Sony doesn’t need Spider-Man, and the MCU’s origins prove it

Remember: the MCU started with “no-name” characters. And Sony has advantages Marvel lacked a decade ago.

Before Venom hit theaters in 2018, it was difficult for many to shake off the innate weirdness of Sony making a big-budget Venom movie without Spider-Man. Such a concept felt as strange as making a Joker movie without Batman. (Oh wait.)

The success of Venom, weird and wonderful as it was, proved Sony was onto something. And now, the studio’s sticking to its webs.

What Happened? — In a May 28 Variety piece, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group President Sanford Panitch discussed casting Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Kraven the Hunter for an upcoming stand-alone film built around the popular Spider-Man villain. With Venom becoming a franchise via this fall’s sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and the Jared Leto-starring Morbius set for release in 2022, Panitch addressed how Sony plans to approach growing its Marvel properties without Spider-Man.

“We don’t really think of our 900 characters as the Spidey-verse,” Panitch told Variety. “We have a Marvel universe. The volume of characters we have — you know, wait until you see this next Venom. You don’t miss Spider-Man.”

Venom: Let There Be Carnage will open in theaters on September 24.

Sony Pictures

“There Actually Is a Plan” — Not shutting the door on Spider-Man appearing in one of Sony’s Marvel films down the line, Panitch teased Variety by saying, “It’ll be exciting if they do meet, right?”

But “there actually is a plan” with regard to accounting for the webslinger in Sony’s upcoming films, he added. Things will be more clear once Spider-Man: No Way Home opens in theaters this December. “I think now maybe it’s getting a little more clear for people where we’re headed,” said Panitch. “When No Way Home comes out, even more will be revealed.”

A Universe Without Spider-Man — While fans relish the crossover potential inherent in Venom, Morbius, and Kraven, all of whom originated as Spider-Man comic book villains, Sony is certainly capable of constructing a Marvel franchise without Spider-Man at its center.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but remember that the Marvel Cinematic Universe only became what it is because Marvel Studios (before coming under Disney’s roof) originally couldn’t use characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose comics had become best-sellers in the ‘90s thanks to creatives like Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee.

Left with only “no-names” like Iron Man and Captain America, the MCU became the billion-dollar franchise it is today through introducing lesser-known characters audiences could grow to love. At one point, the majority of moviegoers didn’t know who Iron Man was. Now, it’s impossible to not know the character.

Sony’s on its way to replicating that success. Venom made a stunning $855 million worldwide close to three years ago; Venom: Let There Be Carnage is out in September. Morbius, originally intended for release last year, will follow a few months later, opening January 28, 2022. Should Let There Be Carnage and Morbius triumph at the box office in the same manner as Venom, Sony could finally prove it doesn’t need Spider-Man.

Sony executive Sanford Panitch teases that Spider-Man: No Way Home will reveal what Sony’s plans are for its stand-alone cinematic universe without Spider-Man.

Sony Pictures

An Uncertain Future — As mentioned, comparing Sony to Marvel Studios is an imperfect analogy. By 1996, Marvel was in bankruptcy. Holding what was essentially a garage sale of its comics to Hollywood studios, Marvel sold the film rights for whatever it could to all manner of interested parties. Left without many of its heaviest hitters, Marvel forged ahead and found a way to build a billion-dollar franchise around its remaining heroes.

Sony is in a different spot, having bought the rights to its Marvel characters and entered into an unique partnership with Marvel on Spider-Man specifically. (No Way Home is the last movie under Marvel and Sony’s current agreement, so both studios are barreling towards an uncertain future.) The MCU wouldn’t be what it is without Kevin Feige, but he’s decidedly not in control with what goes on at Sony.

Still, it’s true that you don’t always need household-name superheroes to build a major film franchise. All it takes is a few good movies. (And in case you’ve forgotten, Venom was pretty good.)

Venom: Let There Be Carnage will be released in theaters on September 24.

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