'Venom' Will Launch Sony's Marvel Universe, But How Exactly Will That Work?

Are you ready for another cinematic universe based off of Marvel Comics? Earlier this month, fans learned that Sony Pictures had set a release date for Venom, a movie focusing on the popular villain from Spider-Man lore. Now, according to Collider, it has become clear that the studio not only intends to lean into the violence of the character with an R-rating, but it also plans to reportedly use Venom as a launching pad for a new Marvel franchise.

This will be the third such interconnected franchise, following Disney's official Marvel Cinematic Universe (including the Avengers films, the Netflix Defenders shows, and the various ABC series) and 20th Century Fox's X-Men Cinematic Universe (including the various films and spinoffs, FX's Legion, and more forthcoming television shows). You may be wondering, how is there room for three massive cinematic universes based on the same comic books? And how will Sony's work, exactly?

The reason there are so many onscreen Marvel universes is because the publishing company sold the rights to some of its most famous characters back before superhero movies were de rigueur. So while Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) retains the rights to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc., the screen rights for the X-Men and Fantastic Four are owned by 20th Century Fox and Spider-Man is owned by Sony. Disney and Sony famously reached an agreement in 2015 to share Spider-Man, but the latter studio still holds the rights to all the sidekicks, villains, and supporting characters associated with the web-slinger.

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But lest you think the current version of Spider-Man played by Tom Holland will be the bridge that links Disney's MCU with Sony's impending franchise, rest assured that's not the case. "Let’s be clear: Sony's Marvel Universe will not be connected to the MCU in any way," Collider reported. Venom and any subsequent films "are all part of Sony's own shared universe, not spin-offs of any existing films. Marvel's Kevin Feige has nothing to do with these films; it's Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group, who's calling the shots."

So, if Spidey is currently in the MCU and Sony's Marvel Universe won't be connected to the MCU… then how the heck will Sony's Marvel Universe — which consists almost entirely of characters associated with Spider-Man — even work? That's a great question, but one that the studio doesn't seem overly concerned about. They seem confident that the comic book characters they own the rights to are strong enough to carry movies of their own without the web-slinger to team up with or face off against.

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It's true that Venom has occasionally featured in storylines that didn't involve Spider-Man, and over the years has evolved from supervillain to antihero. According to Collider, next up on Sony's roster after his solo film will be a movie about Black Cat and Silver Sable, two female heroes often used as supporting characters in Spider-Man's adventures, written by Westworld's Lisa Joy and Thor: Ragnarok's Chris Yost. Other characters that Sony owns the rights to, and could center future films around, include Flash Thompson, the Green Goblin, Carnage, and the Sinister Six — not to mention the various other iterations of Spider-Man (and Spider-Woman) other than Peter Parker, including Miles Morales and Jessica Drew.

But if the idea of a Spidey-adjacent franchise without Spidey himself still makes you nervous, the recent successes of Deadpool and Logan proved that there's a huge market out there for R-rated superhero movies. There are fans who want to see the real-world (bone-crunching, limb-severing) implications of their favorite heroes' prodigious powers, as a contrast to the bloodless fisticuffs of both the MCU and the DCEU. So while Peter Parker cracks jokes with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers over at Disney, Sony could be offering a tantalizing alternative with their own Marvel universe.

Venom will hit theaters on Oct. 5, 2018, with a script written by Alien: Covenant's Dante Harper. No director or star is attached to the project at this time.