This article on ‘Sony And Their Spectacularly Strange Strategy For Spider-Man Villain Films’ was available a week earlier through the Gamerbraves Newsletter. Sign up for free to gain access to more articles about news and trends in the gaming industry and community.
Morbius (2022) starring Jared Lero as Dr. Michael Morbius is the latest superhero movie from Sony Pictures. It’s yet another movie from the studio about a Spider-Man villain with no involvement from Spider-Man.
However, when the movie’s first trailer launched, it caught many people’s attention with one image: Michael Keaton. Many assumed he would be playing The Vulture, the Spider-Man villain he played as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and that this would mean that Sony’s Marvel adaptations would also become part of the MCU or at least crossover.
One bad film later, and Vulture only appears in the end credits, literally teleported from the MCU into this film’s world. In a second after credits scene he meets up with Morbius and they discuss teaming up, clearly implying the creation of the supervillain team, the Sinister Six. This doesn’t make any sense, why would either of them want to team up, or attack Spider-Man, Vulture was on good terms with Spidey and Morbius hasn’t even met the guy.
And this seems to have been Sony’s plan all along. Trick people into thinking Morbius would be attached to the MCU and tease the possibility of crossovers sometime in the future. This is just one of the reasons why Morbius set a record for a 74% drop in box office revenue from its first weekend to its second. Word of mouth got people to realize it was a bad film only slightly saved by Matt Smith’s incredible ability to devour all of the scenery in one bad CGI bite.
Word of mouth then got Morbius put back in cinemas, only for it to bomb a second time, but that’s a story for another day.
Everyone wants to be Marvel nowadays, and nobody wants to be Marvel more than Sony. Ever since the MCU started making more money than some countries, Sony who legally owns the movie rights to Spider-Man and his cast of characters has wanted their own comic book universe.
After failing to get one with the Amazing Spider-Man movies, (the second of which pretty much only exists to set up more movies and spin-offs) they got the deal of a lifetime: Marvel Studios would let them make MCU canon Spider-Man films. It was a win-win, they get to be that MCU money and fans got Spidey in the Avengers.
But it seems that isn’t enough for Sony as they still want their own shared superhero universe that they can fully own while still keeping the deal with Marvel. Their solution (at least what seems like their solution) has been to make films about some of Spider-Man’s villains and hint that they might be tied to the MCU.
This first started with Venom (2018), where producer Amy Pascal said that the film existed in the MCU before being corrected by Marvel Studios producer Keven Feige that it didn’t.
Then we had its sequel Venom: Let There be Carnage (2021) which had an after-credits scene hinting at the character crossing over into Spider-Man: No Way Home, only to appear in that film’s after-credits scene and nothing else.
Most recently Sony has said that they plan to make a solo film about the Spider-Man antihero El Muerto, starring the rapper Bad Bunny. Never heard of El Muerto? That’s probably because he only ever appeared in two comic book issues as a one-off antagonist. Maybe the film could be good but giving such a minor character a movie, in my opinion, shows desperation on Sony’s part to get their cape movies off the ground.
Now, of course, it is possible to take Spider-Man villains and give them their own films with no connection to the web crawler. I honestly kind of like the Venom movies and other villain movies like Joker (2019) had little Batman in it and it was still great. Obviously, some of these characters are big enough to star in their own feature film.
The issue I have is the shady, almost parasitic way Sony keeps trying to flimsily tie these films into the MCU to more or less trick people into seeing them.
Spider-Man: No Way Home ends in a place that hints at Spider-Man still being in the MCU but perhaps being less attached to the Avengers. While it’s possible that Sony is doing this to further distance Spider-Man and his world from the larger Marvel world, I actually don’t mind too much.
One of the most common complaints about MCU Spidey is that he felt more like Iron Man Junoir, an Avenger first and Spider-Man second. No Way Home was the first MCU Spidey movie that to me felt like a Spidey movie. I like the idea of Spider-Man having his own little section of the MCU where he and his villains can be at the forefront.
With that in mind, I’m ok with Sony doing more of their own thing with Spider-Man but the strange tactics of standalone villain films tangentially attached to the Spider-Man brand are not the way to go about it. Morbius had to be one of the most cynical attempts at jump-starting a cinematic universe I’ve seen yet. A film that pretty much only exists solely to get the character set up so they can maybe appear in other movies, with plot, character, and effects all being an afterthought. It’s the exact same mistake they made with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
If this is the way they wish to build their cinematic universe, they should really just stick to the far superior Spider-Verse animated movies instead.