Even though Sony and Marvel Studios have struck a rather unique character sharing deal with Spider-Man – allowing the web slinging superhero to appear in both his own solo movies at Sony and teaming up with other heroes over at Marvel’s shared cinematic universe – don’t expect to see that arrangement extend across the multitude of other characters in the Spider-Man family that Sony owns the rights to.
Collider is reporting that the Venom movie that Sony is developing – based on the fan favorite anti-hero who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #300 – is actually being planned as the cornerstone for a shared universe of films based on a number of Spider-Man related characters. But here’s the kicker, this shared universe will be separate from the studio’s Spider-Man films.
Not content to hop onto the cinematic universe trend with Venom, the studio is also reportedly looking to capitalize on what may become the next big wave in the superhero genre – the R-rated comic book adaptation.
Now it should be noted that this is not the first time that a Spider-Man-less Venom movie has been in development. Back in the early 2000’s screenwriter David S. Goyer had been working on a script for New Line Cinema which would have featured the character appearing without his ties to the larger Spider-Man mythos. That project fell apart and the rights to the character reverted back to Sony by 2007. Just in time for Sam Raimi to be forced to include him in his Spider-Man 3, much to the detriment of the film.
The character of Venom is actually a gooey alien symbiote who requires a human host to live. In return for the human host being completely covered by the symbiote, they get enhanced strength and other powers similar to Spider-Man. The symbiote was first brought to Earth by Spider-Man who was off-planet, caught up with a rather large comic book crossover event in the 1980s. Once the symbiote was revealed to havet least a partial mind of its own, it went onto bond with several other people, slowly transforming from a villainous character to more of an anti-hero.
According to Collider, Sony “is expect[ing] to keep [Venom‘s] budget modest.” Perhaps a wise tactic, given that returns on their two Andrew Garfield-starring Amazing Spider-Man films, which were supposed to launch a larger cinematic universe were not as strong as they could have been. The studio could be taking a cue from Fox, who produced both R-rated superhero films Deadpool and Logan for under $100 million each in return for some healthy profits at the box office.
Collider goes on to specify that Marvel’s Kevin Feige, who is pretty much the mastermind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will not be involved in this new Venom-verse. Instead, Sony studio chief Tom Rothman will be calling the shots. For those of us with long memories, this does not bode well. While the head of Twentieth Century Fox, Rothman effectively micromanaged the X-Men franchise and gave use the disasters that are X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins – Wolverine. Hopefully, Rothman will bring in someone who has more affinity for comics and the Spider-Man characters in general. If anything, hopefully Rothman will go with the Writers Room approach that Paramount has with their Transformers franchise or Universal has done with their upcoming Monsters film series.
The only other Spider-Man related film that we know Sony has in development – Black Cat And Silver Sable – will also be a part of this Venom-verse. That project is currently going through a rewrite by Thor: Ragnarok scripter Chris Yost, polishing the work from previous writer Lisa Joy. But will this film have an R-rating as well? If not, can you successfully build a shared universe where some films will may have ratings that could potentially keep a certain percentage of their audience from buying tickets? Deadpool, despite its R-rating, is actually sitting at the top of the list in terms of box office performance of X-Men films. Granted, that could be an outlier. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.