Sony's Marvel Universe

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Sony's Marvel Universe
Produced by
Based onCharacters published
by Marvel Comics
StarringSee below
Production
company
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
2018–present
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
BudgetTotal (1 film):
$100 million
Box officeTotal (1 film):
$856.1 million

Sony's Marvel Universe (Sony's MU) or Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Marvel and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. According to producer Amy Pascal, the series is an "independent, separate franchise" from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), in which Spider-Man appeared in films co-produced with Marvel Studios; Marvel Studios, which produces and manages all MCU films, does not consider the Sony universe to be part of the MCU.[a] Sony's MU began with the release of Venom in October 2018.

Work on an expanded universe using supporting characters from the Spider-Man films began by December 2013. Sony planned to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) to launch several spin-off films focused on traditional Spider-Man villains from the comics, including a Venom film. After the relative critical and financial failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, these plans were abandoned and in February 2015, Sony announced a deal to collaborate with Marvel Studios on future Spider-Man films and integrate the character into the MCU. Venom was redeveloped as a separate standalone film, and was announced as the first film in Sony's MU in May 2017. It is set to be followed by Morbius and Venom 2 in 2020.

Sony is developing several more films, as well as television series from Sony Pictures Television. In June 2017, producer Amy Pascal explained Sony was not working with Marvel Studios to integrate these films into the MCU but did consider them part of the same universe, and said a crossover between the two could happen. Additionally, Sony released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018, which introduced the idea of a multiverse connecting the different universes—including Sony's MU. Sony's deal with Marvel Studios ended in August 2019, making it easier for Spider-Man to crossover with Sony's MU but halting the character's MCU appearances.

Background[edit]

In January 2010, Sony announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be rebooted after director Sam Raimi decided to no longer continue his version of the franchise.[4] By March 2012, Sony was still interested in a spin-off film they had been developing centered on the character Venom, looking to capitalize on the release of the first reboot film, The Amazing Spider-Man.[5] That June, producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach discussed Venom and The Amazing Spider-Man in reference to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and how the different franchises set in that world crossed over in The Avengers, with Tolmach saying, "Hopefully all these worlds will live together in peace someday."[6] In December 2013, Sony revealed plans to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to establish their own expanded universe based on the Marvel properties the studio had the film rights to, including Venom. Arad and Tolmach would produce the films as part of a franchise brain trust that also included Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Ed Solomon, and Drew Goddard, and The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb.[7] However, after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed and with Sony "under tremendous pressure to perform [that has them taking] a hard look at their most important franchise", the direction of the new shared universe was rethought.[8]

Following the November 2014 hacking of Sony's computers, emails between Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal and president Doug Belgrad were released, stating that Sony was planning to "rejuvenate" the Spider-Man franchise by developing an animated comedy film with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Sony executives were set to discuss the project further in a discussion regarding several Spider-Man spin-off films at a summit in January 2015.[9] In February 2015, Sony and Marvel Studios announced a new partnership that would see the latter produce the next Spider-Man film for Sony, and integrate the character into their MCU.[10] Sony still planned to produce the spin-off films without Marvel's involvement,[11][8] but these were believed to have been "scrapped" by November, with Sony instead focusing on its new reboot with Marvel.[12] Discussing the animated film during that year, Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman said it would "co-exist" with the live-action Spider-Man films, though Sony stated it would "exist independently of the projects in the live-action Spider-Man universe".[13] The animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is set in an alternate universe from the Marvel Spider-Man reboot,[14] but introduces the comic-based concept of the "Spider-Verse" multiverse, in which different incarnations of Spider-Man can be brought together.[15]

Development[edit]

Films[edit]

Venom was revived by Sony in March 2016, envisioned as a standalone film unrelated from Sony and Marvel's new Spider-Man films, which would launch its own franchise and shared universe.[16][17] In May 2017, Sony confirmed that Venom was not considered a spin-off of any other film, and would officially begin "Sony's Marvel Universe".[18] With their new universe, Sony was looking to build out the concept gradually rather than rush in as they had previously tried with the Amazing Spider-Man spin-offs.[19] In July, Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch explained that they were looking to "do what’s the absolute best for each individual property. I just want to honor the original DNA." Because of this, Sony was hoping that individual filmmakers would give each film its own distinct style rather than having a single person in charge of the universe as with the MCU's Kevin Feige. The studio also wanted to avoid "conventional comic-book movies", with the intention of dealing in different genres such as horror or comedy, potential R-ratings, and even lower-than-usual budgets, depending on each project.[20] By March 2018, Sony's executive vice president Palak Patel was overseeing all of the universe's films for the studio.[21]

In July 2018, Vulture interviewed several creatives involved in the universe to try to alleviate the fears of some fans concerning Sony's plans. Homecoming writer Jonathan Goldstein said the future of the universe would be decided by the success of Venom, and noted that other studios had struggled to replicate Marvel Studios' success with their MCU in the past. Brian Michael Bendis, comic creator of many Marvel characters that Sony planned to add to their universe, consulted on Into the Spider-Verse and was aware of Sony's plans for their overall MU. He described them as "very cool. Fans wouldn’t be annoyed with what they’re doing." He added that MCU films such as Iron Man (2008) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) which he was also involved in were considered risks during development due to the lack of familiarity that general audiences had with those properties, but they both went on to be successful, something that could also happen to the lesser-known Spider-Man characters if the films are well-made.[22] By August, the shared universe was being referred to as "Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters" internally at Sony. The company was confirmed to have the rights to 900 Marvel Comics characters, and Panitch explained that "Spider-Man connects to a lot of the characters. There are villains, heroes, and antiheroes, and a lot are female characters, many of whom are bona fide, fully dimensionalized, and utterly unique. We feel there’s no reason the Marvel characters shouldn’t be able to embrace diversity."[23] When asked whether Venom would act as the "common thread" throughout the MU, Sony said this was not necessarily the case as they wanted Venom to be standalone.[24][25] They did say that Venom would have some "key points of intersection" with other films.[24]

Following the successful release of Venom, Pascal said some of Sony's "previously shelved plans" could now come to fruition, including a crossover based on the villainous Sinister Six team.[26] In March 2019, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tony Vinciquerra said that "the next seven or eight years" of the shared universe had been planned.[27]

Television[edit]

Vinciquerra stated in March 2019 that the universe would be expanding to television with a set of Marvel characters developed specifically by Sony Pictures Television. At the time, the studio was "essentially internally auditioning" characters from the 900 to decide which medium they would appear in, with Sony Pictures Television chairman Mike Hopkins describing their progress in selecting characters to star on television as being "pretty far down the road". Hopkins elaborated that Sony planned to have several series set in the shared universe that could "pollinate between each other", and that they would be released by a yet-to-be-determined network partner. An announcement of this partner was expected within the next few months, with the networks owned by Marvel's parent Disney—including their new streaming service Disney+—being considered alongside others. These television plans were attributed to the success of Venom and Into the Spider-Verse, which "bolstered confidence that there’s an appetite for Sony’s slice of Marvel".[27] The next month, Lord and Miller signed an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop several series for the studio, including their Marvel series which could potentially be based on characters from Into the Spider-Verse as well. Select projects would be produced in conjunction with Pascal.[28] Discussing the series in August, Miller could not update where or when the series would be released but said there would be several live-action series and that they would each be "their own unique experience" while still being related.[29] Vinciquerra later confirmed that "five to six" individual TV series are currently in development.[30]

Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers[edit]

Feige stated in June 2017 that because Venom was solely a Sony project, Marvel Studios had no plans to have it crossover with the MCU.[1] However, producer Amy Pascal soon clarified that Sony intended to have their new Marvel-based films take place in "the same world" as Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spider-Man film set in the MCU, describing them as "adjunct" to that world. She said that Venom would have connections with the next planned film in Sony's MU, Silver & Black, and that there was potential for Tom Holland's Spider-Man to crossover from the MCU films to the Sony MU films.[31] Pascal later backtracked, calling Venom and future Sony projects "independent, separate franchises" from the MCU.[3] Marvel Studios is not involved the Sony universe and does not plan to integrate it with the MCU.[1] Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers, as well as Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts, have said Venom is not part of the MCU.[2]

Holland was not contracted to appear outside of a trilogy of Spider-Man films and several other MCU films, but Sony intended to have the actor appear in their other MU films eventually.[19] By August 2018, Sony was actively planning to crossover Spider-Man with their MU films, describing the character and Venom as "already in the same universe ... we are looking forward to the two of them eventually facing off in the future".[24] Sony was also open to more of their characters appearing in MCU films, while Brent Lang and Justin Kroll of Variety speculated that the studio would like more MCU characters to make cameos in their MU as well.[23] In December, Venom writer Jeff Pinkner was asked if that film was set in the same universe as Holland's Spider-Man films, and he said that, "without revealing anything that I’m not allowed to reveal, it is not impossible that in a future/upcoming Venom movie, Spider-Man will play a significant role".[32] Pascal added—referring to the MCU Spider-Man films, Sony's MU films, and Sony's animated films—"There's a world in which everything comes together", but Holland was restricted by his contract with Marvel Studios at that time.[26]

By August 2019, Marvel Studios and Disney had spent several months discussing expanding their deal with Sony, with the latter looking to include more films than were originally agreed upon while keeping the same terms of the original agreement. Disney expressed concern with Feige's workload producing the other MCU films already, and asked that any future films Feige produces for Sony be a "50/50 co-financing arrangement between the studios".[33][34] Unable to come to an agreement, Sony announced that it would be moving forward on the next Spider-Man film without Feige or Marvel's involvement. Their statement acknowledged that this could change in the future, thanked Feige for his work on Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), and stated that they appreciated "the path [Feige] has helped put us on, which we will continue."[34] The Hollywood Reporter added that the end of the studios' agreement "almost certainly" meant that Holland's Spider-Man would no longer appear in non-Spider-Man MCU films, but "significantly increased" the chances of the character crossing over with Sony's own non-Spider-Man Marvel films such as the Venom films and the then-in-production Morbius (2020).[35] By the end of the month, Tom Holland was confirmed to have filmed a scene in Venom reprising his role as Peter Parker in the film in a cameo appearance, however, the scene was ultimately not included in the theatrical version of the film.[36]

Feature films[edit]

Film U.S. release date Director Screenwriter(s) Producer(s)
Venom October 5, 2018 (2018-10-05) Ruben Fleischer[18] Jeff Pinkner & Scott Rosenberg[37] and Kelly Marcel[38] Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Amy Pascal[18]

Venom (2018)[edit]

Tom Hardy, star of Venom and Venom 2.

Following a scandal, journalist Eddie Brock attempts to revive his career by investigating the Life Foundation, but comes into contact with an alien symbiote that bonds with Brock, giving him superpowers as long as they share the same body.[39]

The long-in-development Venom film was revived by Sony in March 2016.[16] A year later, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner were writing the screenplay.[37] In May 2017, Sony announced that Tom Hardy would star as Eddie Brock / Venom in Venom, to be directed by Ruben Fleischer.[18] Kelly Marcel later joined as an additional writer.[38] Filming took place from October 2017 to January 2018,[40][41] in Atlanta, New York City, and San Francisco.[42][43] The film was released in the United States on October 5, 2018.[18]

The producers wanted to tell a standalone story with Venom rather than have it introduce crossover opportunities for future films,[24][25] but its post-credits scene features a clip from Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) which reveals that Venom's universe is part of the Spider-Verse, a shared multiverse.[44] This was added because Sony and the producers of Venom were excited by the possibility of crossovers between the live-action and animated films after seeing the quality of Into the Spider-Verse.[45]

Future[edit]

Film U.S. release date Director Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Status
Morbius July 31, 2020 (2020-07-31)[46] Daniel Espinosa[47] Burk Sharpless & Matt Sazama[48] Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Lucas Foster Post-production
Venom 2 October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)[49][50] Andy Serkis[51] Kelly Marcel[50] Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Amy Pascal Pre-production

Morbius (2020)[edit]

Following a "secret development process" at Sony, Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama wrote a script for a film based on Morbius, the Living Vampire.[48] By June 2018, Jared Leto was set to star as the character, with Daniel Espinosa directing the film.[47] Filming began at the end of February 2019, in London.[52][53] It is also scheduled to take place in Atlanta.[54] Morbius is scheduled to be released on July 31, 2020.[46]

Venom 2 (2020)[edit]

Woody Harrelson was cast to make a cameo appearance as Cletus Kasady at the end of Venom with the intention of him featuring in a potential sequel as Carnage,[55] which was confirmed in January 2019 when Kelly Marcel was hired to write and executive produce that film. Hardy was also confirmed to return, but Sony was considering replacing Fleischer due to his commitments to Zombieland: Double Tap;[50] Andy Serkis was hired to direct the sequel in August.[51] Venom 2 is expected to be released on October 2, 2020.[49][50]

In development[edit]

  • Nightwatch: By September 2017, Sony was actively developing a film based on the character Nightwatch, with a script from Edward Ricourt. Sony wanted Spike Lee to direct the film,[56] and he was confirmed to be interested in the project in March 2018, with Cheo Hodari Coker re-writing the script.[57] However, Lee was no longer involved by October.[58]
  • Kraven the Hunter: In July 2017, Sony was considering a film based on Kraven.[19] and hired Richard Wenk to write a screenplay for the film in August 2018.[59] Wenk stated in October 2018, that the current draft of the script is based on the Kraven's Last Hunt comic story-arc, with Kraven hunting Spider-Man.[60]
  • The Sinister Six: Sony's December 2013 plans for their own Amazing Spider-Man shared universe included a film based on the Sinister Six group of Spider-Man villains, with Drew Goddard attached to write and potentially direct.[7] Goddard was confirmed to be directing the film in April 2014.[61] The film was believed to have been canceled by November 2015 when Sony was focusing on its new reboot with Marvel,[12] but Pascal said the film was "alive" again in December 2018 following the success of Venom, and she was waiting for Goddard to be ready to direct.[26]
  • Black Cat: Sony had made several attempts at producing a female superhero spin-off from the Spider-Man franchise before March 2017, when the company was believed to be "fast at work" on such a project. Chris Yost was hired to write a script for the film, featuring the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat.[62] That May, Sony officially titled the film Silver & Black, and Gina Prince-Bythewood signed on to direct and re-write the script.[63][64] Lisa Joy, Lindsey Beer, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet also contributed to the film's screenplay.[65] However, the film was cancelled in August 2018 and replaced with solo films for both characters, with Prince-Bythewood remaining as a producer. She was not expected to direct the new films.[23]
  • Silver Sable: Following the cancellation of Silver & Black, a feature film centered around Silver Sable was confirmed to be in development with Gina Prince-Bythewood serving as producer.[23]
  • Untitled Spider-Man: Far From Home sequels: After the fallout between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, Variety confirmed that Tom Holland will reprise his role, in two additional Spider-Man films to complete his contract with Sony Pictures.[66] Deadline reported that Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers return to the series and, serve again as co-screenwriters on the first sequel.[67] Holland confirmed that he will continue to portray Peter Parker / Spider-Man in the upcoming films.[68] In September 2019, Sony Pictures' Chairman Tony Vinciquerra confirmed plans to implement Spider-Man into the SMU.[30]
  • Other projects: By the end of June 2018, Sony and Amy Pascal had begun development on a film featuring the character Silk,[69] which would be distinct from the version appearing in Sony's animated Spider-Women film.[26] Sony is also considering films centered on the characters Jackpot and Mysterio,[23][19] with Jake Gyllenhaal cast in the latter role for Far From Home.[70] Sony was actively looking for writers for the Silk and Jackpot films as of August 2018.[23] In December 2018, it was suggested that a spin-off film from either the MCU Spider-Man films or the animated Spider-Verse films starring Spider-Man's Aunt May could be made, a notion that Sony previously referred to as "silly".[26]

Main cast and characters[edit]

Reception[edit]

Box office performance[edit]

Film U.S. release date Box office gross All-time Ranking Budget Ref(s)
U.S. and
Canada
Other territories Worldwide U.S. and
Canada
Worldwide
Venom October 5, 2018 (2018-10-05) $213,515,506 $642,569,645 $856,085,151 185 72 $100 million [80]

Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Venom 29% (326 reviews)[81] 35 (46 reviews)[82]

Tie-in comic[edit]

A comic book tie-in to Venom, serving as both a prequel and a teaser for the film, was released digitally by Marvel on September 14, with a physical version available to those who purchased tickets for the film from AMC Theatres. Written by Sean Ryan and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, the comic establishes the film's backstory for the symbiote. SKAN provided the cover art for the comic.[83]

Related films[edit]

Film U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Story by Producer(s) Status
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Iron Man 2 May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07) Jon Favreau Justin Theroux Kevin Feige Released
Captain America: Civil War May 6, 2016 (2016-05-06) Joe Russo & Anthony Russo Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Spider-Man: Homecoming July 7, 2017 (2017-07-07) Jon Watts[84][85] Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers[86] John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal[10]
Avengers: Infinity War April 27, 2018 (2018-04-27) Joe Russo & Anthony Russo Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely Kevin Feige
Avengers: Endgame April 26, 2019 (2019-04-26)
Spider-Man: Far From Home July 2, 2019 (2019-07-02) Jon Watts Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers[87] Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal
Animated Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14) Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman[15] Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman[15] Phil Lord Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Christina Steinberg[15] Released
Untitled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel TBA Joaquim Dos Santos[88] David Callaham[88] Amy Pascal[88] In development
Untitled Spider-Women spin-off TBA Lauren Montgomery[88] Bek Smith[88]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Marvel Studios is not involved the Sony universe and does not plan to integrate it with the MCU.[1] Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers, as well as Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts, have said Venom is not part of the MCU.[2] Producer Amy Pascal said that Venom and future Sony projects are "independent, separate franchises" from the MCU.[3]

References[edit]

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