Why ‘Venom’ Will Be A Game Changer for Comic Book Films

Scott J. Davis
Movies Comics
Movies Comics Marvel Spider-Man

After such a long wait, we are now just days away from Sony unleashing Ruben Fleischer’s Venom onto the world. Soon, we’ll get to see Tom Hardy in all his snarling, symbiote-bonded glory as he chomps people’s heads off and battles Riz Ahmed’s Riot. Once it arrives, you can bet it’ll be dissected and debated, but, for better or worse, the film is set to change the landscape of comic-book movies, with studios already manoeuvring to put their own bad guys front and centre of their own films. Whatever the aftermath, good or bad, things are going to change. Here’s a look at what the future could hold.

Sony and the Curious Case of the Expanded Universe

The first big change that may come from a successful Venom film will be just how Sony (and, by extension, Marvel) plot a course for their expanded universe — Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, or the SUMC, as it’s now known. Rumblings before Venom’s release have all been about Spider-Man and his involvement in the film/franchise going forward but this film could open the door again for the studio in the same way they hoped it would back in 2014 after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out. We know that a Morbius the Living Vampire film is on the way starring Jared “Joker” Leto, as well as Black Cat and Silver Sable, but Venom too could get a second and third movie (Tom Hardy seems keen for more). With all those villains to play with, could Sony finally unleash their Sinister Six movie on us very soon?

So Many Villains, So Little Time

Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker in Todd Phillips' Joker movie.

“Can open, worms everywhere!” to quote FriendsChandler Bing. He may be nothing to do with superheroes but in terms of describing what the future is going to look like for the genre, he could be spot on. There are a heck of a lot of movies coming our way that centre on the villains without their heroic counterparts in tow. In recent weeks, set photos and footage have emerged from Warner Bros/DC’s upcoming Joker standalone starring Joaquin Phoenix as well as news that Birds of Prey, which will see Margot Robbie return as Harley Quinn, is now set for release in 2020.

Add those to the aforementioned Sony plans and the marketplace is going to get even more saturated with villain movies as time passes. Venom could flop, of course, but with Warner Bros/DC in desperate need for a new energy to their much-maligned extended universe (officially titled ‘Worlds of DC’), Joker and the rest of its villain movie plans could be their best chance at saving it.

And what of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Could it change with the times (or, at least, the “right now”) and look into having one of their big bad’s standing alone? With the newly acquired Fox properties, this seems more of a possibility. Marvel chief Kevin Feige has always been very aware of the changes around him, so there’s no reason he wouldn’t change his tack somewhere down the line.

Bad Guys Love Halloween

Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom.

The spooky season is upon us and while it’s usually reserved for some real bad dudes (Michael Myers makes a return this Halloween), it’s somewhat unprecedented to have a big comic-book film open at this time of year. The playing field for the genre has expanded massively over the last few years – gone is the importance of a spring/summer release for blockbuster films, replaced with almost a whole year of possibilities.

Black Panther took the comic-book crown with its February release ($202 million opening) following Deadpools success two years prior ($132million, with an R-rating) while Thor: Ragnarok opened with $122million in November last year. Now Venom, while not as big as those, has a real shot at changing the box-office game once more. Right now, Deadline suggests an opening of around $60-$70m which would break the October record held by Gravity ($55.7million). And if reports hold true, the film’s opening could persuade some studios to follow suit and position some of their films to similar dates.

To Phase 4 and Beyond

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War.

Let’s be honest with each other. We all hope so very much that Venom gifts us a Tom Holland cameo as Peter Parker and/or Spider-Man, and with everyone being super cagey about the subject when asked about it as the press tour for the film cranks up, we can assume they are hiding something. Or, it’s all a big ruse.

That said, if it’s true (the PG-13 rating could be an even bigger indication of Spidey’s involvement) how will this shape the MCU going forward? Could Spider-Man: Far From Home or even Spider-Man 3 incorporate Eddie Brock? Venom’s inclusion would certainly take everything to a darker place given the character and his penchant for, you know, wanting to eat people’s eyes, lungs and pancreata. If it all works out, we could finally get the Spider-Man vs Venom showdown we have always wanted to see on the big screen. And, of course, there could be the small matter of a Carnage appearance, too.

The World Has Enough Superheroes

Venom Tom Hardy
Ooh, what big teeth you have.

It might well be true that the world has enough superheroes, and that’s why Venom promises something very different. Of course, we know Venom, at heart, is a big old baddie but here he is presented as an anti-hero. At least for now. But with the unusual approach of shifting focus to a villain’s origin story, could this encourage studios to employ a slightly different tactic when telling such tales regarding our heroes, when it comes to origins or reboots?

Over the years, we have heard rumblings of many different iterations of the original tale, from Darren Aronofsky’s aborted Batman: Year One, which would have been very different to the big-screen lore we have seen so far, to Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, which would have been a cosmic smorgasbord of “out-there” concepts. While Josh Trank’s ill-fated Fantastic Four, which tried to find some new avenues to explore, ultimately failed, is now the time to think a little more outside-the-box to ensure we don’t get superhero fatigue? Could we see radically new interpretations of our favourite superheroes in the future? Angles studios might have dipped their toes into in the past during an era that wasn’t ready for them, but which now could find a new lease of life in the landscape Venom is ushering in? Perhaps, perhaps not. But just maybe it’s ideas like these that are what’s needed to keep everything feeling fresh going forward.

Scott J. Davis
Freelance Film Writer usually found in dark screening rooms, on a red carpet or avoiding the low-lying microphones of a Junket...
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