Sony is in a difficult situation right now. It is clear like every other studio in the business they want a shared cinematic universe, they have been trying at it for years after all. Unfortunately for them, if not the viewing public, following their previous venture into this territory they gave back their best character in Spider-Man to Marvel for the foreseeable future.
Strangely though losing their most well known character did not end their wish for a shared universe of their own. It only shifted it a bit. They will still make a Spider-Man film universe Spider-Man will just not be in it. The cornerstone of this franchise was then to be Venom arguably their most well known character left on the roster.
Venom as a film was a strange beast, seemingly enjoyed by audiences while savaged by critics. My personal thoughts were it was a technically flawed film but effeminately enjoyable in a weird and quirky way. Twitter and other social media sites seem enamored with the film in other ways as well...
That being said it was a success and a big one at that. Sony is certainly heartened by this as they are moving forward with their Spider-Man free universe. Next up is the Jared Leto led Morbius: The Living Vampire which is where issues I believe start to arrive.
I personally feel Vemon succeeded as Venom as a character is well known. For a 1990's kid like myself Venom was one of the most, if not the most, iconic Spider-Man villains and one of the most iconic villains period. His inclusion in Sam Raimi’s god awful Spider-Man 3 was due to studio insistence for example as many fans expected his appearance.
Effectively without any marketing there was already a base for a Venom film to succeed with. Add to the fact it smartly launched in a normally dead month of October against no direct genre competition, it meant Venom had a chance to succeed on its strengths. While overcoming its multiple flaws.
Looking forward the rest of the live action Spider-Free Universe does not share these strengths. Many names have been dropped to get their own films such as the above noted Morbius The Living Vampire which likely will happen, a Kraven the Hunter Film, and a Black Cat and Silver Sable film which is now two films.
The problem with this is obvious none of these characters seem suited to helm their own franchise. Furthermore, each of these characters with Silver Sable exempted are at their best when dealing with Spider-Man a character that does not exist in this universe. It stretches credulity to think a film centering around a Cat Woman ripoff like Black Cat will work when the actual Cat Woman failed so miserably. Or a character like Kraven the Hunter who’s defining story Kraven’s Last Hunt was about him hunting, killing, and becoming Spider-Man working without Spider-Man.
Now the same arguments were made about Venom and it seemed to workout. Except that is because Venom since the 1990's developed its own mythology due to his popularity separate of Spider-Man. Riot and other symbiotes like Lasher existed because people wanted to see more symbiotes in the comics like Venom and Carnage. Speaking of Carnage the Venom sequel already has a ready made villain people have been waiting to see on screen for going on thirty years now. The Kraven film barely even has a villain for its first film.
At its core there are inherent strengths in the Venom IP that the rest of Sony’s properties do not have. Furthermore, the further we get from the bombshell Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk post credit scenes creating the shared universe the more it becomes clear the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an aberration. Shared universes seem to be too difficult for anyone but the most patient of studio’s to pull off something Sony has shown time and time again it is not.
At the end of the day Venom is a success and I am one of those guys who loved it and wants a sequel badly. That said, one good film a universe does not make and Sony has already played its last trump card. Going forward the real test begins and call me crazy but the studio that thought an Aunt May Secret Agent origin story was a good idea may just not be up to it. We shall see.
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