It Is... But It's Not

Is Sony Screwing Marvel?

We recently discussed the utter failure of Madame Webb and, well, I’m not sad about it. Sony has been trying to start up their own Spider-man-without-Spider-man universe (all because the most popular SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002., Tom Holland, is tied up in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. and is beyond use right now in other projects). It’s a stupid idea full of hubris because it’s not the villains people are there to see, it’s the hero. But Sony wants a piece of their Spider-money, and they’re desperate to get any of it they can. They’ve been desperate about it since the first Spider-man film, back in 2000, was a hit, and since then they’ve sputter, trying to figure out how to get spin-offs (including a Sinister Six film) into production ever since. Madame Webb and Morbius and Kraven the Hunter are all symptoms of that desperation.

This year, 2024, they have three Spider-films in the queue. Madame Webb was the first of them, and it’ll be followed by Kraven the Hunter and then Venom 3. Three films in this kind of, sort of related Universe of Spider-man Films (or wherever they’re calling it this week). That’s a lot for even a successful film franchise. Marvel was doing three a year when they were rolling big, cranking out one billion dollar success at the Box Office after another. Marvel is no longer doing that many films this year (they only have one film, Deadpool and Wolverine, for all of 2024), and Sony’s Spider-whatever is no MCU. It’s oversaturation, to be sure, especially when you consider just how bad most of Sony’s efforts have been.

But the thing being theorized by commentators online is that Sony’s oversaturation isn’t just going to hurt Sony; it could also hurt Marvel. While that seems silly to someone, like me, that’s in the know because I know the difference between a Sony-made Spider-man-related film and a MCU films, how many people in the general audience know that? Us super fans (or at least those of us that are fans of cinema and pay attention to everything) won’t be confused, but most people don’t spend all day with their finger on the pulse of Hollywood. Most people see a superhero film, not a Marvel logo somewhere on there, and assume all the films are related.

Of course, some of the crossovers haven’t helped matters. Spider-man: No Way Home didn’t just include previous Spider-men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield but it also featured a cameo from Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock (aka, Venom). It was just a cameo, in a tag ending, and I’m sure Marvel limited it to just that scene so that they didn’t have to acknowledge any real crossover between the MCU and Venom, but he was still there, linking the universes. And then Morbius featured Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (aka, Vulture) from Spider-man: Homecoming. To anyone not in the know it certainly seems like all these films are connected.

Because, yeah, if Venom can be in No Way Home, and if Vulture can be in Morbius, and if Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse can feature a scene set in the world of Venom doesn’t that mean they all share a universe with the MCU? A nerd like me is going to say, “well sure, but something something Multiverse. It doesn’t really count. That’s just Sony being dumb.” Most people won’t know the difference. They’ll just know “all these Spider-man guys are Marvel characters. These Marvel movies have gotten really bad.”

It doesn’t help matters that Sony loves to promote the fact that they have a Marvel character. They put a tiny version of the Marvel logo on their work. They say, “in association with Marvel,” on their films. If you know that “in association with” simply means Marvel sold them the license and Sony has to give the owners credit then that’s a meaningless credit. Most people don’t know. Marvel is Marvel, even if a film doesn’t come from Marvel Studios, the group in charge of the MCU. Marvel is Marvel and right now, in 2024, Marvel really sucks.

The confusion doesn’t just strike audiences, either. Many stars have noted that they feel like they were duped into starring in Sony’s off-brand superhero universe when they thought they were joining the MCU. Both Matt Smith (who played the villain in Internet meme Morbius) and Dakota Johnson (who played the lead in Madame Webb) have noted that they talked to MCU stars to see what it was like to be part of that universe. Then they signed on with Sony only to realize, “wait, this isn’t what I agreed to.” After joining Madame Webb, Johnson fired her management team, seemingly blaming them for getting her into the wrong superhero franchise. Hell, Sydney Sweeny (who is also in Madame Webb) has been asked how she feels being part of the MCU now and she acts like she’s actually in the franchise (she’s not). If the stars can’t even tell, that’s a major red flag that no one can keep up at this point.

For Marvel, 2024 was supposed to be the year when the MCU did a big reset. The studio intended for their film franchise (and TV prospects) to take a rest, so audiences could relax and come back when the MCU has some time away. This year was meant to build anticipation. Superhero movies in general have been suffering, in no small part to all the awful films in the genre that were released over the last few years. This isn’t just Sony’s fault; Marvel isn’t blameless here, releasing a few less than impressive entries in the MCU. And DC also had their hand, running their DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. into the ground. Whoever you want to blame is fair game, but that doesn’t change the fact that audiences did need a break. Most of the studios seemed to agree that it was time to let superheroes rest for a little bit, to give audiences a breather so they could anticipate the costume-clad characters again.

Everyone, except Sony. They really want to get their superhero characters out there and milk all the money they can from it and it doesn’t seem like they care about the quality of the product at all. And if the audiences are confused over what they’re watching, and are showing up for “Marvel” films that aren’t, you know, Marvel films, then that just helps Sony, right? Sure, their films are crap, but it’s Marvel crap they can advertise as Marvel films. “We’re just like these other films over there, so much so we can say we’re even associated with them… more or less.”

It would be one thing if the films they were releasing were interesting, but they aren’t. Outside of Venom, which was dumb but watchable, and the Spider-verse animated films, which have sat basically outside the rest of their mess and are phenomenal, Sony’s efforts have been universally bad. The trailer for Kraven the Hunter doesn’t instill hope for that film. And then what? More garbage Z-grade villains given their own films while Sony tries to keep everything afloat with more Venom sequels? All while driving their name, and Marvel’s name, into the dirt in the process. That doesn’t feel like a tenable situation.

If Sony would at least make interesting films that would be something. If Morbius had been as entertaining (not good, just entertaining) as the Internet memes around it, it could have been something of a hit. If Madame Webb were anything like the press tour Dakota Johnson has been on, ragging in the most backhanded way possible on her own film, I could see that at least being something people would want to watch. Anything with its own perspective, anything even half as wonderfully creative and delightfully overtop as the Spider-verse animated movies would be a win. But Sony is making tired, basic, Marvel-clone films without any of the style or pizzaz. They’re garbage. Worse, they’re bad garbage. There’s nothing fun about that.

Will Sony really ruin Marvel? I guess that’s the real question. Certainly I feel like that’s a possible outcome. I tend to agree with the other commentators online that the more brand confusion there is between Marvel’s heroes and Sony’s heroes the more audiences will tune out of both. And if that’s what ends up happening no amount of time away will help Marvel as long as Sony is out there, muddying the waters. Everyone, Sony included, needs to take a step back and reevaluate. Until that happens, the whole of the genre will suffer.