This afternoon, in a Variety exclusive – in which they refer to Venom as “highly anticipated”, which I think might pushing it a bit, to say the least – the outlet got an opportunity to chat with Columbia Pictures President Sanford Panitch, the executive that’s overseeing what is being dubbed internally…wait for it…”Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters”. A mouthful, to say the least.
According to their report, the big driver here is Venom‘s potential success. Sony wants big dividends out of the Tom Hardy-starring vehicle, and thinks it’s the right launching point for an entire universe of films from the Spider-Man canon. Some of the projects that are currently in development include: Morbius starring Jared Leto, Kraven the Hunter (which has pulled in The Equalizer 2’s Richard Wenk to script), as well as projects focused on characters like Silk, Jackpot, and Nightwatch. A few of these we’ve reported on previously.
One of the other projects that had made some real headway was the Silver & Black feature, which was a film centered on Silver Sable and Black Cat. Well, cast that aside, as the studio has opted to split the two characters up into their own features – with Black Cat an immediate target that Sony is keen on:
“We believe Black Cat is enough of her own character with a great backstory and a canon of material to draw from to justify her own film,” said Panitch.
While not confirmed at this time, it sounds as though intended Silver & Black director Gina Prince-Bythewood will not be involved in any future Black Cat or Silver Sable stand-alones, and will instead take a producers credit in the final films. A real loss for Sony, as her jumping aboard was one of the more promising aspects of a dubious looking enterprise. If she does indeed drop out, the studio will be seeking out another woman to step into the director’s chair for the Black Cat feature.
But given the line-up being worked up so far, diversity looks to be key focal point for Sony’s efforts:
“Spider-Man connects to a lot of the characters,” said Panitch. “There are villains, heroes, and antiheroes, and a lot are female characters, many of whom are bona fide, fully dimensionalized, and utterly unique.”
There will also be an element of budget and content flexibility, as the studio is open to an R-rated film or two pitched at adults ala Logan or Deadpool, but Venom…which seems like an obvious candidate for an R-rating…will likely stay slotted at PG-13, which apparently is in order to potentially court the idea of future Spider-Man crossovers with Marvel Studios. So, chances are you now have your answer about whether Spider-Man “exists” in these new Sony movies. It almost sounds like the weird sort-of grey space that Marvel Television resides in with its big screen brethren. Provided, of course, a cross-over ever actually happens…
Anyway, lots to chew on, including Sony’s siloing of each project into the whims of its various producers rather than one showrunner ala Kevin Feige or Walter Hamada. For a studio that’s really struggled to adapt to the new paradigm of blockbuster in the past 5-6 years, this is their first real attempt at a strategy to address those troubles. Then again, Venom could be a gamble that doesn’t pay off and it might be back to the drawing board. Time will tell.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. He really loves the Legion of Super-Heroes a lot.