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In the days before their deal with Marvel, Sony had dreams of building a Spider-Man franchise. The idea was that Amazing Spider-Man 2 would pave the way for a Sinister Six film, and Sony also had a Venom movie in the works. Unfortunately, Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn't the box office hit Sony had hoped for, and Sony was forced to ditch those plans. Superhero fans don't particularly mind; Sony was eventually forced to make a deal with #Marvel, one that brought Spider-Man into the #MCU. But the Venom film isn't dead - and apparently news is imminent!
What We Know About Venom
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tom Rothman — Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Pictures Group— gave us a sense of Sony's hopes for the Spider-Man franchise. Asked whether Sony planned to make a Spider-Man universe and work more closely with Marvel, Rothman replied:
"Yes to both those questions. It’s been fantastic, our relationship with Marvel."
It's been a while since we've seen Venom on-screen; not since 2007's Spider-Man 3 has the sybiote played a major role in Spider-Man's big-screen projects. However, earlier in the year, we learned that Sony has revived plans for a Venom movie, with Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach as producers, and Dante Harper writing the script. In a surprising twist, the film is envisioned as a stand-alone franchise!
"Venom... is being envisioned as a franchise apart from and unrelated to the upcoming Spider-Man movie in the works with actor Tom Holland."
Over the weekend, at the world premiere of Inferno, Rothman was asked again about Venom. Excitingly, he told Collider that it won't be long before we're hearing “real news as opposed to speculative news”. So Venom fans are understandably getting pretty excited right now!
But I hope you'll forgive me speculating for a little while longer. If Sony is actually considering a stand-alone Venom movie, unconnected to the MCU, what does that indicate about the relationship between Marvel and Sony? Just what is the deal between the two studios? Here are four possibilities.
1. Sony Only Shared Certain Characters
It's entirely possible that the deal with Marvel only allowed Marvel Studios to use Spider-Man and specified parts of his world — say, his direct supporting cast. You're talking characters like Mary-Jane Watson, or J. Jonah Jameson, or Aunt May: the people without whom Spider-Man's world would be unrecognisable.
If that's the case, fans who were hoping to see more Spider-Man characters in the MCU — say, a cameo from Electro in an Avengers movie — might be sorely disappointed.
2. Sony Deliberately Held Certain Characters Back
Alternatively, it's possible that Sony had some ideas brewing, and chose to ensure they retained the rights to certain characters. In that case, I'd suspect they kept some of the major characters; the ones they believed could build a franchise of their own — say, for example, the Black Cat or Venom. In this context, we should expect Sony to start doing their own thing, building a Spider-Man-like universe without Peter Parker or Spider-Man in it!
3. It's a Case-by-Case Deal
It's also possible that Marvel and Sony have to negotiate over any character they want to use on an ad-hoc basis. Perhaps Sony decided that Venom was for them, and Marvel hasn't yet approached them with a plan for the symbiotic antihero, so they simply got on with doing their own thing.
4. The Characters Are Fair Game For Both Studios
The final possibility — and the most intriguing — is that the agreement might just leave Spider-Man characters open for both studios. We all know the world of superhero licensing isn't simple; characters like #Quicksilver are available to both Marvel and Fox, for example. Perhaps the deal Sony made with Marvel means that both studios can make movies using established parts of the Spider-Man universe. In this case, it's only going to be so long before we get an awkward conflict - say, two versions of Venom, or two versions of a random villain.
Whatever the truth may be, it's pretty clear that Spider-Man's rights are more complicated than we first thought. Personally, though, I freely admit that I'm hoping Venom will become part of the MCU — that Sony and Marvel will work together to build an exciting and entertaining Spider-centric corner of this expansive shared universe. If Rothman is to be believed, it won't be long before we find out more!