Recently, fans were surprised by some unexpected news: Sony is pushing forward with an R-rated Venom film, independent of the MCU, and with no ties to Tom Holland's spectacular Spider-Man. Sony's booked in a release date of October 5th, 2018, and My Entertainment World has classified the film as "action / horror / sci-fi". It's a bold move — but what makes Sony think this film can swing from its own tendrils?
Why Venom (And Carnage) Wouldn't Work In The MCU
Venom is a tremendously popular character, and fans are eager to see him brought to life in all his tongue-slavering glory. What's more, Venom inevitably leads on to another character: Carnage, one of Spider-Man's most brutal foes, a homicidal maniac who rejoices in the shedding of blood.
But here's the catch: neither of these characters would actually work in the MCU. We've already seen Sony try out a PG-13 version of Venom in Spider-Man 3, and that was less than satisfying; the villain was stripped of his brutality and menace, of the psychological horror that he often brought into play. But what else could you expect from a PG-13 version of a character whose comics often centered around violence and gore? Carnage is even worse; there's simply no way Marvel Studios could make Carnage work on the big screen while still staying child-friendly. I mean, his most famous arc 'Maximum Carnage', basically featured the villain cutting a bloody swathe through New York. That kind of plot really isn't in line with the brand Marvel's developed.
There's only really one way Venom and Carnage could work in the MCU, and that's in a TV series like Daredevil, which definitely embraces elements of brutality and violence. But the symbiote effects would be expensive, and fans wouldn't be satisfied with this approach anyway; you'd never see the characters interact with Tom Holland's Spider-Man, for example, so they might as well exist in a separate universe anyway.
A Chance for Something New
Keeping Venom separate from the MCU, though, gives Sony the opportunity to do something very different. According to Collider, Sony has been watching Fox's successes with Deadpool and Logan, and they're willing to try something new. James Mangold's Logan, in particular, is a dark and melancholy Western that's left Wolverine fans equal parts satisfied and heartbroken. It demonstrates Mangold's belief that there's no such thing as a superhero genre, and that you can import superheroes into pretty much any genre of movie.
In that vein, Sony is preparing to launch an R-rated supervillain universe - with only a modest budget, as neither Logan nor Deadpool needed the Avengers-sized cash injection! With Venom confirmed as an "action / horror / sci-fi" film, it could be a dark, brooding psychological thriller — albeit one steeped in science-fiction. It should be character-centric, diving into the disturbed mind of Eddie Brock, tackling all those haunting questions of suffering and redemption that have made his series so popular. It should take a nod from the classic Venom: Lethal Protector arcs, exploring the very idea an antihero, while embracing the hints of religious extremism that have characterized Brock in Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man run.
The same principles apply to Carnage. Cletus Kasady is literally a serial killer, a man who delights in murder and bloodshed. His story is dark and disturbing, with hints of a sickening family life. There have been suggestions that he fantasized about his own mother, and his violent nature ultimately led to his parents fighting it out — and his mother dying at his father's hands. Imagine, for a second, a movie that doesn't simplify Cletus Kasady's story; instead, imagine a sci-fi thriller that gives a maniac like Cletus Kasady a powerful symbiote, and then gradually peels away the layers of his psyche to explore the man behind the mass murderer.
This kind of approach simply wouldn't fit with the MCU. For all the tonal and stylistic range of Marvel movies — from the space opera of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to the near-perfect political thriller that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I don't think Marvel will be willing to explore sci-fi-based psychological thrillers anytime soon.
A Launchpad for Something Even Greater
As fantastic as it is to see Spider-Man back in the MCU, I can't help feeling sorry for Sony; they're a studio stripped of its major franchises. This approach to Venom, though, suggests how that could change. Spider-Man has one of the most popular, well-developed rogues' galleries in comics, second only to Batman. His villains have a depth of character and motivation to them that's frankly very unusual in superhero comics, and Venom stands as one of the best examples.
Sony's decision to keep Venom separate from the MCU gives them the chance to use this film as a launchpad, building a cinematic universe of their own — a villains-centric one, that dares to dive deep into the minds of their super-powered monsters.
It's a smart move; while we currently have no shortage of superhero cinematic universes, most of the villains are poorly-developed. The films are all about the heroes, and the villains are typically madhouse mirror-images of our noble protagonists. So Iron Man fights the Iron Monger, Superman battles General Zod, and Wolverine scraps with X-24. Although the market seems overcrowded with comic book movies right now, I can't help thinking Sony may well have spotted a gap in the market; a cinematic universe where the villains truly shine, one that could quite easily spin out of Venom.
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All in all, I'm pretty excited about the idea of a Venom solo movie. If Sony handle this wisely, they could launch something fresh and unique — something with real emotional power, that gets the kind of critical acclaim Fox has been seeing with Deadpool and Logan. I understand that some fans will be upset to see an iconic origin rewritten, but that price could well be worth paying. If Sony plays this wisely, we'll get a whole cinematic universe off the back of this film...