Rumor of the day: R-rated Venom movie will launch new Marvel universe

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Mar 27, 2017

Can the movie marketplace sustain three connected universes based on Marvel Comics characters?

That's what Sony Pictures apparently intends to find out. Collider reports that the studio's recently announced Venom movie -- which will reboot the black-clad alien symbiote after his first half-hearted big-screen debut in 2007's Spider-Man 3 -- will also launch a new series of connected movies based on the many characters, mostly villains, that populate Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel Comics canon.

A second film in this new franchise -- starring Black Cat and Silver Sable -- is already in the works, with a script from Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy currently being rewritten by Thor: Ragnarok scribe Chris Yost. Venom, meanwhile, has a release date of October 5, 2018, although a director and star have yet to be named. Venom, by the way, will apparently be R-rated, as the recent success of Deadpool and Logan is leading the studios -- which are some of the most reactionary corporations around -- to immediately become obsessed with the idea that superhero movies now need to carry the more adult-oriented rating.

Where does Spider-Man figure in all this? While the new iteration of the webcrawler, in the form of Tom Holland, is jumping from Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War right into his own Spider-Man: Homecoming this summer (with Marvel and Sony co-producing the film), the rest of Sony's Marvel universe -- which we'll call the Spiderverse for now -- will remain a separate entity.

Which means that while Spidey himself may still cross over to fight alongside the Avengers, you won't see Venom or Black Cat or Kraven the Hunter or whoever else Sony puts on the screen dropping by the Marvel Cinematic Universe to go a few rounds with Cap and Black Widow. I suspect, however, that Spider-Man will appear in the Spiderverse movies, meaning that Tom Holland could be spending a lot of time in his suit over the next few years.

The Spiderverse is the brainchild of producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, who have been involved with Sony's Spider-Man movies since the beginning (Arad used to run Marvel, in fact) but were taken out of the equation for Spider-Man: Homecoming in favor of Marvel's Kevin Feige. Arad and Tolmach's last attempt to launch a Spider-Man-centric universe, with the two Amazing Spider-Man movies starring Andrew Garfield, ended up being something of a hot mess and led to Sony asking Marvel for help in the first place. The new Spiderverse, it seems, is Arad and Tolmach's consolation prize.

Can it work? Can a marketplace already heavy with two Marvel universes -- the main MCU and Fox's X-Men/Deadpool stable -- find room for another one? And can it launch successfully with characters, like Venom and Black Cat, that are not well-known to the general public and not even necessarily heroes? Of course, the success of Deadpool proves that anything can strike a chord with the public, but that movie also had some advantages that these proposed films don't as yet have.

This is also just rumor for now, and both of the initial Spiderverse films remain in development at the moment, so lots could change in the months and years ahead. But would you welcome a third Marvel series of movies, based mainly on Spidey's rogues gallery, or is that going a universe too far?