Can Sony's Spiderverse Work? by MyckNic
SPOILERS for Venom (2018)
By the time this publication, Venom will have grossed $540 million before even opening up in China. With this in mind, as well as successful Into the Spider-Verse is poised to be, Sony seems on track to setting up their own Cinematic Universe, something they’ve been wanting to do since the Amazing Spider-Man Series. I don’t like the duology, but the spin-offs that Sony have been planning to make sound interesting to say the least. Might Sony’s desire for a long-term franchise actually have bred some good ideas?
Here are my takes on the announced movies.
The easiest way to explain Spider-Man 2099 is basically “Blade Runner is a great movie, but what if Harrison Ford was also Spider-Man?” That comparison is particularly apt since with the release of Blade Runner 2049, the Used Future Aesthetic runs the risk of feeling played out. I’d get around that by trying to go for a more Futurama feel in both aesthetic or tone, which raises the question of what kind of character you should expect from Spider-Man 2099/Miguel O’Hara. According to Spidey 2099’s creator, Peter David, Miguel’s personality traits were meant to be the exact opposite of Peter Parker’s. If Peter Parker is a poor, teenaged, responsible do-gooder, Miguel O’Hara is a privileged, middle-aged, irresponsible jerk who has to be strong-armed into being a do-gooder. Sony’s also talked about the possibility of a sequel movie involving Miguel time-traveling to our present, allowing Sony to make a Booster Gold movie before DC does.
Actually, you know what? If Into the Spider-Verse is successful, you could have Spider-Man 2099 be the star of a time-traveling, dimension hopping, Doctor Who/Legends of Tomorrow film series where Miguel and his Amazing Friends travel the Spider-Verse to fix anachronisms throughout and keep it stable. It makes for an excellent storytelling engine, and if audiences react strongly to a certain dimension, make a movie about it.
I’ll talk about Black Cat a little later down the line, but safe to say that Sony still wants to make a movie involving her. The easy answer would be to give her a sort of Robin Hood angle, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, only in this scenario “the poor” refers to her and her friend circle, maybe coming across the occasional supervillain along the way.
Kraven the Hunter
Sony still wants to make a movie about Kraven in the advent of Venom, and I don’t blame them because Kraven’s got a good hook as a supervillain big game hunter. It’s a great villain backstory, but asking people to sympathize with an aristocrat who took up big game hunting is a hard sell. I can see people complaining about the fact that he’s a white dude co-opting jungle imagery for his look. My solution would be to actually make him a native of the Amazon whose family was killed by poachers, so he then traveled the world to learn the means to hunt down those who wronged him, only to discover his own love of hunting and the need to prove his strength to “superior” prey. Think Anakin Skywalker, only instead of becoming Darth Vader he becomes The Predator.
Evidently, Sony isn’t looking to make this film at the moment, which I’m mixed about. On the one hand, figuring out which characters can hold their own solo movies is a smart decision, as it will make the theoretical team-up movie that much stronger. On the other hand, there is a villain that could bring any group of six together: Kraven the Hunter. Thing is, a lot of Spider-Man’s villains have an animal motif (Doctor Octopus, Silver Sable, Black Cat, etc.), so you could get a great The Most Dangerous Game narrative about Kraven tracking multiple villains down, bringing them to an island, and then splitting them up and hunting them down. We’d get to see how multiple characters react and adapt to such a strange situation, seeing how they come together in order to take Kraven down. Start simple, THEN go big.
Despite coming out in the 90s, there’s actually a lot of places to take the Symbiote Serial Killer outside of villain role for Venom or Sinister Six. There’s Carnage U.S.A. where he uses his symbiote to infect and take control of a small town, Axis where his moral compass gets inverted and and becomes a hero, and you could even draw inspiration from Dexter or Silence of the Lambs where he’s the FBI’s super-villain consultant. A little Carnage can go a long way.
Jackal is another character that can serve as the heavy of a Sinister Six story, with two different versions to go around. Both revolve around wanting to use cloning to bring back loved ones, but the one that wears an Anubis mask lends itself to having a more mystical background than a scientific one. Maybe the actual Egyptian God Anubis exists for an attempt at Spider-Verse world building. In any case, I can see the Sinister Six getting involved with the Jackal’s affairs, with people who should be dead walking around the land of the living and wanting to know why.
Silver Sable is a mercenary, from the fictional country of Symkaria, that Sony still wants to make a movie about. I’ll talk about her later on, but one thing of note is that TV Tropes had the Silver Sable movie pegged as a Sinister Six spin-off. Honestly, I could see Sable as the leader of a Thunderbolts type team, with c-list villains acting as heroes, perhaps as Sony’s answer to Suicide Squad, headlining the Spider-Man characters that can’t lead their own movies.
After having lost his legs in Desert Storm II: Bush’s Revenge, Flash Thompson was given another chance to serve his country after the American government acquired the Venom Symbiote. Agent Venom sounds incredible on paper, coming across as Venom, Punisher, and Captain America rolled up into one. While it might take time to get Venom free from Eddie Brock/Tom Hardy, if Into the Spider-Verse is successful then Sony can probably take a shortcut to the character by introducing a version of Agent Venom portrayed by the original live-action Flash Thompson, Joe Maganiello.
Morbius the Living Vampire
Let’s kick off the Post-Amazing list of Sony-Man movies with the least exciting of the bunch: Jared Leto as a vampire. Not saying that Leto can’t pull off the look, the dude is 46 going on 21, but vampires are kinda played out, and there’s no way of knowing if he’ll do the same “getting into character” shtick he pulled on Suicide Squad. Honestly, my best bet would be to go with a version of the 90s animated series version, where he’s some dude who’s DNA got mixed up with a bat’s, he drinks blood through suckers on his hands rather than his teeth, and is only a vampire in a very loose sense of the word. At the very least, it’s a unique spin on vampire lore.
Turns out the radioactive spider didn’t just bite Peter Parker, except rather than immediately becoming a superhero, Cindy Moon was taken in by a man named Ezekiel Sims to learn how to control her powers for 10 years. Once free, she has to learn how to adapt to the outside world, then be a superhero. Honestly, this premise has a lot of promise as a gender-flipped Spider-Man movie. The only question is whether or not Sony can make it before Marvel wants to, which I doubt will happen since she was in Homecoming. But hey, there’s always Spider-Gwen.
I’ve never even heard of Nightwatch until I had to do research for this article, but apparently there was talk of Spike Lee making a movie about either (a) a man who fights crime using a high-tech suit he got off the corpse of his future self, or (b) a supervillain who manages to convince people he’s a superhero. In either case, in the hands of the guy who made Do the Right Thing and BlacKKKlansman, both sound promising if implausible. Personally, I just want to see Spike Lee’s take on Black Batman.
Somehow, there’s a character who’s even more of a no-name than Nightwatch, barely a decade old. From what I could tell, Jackpot was created as a Red Herring superhero post-One More Day retcon. It’s a cute nod to Mary Jane Watson’s immortal line “face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot,” even if Jackpot was revealed to be an entirely new character. However, if you’re going to make a movie about this character, write her as if she’s a version of MJ who never met Peter. It’s easier to draw on a pre-exisitng character rather than having to make one from scratch. Also, give her luck-based powers. I know she has super strength in the comics, but it feels wrong to have a character named “Jackpot” and not have luck-based powers. In fact, Black Cat’s been known to have luck-based powers, maybe she and Jackpot are rivals? Speaking of Black Cat...
Silver & Black
This is a movie Sony WAS going to make but then backed out on at the last minute. While I don’t blame them for doing so, I’m kicking myself because there is a version of this movie that could’ve worked. It would take some reworking of the characters, but you could easily have a version of Black Cat who’s this globe trotting mixture of Carmen Sandiego and Lupin the Third who steals jewelry and treasures everywhere she goes, have Silver Sable be the Inspector Javert character who follows her in an attempt to bring her to justice, only for them to discover a truly villainous plot and have to team up together in order to stop it. Also, Silver & Black sounds like a pun on Silver & Gold, so this movie would fit very well into the holiday season. Not enough superhero movies are set around Christmas.
Let’s close out this look at Sony’s Spidey films by speculating about Venom 2. As far as characterization goes, the movie did succeed in selling me on Eddie Brock and the Venom Symbiote as separate characters, with Eddie being a well-meaning but dubious reporter and Venom being this kind of murderous goofball. Youtuber Cathy Fulcher-Baker said their relationship was equal part victorian horror and vaudeville routine. Basically, Eddie Brock and Venom are as much Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as they are Abbott and Costello. So long as the filmmakers hone in on that dynamic, with some touches of acting like an old married couple, the movie will at the very least be intentionally entertaining.
Obviously, Carnage is going to be the villain, but the problem with that is that the first Venom movie had a big Symbiote vs. Symbiote fight, so that runs the risk of entering Transformers Syndrome and having the fights look the same. What I propose is that instead of going full monster right away, Carnage takes on the appearance of a hero to make Venom look more like a villain. Make him look like how he does in Exiles, where the Carnage Symbiote is attached to a serial killer Peter Parker and looks like a red version of Spider-Man.
Plus, there’s the fact that Eddie Brock didn’t really do a lot to hide his identity in Venom, going full monster on the people who were hunting him down and getting filmed on video as a result. Start the film with Brock’s lawyer/ex-fiancee’, Anne, “proving” in court that Brock isn’t Venom, but enough people are still suspicious of him. So suspicious that word gets out to a certain Hunter that wants to test himself against the symbiotes.
Yep. Make Venom 2 an adaptation of Kraven’s Last Hunt, where Kraven the Hunter separates Brock from the Symbiote, bends Venom to his will, and then have the movie turn into rat race between Carnage, Kraven, and Brock. And as a bit of fanservice, after rejoining with Brock, the Symbiote reveals that it gained some of Kraven’s strength, represented by the white veins around his body converging towards his chest, forming Venom’s White Spider symbol, which seems to seriously freak Kraven out for some reason…
And that’s all I got in me for now. Tune in next month where I discuss the movies I think Sony SHOULD make in order to set their universe apart from the MCU.