disease, Sony’s long-running project starring Jared Leto, finally premiered on April 1 after a nearly two-year delay. The film centers on Morbius the living vampire, one of the many anti-heroes in the Marvel mythos, best known for angering the well-loved neighborhood Spider-Man. disease is the latest in Sony’s so-called Spider-Verse, its attempt to create a cinematic universe powerful enough to compare to Kevin Feige’s ubiquitous empire known as the MCU.
Sony’s idea isn’t entirely ridiculous. After all, villains are often the most interesting and compelling characters in any given story. Want hamlet be so timeless without Claudius? Want The silence of the Lambs be so exciting without Hannibal and Buffalo Bill? A great villain is crucial to a successful story, perhaps more so than a great hero. It is the villain who creates the conflict and drives the story forward, keeping the audience invested in the plot. The comic genre has the perfect example of this The dark knight, by far the best live-action Batman film and, in the eyes of many, the absolute best comic book film. Christian Bale’s Batman may be the protagonist, but Heath Ledger’s Joker is the star of the show, the puppeteer who pulls the strings of Gotham.
Spider-Man’s corner of the Marvel Universe has some of the most dynamic antagonists in the comic book world. From Green Goblin to Carnage, the webcrawler’s villain gallery is as iconic as Spidey herself. Some of them have even starred in unforgettable storylines that have cemented their legacy; think of Kraven’s Last Hunt, The night Gwen Stacy diedor barrack. Indeed, Spidey’s villains are far from boring and could make compelling and entertaining protagonists without sacrificing their villainy. The golden age of the antihero may be ending, but that doesn’t mean audiences aren’t interested in seeing a villain take center stage. So why does Sony’s villain-centric Spider-verse fail? The answer is not as simple as some might think.
Studios these days seem to be blindly chasing gold, and by gold we mean the MCU. Indeed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a game changer for Hollywood, building success after success and leaving everyone else to gather dust. The MCU isn’t universally popular — far from it. Some people despise it, seeing it as a shameless money grab that is slowly eroding the very foundations of cinema as an art form. However, a quick look at Spider-Man: No Way HomeThe success of makes it clear that mainstream audiences don’t seem to care. The webcrawler’s latest cinematic adventure is currently at $1.889 billion at the worldwide box office. It’s hard to argue against that success.
Logically, everyone in Hollywood wants a piece of this billion-dollar pie. Sony in particular wants to be part of the campaign, as it owns the rights to the entire Spider-Man catalogue. The studio is shameless and cynical in its desire to take advantage of Spidey’s fame to its detriment. After all, isn’t that the reason for the audience’s indifference to Sony’s latest Spidey offerings? Nothing in these films, be it disease or Venom: Let there be carnage, looks unique or inspired. Each selection seems automated and generic, the same candy but with slightly different packaging.
When poison Coming out in 2018, it seemed fresh enough to lure audiences. The character was one of Marvel’s most popular antiheroes, and seeing him on the big screen was too tempting to pass up. Against all odds, the film was a massive commercial success, grossing $856 million worldwide. Sony was quick to announce similar standalone films based on some of Spider-Man’s most notorious villains, letting fans know it’s building a Spidey-centric version of the MCU.
Fans were less enthusiastic Venom: Let there be carnage, the 2021 sequel that marked the debut of another fan-favorite Marvel villain. The film grossed $300 million less than its predecessor but was released during a global pandemic, making the comparison a bit unfair. Still, fans have already shown cynicism and opposition to Sony’s thriving cinematic universe.
The truth is, audiences want their cinematic universes to seem fit for purpose. Say what you will about the MCU, but Feige took the time to build something from the ground up. He formulated clear intentions for each of his films and created an intricate puzzle that finally fits together. But Sony’s villain verse is aimless and unpredictable. What is the purpose of a Morbius film in this new universe? How does Morbius relate to Venom or Kraven? What is the common thread?
Sony would be wise to pick a lane and stick with it if it wants to be successful. No way home set a precedent for a team of Sinister Six and (SPOILER WARNING!) the end of disease strongly suggests that this will happen in the near future. Sure, making a Sinister Six movie without Spider-Man might seem ridiculous, but who says Tom Holland needs to switch to Sony-verse when at least two other perfect Spider-Men are waiting for a call? Besides, who says Spider-Man has to be the protagonist of this franchise? Having the superhero as the antagonist would be a new twist in a genre that’s quickly becoming stale and painfully predictable.
The truth is, Sony had the right idea, but its execution is shoddy at best. Villains can be worthy protagonists, but it has to be the right villain. Sony seems to be picking characters at random and throwing them into boring PG-13 movies hoping they will succeed. What is the plan for you after your solo film? How do they fit into the larger universe? These are questions Sony must ask itself before greenlighting a solo film. So far, his decisions are divisive at best.
Morbius is a layered and potentially appealing character, but Sony ruined his chances by casting a deeply divisive actor (Leto) in the title role and surrounding him with the most fundamental storyline, one that doesn’t justify his existence. On the other hand, thanks to the character’s popularity and Tom Hardy’s dedicated performance, Venom has already proven himself capable of directing a solo film. It’s too early to say how kraven will suffice, but the future of the film doesn’t look all that rosy. No offense to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but his track record isn’t exactly promising, and the film appears to be repeating the same tired formula that sank the Venom sequel and disease.
Still, all is not lost for Sony’s villain-verse, because Mrs. Netz sounds like the most refreshing idea in years. Madame Web is a supporting character in the Spider-Man comics, traditionally portrayed as an elderly woman with clairvoyance who acts as an ally and occasional enemy for the web-crawler. Madame Web isn’t a particularly popular character, but there might be something in her story to make her worthwhile for audiences. the Mrs. Netz Project is also doing well, with Dakota Johnson in the title role. As she has demonstrated in films like The Lost Daughter and Cha Cha Real smoothJohnson is an infinitely more interesting performer than Leto or Taylor-Johnson, and with euphoria‘Sydney Sweeney supporting her and the potential of bringing not one, but several Spider-Women into the flock, Mrs. Netz possibly Sony’s most promising project since poison.
And this is where Sony can really be successful. The MCU found its identity with family-friendly, highly comedic, action-packed adventures that sacrificed thematic depth for visual spectacle. As flawed as it may be, DC is best known for its overly dark, writer-driven projects that showcase the best and worst of its titular characters. Sony must find an identity for its Spider-Verse that goes beyond a poor man’s attempt to replicate Spider-Man’s MCU success.
The basic idea is already there: to develop compelling and complex characters that walk the fine line between light and dark. The next step is choosing the right characters; They may lack the same level of notoriety as Spider-Man, but it’s Sony’s job to get the job done and develop them. Madame Web is an intriguing choice, as are characters like Chameleon, Silver Sable, Mister Negative or Jackal. But if they want to use every toy in their box, Sony can’t be afraid to do the work it takes to build them up.
If Sony wants to be a player in the cinematic universe, it needs to let its villains be just that: villains. Stop making them anti-heroes and let them loose in all their evil glory. When Alessandro Nivola was cast as the main villain for the Kraven film, fans rolled their eyes. Nobody wants to see Kraven the Hunter as a good or misunderstood guy; on the contrary, the fans want to see him brutal and cruel, because that’s what the character is. Just because Venom works as an antihero doesn’t mean every villain will. Some characters are evil, and that’s okay. But making villains good by facing them off against another evil enemy is lazy and takes away the original character and leaves them as something lesser.
Sony can win with its villains. disease will likely fail critically albeit non-commercial, the studio’s journey is just beginning, and a single mistake doesn’t destroy a cinematic universe. Sony must have the courage to create something new without shortcuts or cheats. Most importantly, it must not be afraid of taking risks and stop imitating the MCU because it will never catch up. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t create something meaningful or successful.
Mrs. Netz It might not be a billion-dollar movie, but it may be something new for the comic book genre and pave the way for Sony’s villains to rise up and claim the limelight. But Sony needs to believe in them and give them a chance to shine as they are. Otherwise, what’s the point? We already have a lot of great comic book heroes in cinemas; What we’re missing are equally great villains who, as Joker has demonstrated, can title their own films without sanitizing them. In a Spider-Men world, it’s important to have Venoms and Kravens that remain true to their brutal natures. But no more morbiuses, please.
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