Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
With the Venom trailer having been released a few weeks back and plans for Spider-Man villains like Black Cat and Morbius to get their own movies, Sony’s Marvel universe is coming whether we want it or not. I’ve always been a member of the latter group, as the prospect of a universe based on Spider-Man’s villains just isn’t that appealing to me. Yes, the characters are incredible, but they’re mainly incredible because of Spider-Man and the relationship they have with the iconic, friendly neighborhood hero. Without him, the universe just cannot work. The movies will fall flat, and the universe will crumble before it comes close to reaching a big payoff moment, just like Amazing Spider-Man failed to end its trilogy and introduce the Sinister Six. Further, these movies remove possibilities for villains to appear in the MCU alongside Tom Holland’s brilliant version of Spidey.
That said, I still think there’s a solution to the problems. There is something that Sony can do to fix this universe before it even begins, and to win over even those like myself who don’t like the concept...
Before I explain what my dream solution is, I want to make it very clear why I’m so negative on the idea of these movies. I touched on some of my feelings above, but nothing could better explain my disappointment than the Venom trailer itself.
Venom is my favorite Spider-Man villain (and one of my favorite antagonists period), so this trailer immediately set off red flags. First was Eddie Brock, who is nothing like the version from the books. The way he carries himself is extremely weird, and his story is an odd mix of his own and Flash Thompson’s. With the symbiote being used the way it is in this movie, it honestly seems like Sony got the two Venoms mixed up and just wanted to make an Agent Venom film. Truthfully? That would have been better. Eddie Brock’s entire character arc is based around Peter Parker, and his version of Venom is based around a hatred for Spider-Man. The character we’re getting in this movie isn’t Eddie, it’s just a less interesting version of Flash with the look and name of Eddie Brock. It isn’t just Venom’s human half that is inaccurate, though; look at the symbiote itself.
To any Spider-Man fan reading this, do you remember Eddie running around shooting tendrils out of his body in the comic books or animated series? Nope, because it never happened. Seeing this action multiple times in the trailer was dumbfounding, and it makes me believe the rumors that Venom is barely in the film. This would be a huge mistake... but based on what they’ve shown thus far, it seems like Sony is going to do just that. This hurts even more than it should, because the one thing I love about the movie so far is Venom’s design and voice. From the gnarly tongue to the misshaped eyes, it’s all there, and it looks just like I had always hoped it would. But the biggest reason it makes sense for such a great design to be wasted is the problem that most of these proposed villain films will share: the lack of a worthy antagonist.
Ask yourself this: how fun would it be to watch Venom tear up some random soldiers and cheesy human villains? Yep, pretty fun.
Now picture that same thing happening over and over again. Then, imagine it on repeat for multiple films. Imagine every villain in this universe fighting the same exact battles. Yep, not that fun anymore.
This is the biggest issue with creating a universe based on the villains but without the heroes. Each member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is interesting enough to keep an audience’s attention on their own, but how do you form an interesting narrative around them? How do you provide them with an adversary that is just as strong, or a way to put them in any actual danger? The only option Sony seems to think they have is to turn the villains the movies are based on into anti-heroes, and then introduce another villain for them to fight against. It’s a move that will get very formulaic very fast, and even ruin certain characters in the process. As I mentioned, though, I do think there is a better solution; a solution that is strong enough to make this universe go from a bad idea to a great one.
So, Sony can’t use Peter Parker (at least not until his six-film MCU contract is up). That certainly does make things harder, as he’s the obvious choice to give these villains a fair fight. If only there were, like, other Spider-People out there...
Oh, yeah. There’s a whole damn Spider-Verse to pull from.
Let’s say Sony starts things slow like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and begins building their own just as carefully. They go forward with the movies they have in development now, such as the Black Cat spinoff and the Morbius movie. They can keep the story from the perspective of the villain, but also introduce a main Spider-Man to appear throughout the movies in small and large roles. Morbius would need him to appear less for his story to be told effectively, whereas Black Cat would benefit from more interaction with Spider-Man. This can allow the universe to keep its villain focus while still giving its characters the best possible antagonist to go up against. Better yet, who better to be that recurring Spider-Man than Miles Morales? By far the most popular Spidey aside from Peter, he could easily fill the role and be a hero that everyone loves. His animated film looks amazing, and it can be a great stepping stone for preparing the audience for a never-before seen live action Spider-Man. Why stop here?
The rest of the phases are simple: trilogies for all the best alternate Spiders. Peter would need to be replaced here (Ben Reilly? Ben Urich? Ben Parker?) but imagine a dark and mature Noir universe. So many cool things could be done visually, and the extreme, alternate villains can provide plenty of new material when it comes to telling new Spider-Man stories. Then, there’s Spider-Man 2099. Miguel O’Hara is an awesome character with plenty of cool toys to show off, and the futuristic New York would be a more extreme setting than anything we’ve seen in a comic book film thus far. Finally, the one I find the most appealing of all: Spider-Gwen. Seeing Gwen Stacy’s alternate universe explored in live action would be a joy to see, as she’s an awesome new Spider-Woman with a personality on par with Peter Parker.
Finally, the payoff. With Miles Morales in place as the main Spider-Man and Noir, 2099 and Spider-Gwen established, it’s time for Spider-Verse. Seeing these heroes interact would be incredible, and they’d be accompanied by even more Spider-Men and Spider-Women. After that, the sky is the limit. Team-up films, the introduction of Jessica Drew and Cindy Moon, and hell, maybe even a Spider-Ham comedy. Rather than trying to force this universe to work without Spider-Man, Sony needs to slow down and just look at the source material. The key to success is on the pages.
Thank you for reading! I’ve been kicking this idea around for a while, and I really wanted to share it. There is no character in any form of entertainment that I love more than Spider-Man, and I care so, so much about the characters from his world because of that. We’re living in the golden age of superhero movies, and I don’t want to see that age end any time soon. Sony doesn’t need Peter Parker to make this work, but they do need Spider-Man.