you doing, Sony? The Hollywood film studio may have reached an agreement with Marvel in allowing the latter to use Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it has still also insisted on making its own independent movies focusing on Spider-Man villains and supporting Marvel characters. In essence, they’re building a Spider-Man cinematic universe without Spider-Man. But it seems Sony has realised how silly this is and is making some adjustments to change that.
In a lengthy report by Variety, it’s revealed that Sony’s upcoming Venom film will be the first step in spinning out a bigger series of films – internally dubbed Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, or SUMC – which includes Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, Silk and more. That “first step” for this SUMC will be decidedly less blood-soaked than you would have thought though. When Venom was first announced it was said to be R-rated, and its trailers definitely hint at violence that deserves the adult rating. This sentiment was even backed up by director Ruben Fleischer who told ComicBook.com at SDCC just last month that “that’s the plan”,
Our movie wants to honor the comics as close as we can tonally. In the comics, he bites people’s heads off and eats brains. It would be weird to make a movie with Venom if he wasn’t doing that. We tried to honor it as closely as possible. This is definitely a darker, more violent, more vicious Marvel character than I think anyone’s ever seen before.
However, it’s now revealed that “it’s unlikely that Venom will be the first R-rated Sony Marvel movie,” as according to the Variety’s report “some members of Sony’s brain trust believe that the film should push the very limits of PG-13 without crossing over into a higher rating.”
The feeling is that will give the studio greater leeway for future installments that will feature Spider-Man, something “Venom” does not do. Any Spider-Man movie will carry a PG-13 rating because the wall-crawler is more family friendly, and if Venom is too dark and gory, it might preclude other film match-ups, not just with Peter Parker’s alter-ego, but also with other members of the extended Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
So yeah, Sony wants in on the MCU and who can blame them? That being said, a PG-13 Venom movie does not sound that appealing. To be honest, the movie itself hasn’t looked that appealing either. This has led to some speculation that this change has nothing to with potential Spider-Man team-ups and everything to do with Sony panicking that the movie’s trailers have gotten mixed responses and now want to lower the possible box office damage by broadening the audience.
Whatever their reasoning for making Venom more family friendly, Sony is still going ahead on the rest of the SUMC with Sanford Panitch, president of Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures, corralling it all. The previously mentioned Morbius the Living Vampire already has Daniel “Safe House” Espinosa directing Jared Leto as the main character, while Richard Wenk (The Equalizer 1 & 2, The Magnificent Seven) has been tapped to pen the screenplay for a solo Kraven the Hunter movie. Much earlier along in development are movies based on Silk, a female Korean-American superhero named Cindy Moon who also got powers after she was bitten by the same spider that gave Peter Parker his abilities; Jackpot, a mid-forties masked female vigilante (which is a bit rare in the youth-focused superhero market); and Nightwatch, a doctor who stumbles across a costumed man who has died fighting off terrorists and takes his superpowered costume for himself.
If you’ve been following Sony’s SUMC plans (before it was known as the SUMC), then you may have noticed that there’s one title missing in that list, and it’s one that had seemingly been in development the longest. Silver and Black was set to see Spider-Man femme fatales Silver Sable and Black Cat team up and had Gina Prince-Blythewood set to write/direct. In June we heard that Sony had removed the film from their release schedule as they took it back to the drawing board though, and now we know what they’ve come up with as the film will be split into two separate features focusing on each character independently. The first of these will be Black Cat, which focuses on super-powered probability-altering cat burglar Felicia Hardy (think Domino combined with Catwoman) who Sony believes “is enough of her own character with a great backstory and a canon of material to draw from to justify her own film.” Prince-Blythewood will still be attached as producer to both films, but it doesn’t appear like she’ll be helming either.
Being a producer is still a big deal though, as it’s been revealed that Sony is not following the MCU model of having one person at the top driving everything creatively, like Marvel’s Kevin Feige. While Panitch is the one in charge of this entire enterprise, so to speak, Sony’s approach to the actual films will be more “producer-driven”, so you can expect lots of variety and deviation on each individual production.
Personally, I think it’s all a little messy though. A much neater approach would be to take the same path with these SUMC films as with Spider-Man where Sony retains the rights, but Marvel co-produces and everything exists within one cinematic universe. All Sony is really doing at the moment is temporarily withholding toys for Marvel to play with. Before Jake Gyllenhaal had been tapped as Mysterio for Spider-Man: Far From Home, I had been rooting like crazy for Kraven to be the next Spider-Man movie villain. That can’t happen unless Sony’s rather iffy plans actually come to fruition – a feat that seems to be depending heavily on the success of Venom. And as we saw when Sony just abandoned the Amazing Spider-Man trilogy after two films without any resolution, the studio does not handle failure well. Whereas Marvel just rolls with the punches and sticks to the gameplan when some films are not as massively successful as others, I would not be surprised that if Venom flops when it releases in October, I’m going to be writing another one of these huge articles about how Sony’s plans have changed yet again.
Last Updated: August 10, 2018