'Spider-Man: Homecoming' and the Future of the Spider-Verse

With news from Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios spilling plenty of speculation across the realm of all things Spider-Man, from the announcement of two ambitious spin-off films to the further potential of freshman Spidey actor Tom Holland as the web-slinger, the famous Marvel hero seems to be stuck in a major web of studio confusion. While Sony and Marvel Studios aim to reboot the hero for the second time with this week's Spider-Man: Homecoming, Sony and producer Amy Pascal also have plans for what appears to be a separate Spider-Man universe kicking off with 2018's Venom and Silver & Black. But as news spreads for the potential for Sony's projects to fit within the well-established Marvel Cinematic Universe over at Disney, the Spider-Verse and the future following Homecoming still seems masked in mystery. Breaking down all things Spider-Man, here are my thoughts on where Marvel's most popular hero could swing next.

  
With this weekend's Spider-Man: Homecoming already set to toss super-powered teen Peter Parker (Tom Holland) into the massive mix that is Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, as we find the hero in his early days as Spider-Man following his run-in with Tony Stark and the Avengers in last year's Captain America: Civil War, the future of the character seems all but certain to have a major impact on the ever-growing franchise. Already swinging alongside Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and stealing Captain America's shield, the younger, snarkier Spidey we find in English actor Tom Holland seems to be the perfect fit for a franchise that always aims to keep their actors under multi-film contracts. With the success of Homecoming, the character will without a doubt be a top player in the future of the MCU. 

That begs the question: So what's the problem with Spider-Man? One of the major issues, of course, comes out of the odd ownership of the character on the big screen, between Disney (who owns the ever-enterprising MCU) and Sony Pictures (who produced the last decade of live-action Spider-Man films). After striking a deal with Disney in an effort to save the character by rebooting him a second time -- following the underperforming The Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield -- Sony and Disney reached an agreement to integrate the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where does that leave Sony? Well, while they'll most likely gather up much of the earnings from Homecoming, the studio remains without its titular superhero commodity firmly in its grasps.


Where can you go when you still want Spider-Man movies, but now have to share him with the studio behind The Avengers and other massive comic-book films? Well, one of the more ambitious paths you could explore is, of course, Spidey's extensive roster of villains within his rogue's gallery. That's what Sony and producer Amy Pascal seem to have cooking now, as earlier this year, they announced two projects to spawn from the studio in 2018. One focusing on the webslinger's arch-nemesis Venom aka Eddie Brock (set to star Tom Hardy in the leading role, with an October 2018 release), while the other spotlighting two of the hero's notable female characters, Black Cat and Silver Sable, Sony aims to establish their own universe focusing primarily on the other side of the superhero spectrum.

While the appeal of a Venom film starring one of the most compelling actors working today in Tom Hardy might sound like a dream-come-true, I can't help but remain speculative on whether or not a film featuring the infamous alien symbiote, and not Spider-Man, is such a good idea. With the last live-action incarnation of the villain becoming one of the many forgettable tiers of the messy Spider-Man 3 back in 2007 (with Topher Grace taking on the role), the appeal of a solo Venom film could be met with mixed opinions, as some might be reluctant to see the character again. That, of course, depends on what kind of direction the unique spin-off takes. With Hardy entirely capable of delivering a dark, emotionally-fueled portrayal of Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist haunted by suicidal thoughts who eventually comes in contact with a deadly symbiote that consumes him, the film could take an interesting turn, focusing on the morality of its corrupted anti-hero.


Venom is set to star Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, with Zombieland director
Ruben Fleischer attached to direct; The villain Carnage is set to feature as well 

What is said to be a more adult-oriented focus on the superhero genre, compared to the somewhat-light-hearted nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony's slowly-building Marvel Universe also aims to spit out its own female-led feature in the now-titled Silver & Black. Taking aim at two of Spider-Man's most notorious female antagonists, the allusive burglar Black Cat and the deadly mercenary Silver Sable, the details of the project remain mostly in the shadows. With The Secret Life of Bees director Gina Prince-Bythewood attached to direct, the potential for what this film could be seems entirely up-in-the-air. While Prince-Bythewood might have some experience working with majority-female cast, the direction of where the film could go seems less clear than for Venom.



Ultimately, the question for both these projects, and the future of Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe, remains -- Will these franchises ever cross-over into each other? That leaves for the most part on the fence, with two options boiling in my thoughts. Option one, of course, would be that Sony and Disney work out a deal that would find the characters of Sony's Marvel Universe trickling their way into the MCU at some point in time. Establishing their selective anti-heroes and villains in their own realm, while Disney tosses us their own palette of rogues like Michael Keaton's Vulture and possibly more of Vincent D'Onofrio Wilson Fisk (that's an entirely other issue), Sony could shape the titular characters of their universe into promising corners for the MCU's Spidey to eventually occupy.

That, however, brings issues of matching the tones between the light-hearted and fun look of Homecoming (which seems bent on shoving Spidey into the Avengers as quickly as humanly possible) and what appears to be a more mature, R-rated approach to Venom and Sony's other properties. This brings us to option 2, which finds Sony and their respective properties cobbling together their own version of Spider-Man, one that exists primarily in their own universe. With Sony already working towards producing a Sinister Six film way back when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was swinging through theaters, it's not entirely out of the ballpark for them to revive the project. Yes, while Sony producing their own Spider-Man at a time when Disney and the MCU aim to capitalize on the character seems ballsy, establishing a character like Miles Morales or even Spider-Man 2099's Miguel O'Hara who have also donned the suit could spell potential for an even broader Spider-Verse.

This option, while somewhat far-reaching and ambitious, could bring about the potential of seeing multiple versions of the web-slinger interact on the big screen. With Tom Holland spinning his way across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, future films, set either within that universe or not, could broaden the iconic character's facet of personas. While the prospect of Sony reviving their take on Peter Parker in either Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire seems unlikely with Holland winning over the majority of fans since Civil War, exploring Morales or O'Hara could be an intriguing way for Sony to have a Spider-Man -- whatever shape or form he takes -- all their own.


Whether the future holds more for the famous webslinger or not, the potential for what could be a dynamic, new Spider-Verse for the big screen remains a fascinating prospect as both Sony and Disney tackle the character (and his accomplices) for a new age. While Sony's sporadic agenda seems on some level entirely desperate to retain the losses of a failed franchise, and Disney's vibrant new version of the teenage hero might just deliver much of the same, Spider-Man remains an dwindling goldmine that will hopefully bring fresh, imaginative stories to the slowly-dulling superhero genre.       

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