Time to put Sony’s Spider-Man universe out of its misery?


IImagine Lord of the Rings was like Marvel. Frodo, Bilbo and the elves will be able to frolic together happily around the Shire and face off against the big bad Sauron. But due to complex legal machinations of lawyers in the late 1990s, the dwarves of Hazad-dum and the Lonely Mountain will have to exist in their own, completely separate film and television universe, while Gollum may end up being completely written out. Only if various lawsuits meet to hammer out deals that allow all of the above to appear together could they – otherwise never the twain shall meet and all.

That’s the problem facing, for all intents and purposes, Sony and its Spider-Man Universe, which announced this week that the proposed films Kraven the Hunter and Madame Web will be pushed back to October 2023 and February 2024 respectively..

You might not know what Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is unless you’re in the movie industry or keep a close eye on such things. In short, these are all the Marvel characters that Sony has the screen rights to because they are related to Spider-Man in the comics. Sony retains the option for them because it bought the rights to the masked wallcrawler in 1999, long before Marvel Studios (which makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies) was more than a fledgling concern. Sony struck a deal to allow Marvel to use Spider-Man in the MCU, and the two studios co-produced the excellent recent trilogy of Spider-Man films starring Tom Holland, the latest of which, Spider-Man: No Way Home, featured older villains from Sony’s own Spidey films. So yes, it’s complicated.

Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Mingling with older villains… Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Photo: Matt Kennedy/AP

To be honest though, you don’t really need to know any of this stuff. Because if you’ve ever seen a Marvel movie that doesn’t seem to feature any familiar characters and has a weird ersatz look to it, it’s probably one of Sony’s (with the honorable exception of the first two Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man movies in early 2000). Venom (2018), despite starring Tom Hardy, was a financial success but a tonally odd miss, while last year’s sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage only marginally improved things. This year’s Morbius, starring Jared Leto as Marvel’s little-known “living vampire,” features a by-the-numbers plot, apathetic dialogue, and some of the worst CGI superheroes in memory. When Leto turns into the terrifying anti-hero, it’s as if a three-year-old just took over directing the movie and added a clever TikTok filter.

The whole thing would make more sense if Spider-Man himself appeared in these movies. But until now we only saw a brief cameo from Holland in the Venom 2 post-credits scene, followed by Michael Keaton’s Vulture in Morbius. If there isn’t some plan to get Spidey involved a bit more, surely Sony would be better off either a) selling the screen rights back to Marvel, or b) agreeing to a deal that would allow Marvel to oversee the Spider-Man movies universe so they can be produced to the same standards as the rest of the Marvel movies, and we can all sit back and watch Thor kick Venom’s ass or the Hulk beat the Jesus out of Morbius. It should also be noted that Sony produced the absolutely gorgeous Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018 and has a sequel in 2023, starring a completely different wall crawler (Miles Morales). . Everyone loved that movie, so why not build an entire comic book mega-saga around it instead?

Forgive me, but the alternative, a string of increasingly pointless Sony Spider-Man Universe spinoffs featuring lesser-known comic book characters that really need a lot of love and creative genius to convince audiences to invest time in them, really don’t hate to think. Watching Morbius, it was never quite clear if the good old stake in the heart would finish off this non-supernatural, much less fun type of vampire. But it was abundantly clear that the movie mini-saga he starred in was in desperate need of being put out of its misery.



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