After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was both a critical and financial disappointment, everyone thought that Sony was done with the webbed wonder, having made a deal in which Marvel does most of the legwork on the new films with Tom Holland. Yet here we are with the news that Tom Hardy is going to play #Venom in a solo movie that will be released in 2018, kickstarting Sony's solo cinematic universe (you know, the one they tried to start with The Amazing Spider-Man that failed miserably because you can't Nolan-ize a movie then expect it to start an entire universe that'll feel like The Avengers).
Now, it's allegedly going to be an R-rated horror film, so you know I'm happy. You know who isn't happy though? A bunch of people who're not very keen on the idea of #SpiderMan not appearing in this movie (possibly due to legal reasons). The reason for this is obvious: Venom's origin and initial character motivations revolve around Spider-Man, so surely you can't have a film in which Spider-Man does not appear, right?
Well, to those people, I am here to alleviate your fears, or at the very least provide compelling arguments as to why your fears should be alleviated even if you actively refuse to take them onboard because you really want to hate this movie.
1. The Best Iteration Of Venom Onscreen Had No Spider-Man
This is Truth In Journalism, a fan-film produced by Adi Shankar (who was responsible for Power/Rangers and Dirty Laundry). It is not a superhero film. Rather, it is a parody of the Belgian horror/crime mockumentary Man Bites Dog (a brilliant film, by the way) with Eddie Brock as the main character.
It's clever, it's compelling and it has an Eddie Brock that's true to the character: sleazy and opportunistic while also being somewhat imposing and even a tad charismatic. There's no mention of Spider-Man in this short, with Venom trying to fund a documentary as a means of repairing his fractured reputation. When he becomes Venom, it has nothing to do with Spider-Man because it doesn't need to.
It's not like the short suffers for this. The film is still well written and acted regardless of whether or not it ties into some kind of convoluted shared universe in which one can run into Spider-Man as easily as he or she could run into Venom.
2. There Exists Venom Comics That Don't Revolve Around Spider-Man
Venom first appeared in 1988. Since then, he has had multiple series in which he has been an antihero facing many different threats all around New York. Hell, just look at the list of Venom solo titles on Wikipedia and see how little Spider-Man has an influence over quite a few of them.
The point is: You can have a comic-accurate Venom that doesn't spend the entire run-time of the movie obsessing over Spider-Man. Hell, every Marvel film is set in New York; let's get Venom in San Francisco as a vigilante having moved on from his hatred for Spider-Man and looking for redemption. Let Carnage be the villain to give it that horror element and there you go. Where's my screenwriting credit?
3. Spider-Man Would Throw Off The Tone
This is going to be an R-rated horror movie. That makes perfect sense, as Venom looks scary and is driven by a twisted alien symbiosis. If you described his character outside of the context of superhero comic books, he would have his own slasher franchise.
Tone is quite possibly the most important element in a horror movie, as nothing makes a film not scary quicker than poorly timed comedy or immersion-breaking levity. Venom has the opportunity to be a scary movie with characters like Carnage and Shriek — mass-murdering superhuman psychopaths that would be able to put Eddie Brock through the ringer both physically and mentally. Couple that with the personal drama that the symbiote would bring by threatening to turn Eddie into a primal beast and you have a potentially terrifying movie.
Now imagine if Spider-Man came in and started doing his thing. The movie's just another superhero film because he's in any real danger (he has to headline 30 other Marvel films). His quips would just be distracting from Venom's strengths and overpowering the movie. Besides, I shouldn't have to explain the importance of tone to anybody who saw Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man or The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
4. This Is Not Marvel Studios
Marvel has its own brand, and it's working really well, considering that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest-grossing franchise of all time. That said, Fox still makes X-Men movies that are successful in and of themselves, with a more character-driven, socio-political perspective that certain audiences gravitate towards.
If Sony really wants to start its cinematic universe, it would be a completely terrible idea to try and replicate the MCU. To have Spider-Man appear would be to do just that though. Unless Venom's journey in the film involves tormenting Spidery (which would be ultimately pointless because we know he'll be fine by the end of it), he'd have no purpose as a character in the movie. It would be the equivalent of those completely superfluous scenes in Age of Ultron that existed solely to set up other films, or having Falcon appear in Ant-Man because why not? Sure, they're fun little Easter Eggs for the audience, but it doesn't sound like Venom is trying to be that movie.
My guess would be that Venom is going to go the Deadpool/Logan route, in which the movies are connected to a larger universe, but that connection is largely implied or even outright stated without ever shifting focus from the titular characters. Sure, this may limit the scope of the film, but I would argue that this would be its biggest advantage. If we wanted to watch a large-scale Marvel movie, we'd do just that. However, if we want something different, that's what Sony and Fox should aim for.
5. This Is A Spider-Man Cinematic Universe
You know how you watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it gets increasingly irritating how prominent Robert Downey Jr. is in every movie, to the point where it overshadows other movies and makes his character arc in his own solo films redundant?
Keep in mind, if this is going to be a cinematic universe revolving around Spider-Man, we are going to be getting a LOT of Spider-Man solo films, and that's not even including how many appearances he will make in the MCU. Remember how everyone was complaining both when The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: Civil War came out that it was too early to reboot the franchise and people were getting sick of him?
Any measures Sony can take to limit Spider-Man fatigue should be taken. Maybe he can appear in later Venom films, but keep in mind that Spider-Man has appeared in a lot of Sony films (and he's slated to appear in even more Marvel and Sony fare). There is a high risk that audiences will get sick of him really quickly, and considering he's the only character Sony has the rights to, they really can't afford that happening.
6. Comic Book References Don't Matter
What matters is whether the movie is good or not. Pandering to the comics doesn't guarantee a film being good. I'd much rather #Sony do what it did back in 2002 and 2004 and focus on working with the director to make a good movie. I'll take that over the painful multitude of references and plot points from the comics clumsily littered throughout The Amazing Spider-Man 2's mess of a script. I don't care that it had Gwen die at 1:21, which is also the number of the issue in which she died in the comics — the movie still sucked.
Look at Legion. It's a TV show that has so little to do with the source material that the showrunner even admitted that it was an intentional movie on his behalf. He instead decided to tell his own story populated with his own characters, and it worked; we got an amazing show. There's no reason why, if Sony just focuses on making a good movie, Venom can't be amazing, too.
So, have I managed to get you guys as excited for Venom as I am? Will Sony finally claw out of its own grave in 2018? Who knows?