With Tom Hardy set to play the villainous Venom in a stand-alone movie for Sony, the studio has officially launched its own attempt to jump on the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Following Spider-Man: Homecoming, which will be released in the coming weeks, Sony has plans to release a spinoff film focusing on one of Spider-Man’s most recognizable villains, Venom. There are also plans for Silver Sable and Black Cat spinoffs, all tied into the Spider-Man world that Sony owns the rights to.
When Sony confirmed yesterday that Hardy would be playing Venom, the studio used an interesting phrase to define the universe that the film would belong to: Sony’s Marvel Universe.
Sony’s Marvel Universe directly relates to the number of Spider-Man adjacent projects the studio has, but in no way will the majority of these movies ever actually crossover with the Marvel Universe. The reason Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and references Captain America is because the film is being produced in partnership between the two studios.
Here’s how the breakdown of Sony and Marvel’s relationship works: In order for Disney to get Spider-Man in its movies without paying millions in licensing fees, the studio made a deal with Sony. Spider-Man movies, like Spider-Man: Homecoming, would result in profit for Sony, not Marvel. At the same time, Sony won’t make any money off of Marvel movies that use Spider-Man, like Captain America: Civil War or its upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
When the deal between the two companies was made in 2015, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige told Variety he didn’t have any interest in working together on the Sinister Six spinoff movies, which Venom belongs to. Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts echoed Feige’s comments, confirming that Venom isn’t connected to the Marvel universe.
“It’s not. It’s not connected to the Marvel world, so that’s really intriguing … what that will be,” Watts said. “I don’t know anything about it. It’s not connected, so there’s not that overlap. I’m only focused on my movie right now.”
The big “if” that people have been scratching their heads over is whether or not Sony and Marvel’s new Spider-Man will show up in the stand-alone Venom movie. Sony hasn’t officially commented on whether or not actor Tom Holland will make an appearance, but we can make some educated guesses based on the casting. The version of Venom that Hardy will be playing is Eddie Brock, one of the human host’s that Venom takes over. One would assume that Holland will be in the movie, but reports suggest that Spider-Man may not appear at all.
Regardless of if he does or not, the use of “Marvel Universe” by Sony suggests that there will be more to the world the studio wants to create beyond Spider-Man, but that’s just not true. Whereas Spider-Man will exist within a universe already set up by Marvel with multiple superheroes from a variety of comics, Sony will rely on characters within Spider-Man. Sony isn’t creating a Marvel Universe so much as it’s creating a Spider-Man universe.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s most beloved comics with a plethora of interesting villains that could make a very sustainable on-screen universe. Without the legal limitations put upon Sony by Marvel and the rights to other characters, Sony can have Venom appear in a Silver Sable or Black Cat movie and bring them all together for the studio’s own climactic mega entry in the franchise akin to The Avengers.
But this isn’t a Marvel Universe in the same way that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is and it simply can’t be. Spider-Man will exist as part of Marvel’s Universe but Iron Man or Black Panther will never exist as part of Sony’s.
Venom can be special; it’s an intriguing character with a strong director and lead actor, but trying to force a universe may not be the best bet.
Spider-Man: Homecoming will be released on July 7.