Disclaimer: We at the MCU Exchange are totally aware that the upcoming Venom film is not expected to have any ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is an opinion piece about how Sony might best serve all fans by allowing some tangential connections. If you don’t want to read about it, please skip the article and check out something more your speed. Any comments questioning why we are writing about a non-MCU film have already been answered above and will be ignored.
Tom Hardy is starring as Eddie Brock in a Venom solo film directed by Ruben Fleischer!
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) May 19, 2017
What a time to be alive, true believers…right up until you realize that it’s possible that the Venom film may not have any connection to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, a cooperative effort between two studios that caused a seismic shift in perception of how comic book movies might exist in the future. Fans were thrilled to imagine that the sweeping cinematic universe that Marvel Studios had created could now include some longtime fan favorite characters that we had previously thought lost. Among them, Venom, a character with an incredible origin rooted in one of Marvel Comics’ greatest crossover events and a history and distinct look that have kept fans loving him ever since. Having already been done dirty in Spider-Man 3, fans could truly hope that his chance for redemption had come.
Then it started to become clear that the deal that Sony and Marvel Studios had cut out was neither long-term or all-inclusive. Sure we’re getting to see Spidey meet the MCU and at least a couple of his stories told within its narrative structure, but worries arose when stories circulated that Sony not only had a couple of its own films brewing, but that the deal between the two studios might not extend beyond the 2019 sequel to Homecoming. While some of those concerns seem misplaced, especially knowing some of the surprises Kevin Feige has planned for us all in Spider-Man: Homecoming (surprises that really only work if he’s playing the long game), fans who had grand expectations of what this reunion could mean were concerned that they’d been given hope only to have it taken away from them. And while some is surely better than none, I would think that any true fan would want Spidey’s stories told within the framework of the MCU forever. Some fans feel threatened by this solo Venom movie and the development of the Black Cat/Silver Sable film that will take place in Sony’s Marvel Universe; we feel threatened because they perceive it as an effort by Sony to take away our shiny new toy; we feel threatened because we love Spider-Man and want to see all of his characters given the treatment they deserve, or at least that we think we deserve. Is it too much to ask for both?
The short answer is no, it isn’t. Before I lay this out, let me make a few things clear. Behind the scenes here, we often talk about how Sony’s announced live-action, Spidey-related films could be a power play by them to get potential investors (Disney) to up the ante on a buyout of their film production wing. A couple of Spidey-related films, especially one starring Hardy, might open some eyes. What comes along with that idea comes the idea that Sony may not have any intention in actually making these films, but it’s all just us talking and there’s nothing to support it at all. We also have no idea what Sony and Marvel Studios actually have planned beyond what’s been announced. They could easily have all sorts of agreements behind the scenes and they don’t owe us an explanation.
Does anyone want a film version of Venom that has no ties to Spider-Man? Do you want a character, whose trademark costume includes a Spidey logo, to have an entirely different costume? Do you want a protagonist in Eddie Brock who, in the comics, is motivated by his dislike for Peter Parker? Do you want a Venom that in no way is based on the comic book character you know and love? If you’re a true fan of the character, there’s a good chance that the answer to all those questions is no (short disclaimer, I already talked to one fan who will be totally happy with an R-rated Venom/Carnage film that has nothing to do with Spidey). So, if they do go forward with Venom, what if it worked out like this:
The bridge from a Venom film that totally excludes Spidey’s MCU adventures to one that maintains even the most excursive connections really isn’t that tough to build and something that most fans have already hoped: introduce the Klyntarian symbiote in Avengers: Infinity War. From here it’s not much of a stretch to imagine Tom Holland in the, black suit, making an appearance in Venom and building a bridge from the MCU to a Venom that is given an origin that closely resembles the comics and that fans can recognize and love. You don’t cast Hardy for one movie, so while some of the first film might suffer from the origin story sickness that all “first” movies do, the payoff is in the fact that you can have further films exploring Venom, Carnage and any number of other symbiote-related properties.
I’m speaking only for myself when I say this, but as much as I enjoy Venom, I don’t need to see him running around in an Avengers movie or see Avengers running around in his movie. Furthermore, not much about his comic book history suggests that either of those scenarios are necessary for a good story to be told about him. I do, however, need Spider-Man to make Venom enjoyable. I don’t need him in every movie, but I do need Venom’s origin to be tied to Spidey because I want a reasonably comic accurate Venom (and eventually Carnage) and that means that I need to understand why Eddie Brock is running around in a black suit with a spider symbol.
A Venom film with Holland alongside Hardy solves a lot of problems for a lot of people. For Sony, it gives them box office security by placing the star of an almost sure fire hit in the first film of a new franchise. If the first Venom hits it big at the box office, there will be sequels. For Marvel Studios, it allows them to keep their deal alive with Sony and focus on the types of Spider-Man characters that SHOULD be crossing over into the larger narrative of the MCU (looking at you Norman Osborn and Miles Morales). It also allows for some of their more adult-themed properties to get made outside the reach of Disney’s family-friendly mandate. While a PG-13 Marvel Studios Carnage film could be good, it’s reasonable to assume that Cletus Kasady would seem more at home in an R-rated film, something Sony would be more likely to do. For fans, it gives us hope for a comic accurate Venom, the Venom we deserve.
There is no indication that this scenario, though it seems like another win-win for both Sony and Marvel Studios, is even under consideration, however. For now, we are left to believe that Sony is going to start Sony’s Marvel Universe and populate it with supporting characters from the Spider-Man comics and have no ties to the most recent cinematic iteration of Spider-Man. There’s still time, of course, for Sony and Marvel Studios to have a chat and find a way to keep some sort of connection between Holland’s Spider-Man and Hardy’s Venom, so we will keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.