The Marvel Cinematic Universe has set the benchmark for all crossover film franchises to come, with Sony’s Spider-Man Universe joining the fray in recent times. The universe so far has had Venom and Morbius as leads, with Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web, and El Muerto being characters that will be coming along in the near future.
Unfortunately for the SSU, it’s been plagued by negative reviews and a few less-than-favorable box office returns, which have been brought into the spotlight by the extremely bad reception to Morbius. The franchise can benefit by removing its flaws and using the MCU template. Whether it’s the MCU’s comedic element to how it divides TV shows with films, it’s worth looking into how the SSU can turn things around.
While there have been likable characters in Venom and Morbius, the films veer too much in one direction in terms of tone. Venom 2 could easily double as a comedy movie while Morbius tried a lot to be taken seriously as a horror movie in the superhero genre.
The MCU has brought a balance to this aspect, with comedy-driven movies like Guardians of the Galaxy injecting serious moments that look into the protagonists’ abandonment issues and latent sadness. Sony’s Spider-Man Universe needs to bring the comedic material with a sense of timing rather than lather it all on and serious themes shouldn’t dominate the movies entirely either.
Fans have grown accustomed to following the Avengers’ plans across the MCU, in addition to other teams like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Masters of the Mystic Arts, and Revengers, among others. Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is looking to isolate its protagonists at the moment, which isn’t the way to go if they want to build up a universe fans can get behind.
The MCU has brought the team-up aspect by either combining protagonists from separate movies or creating stories centering around teams entirely. This way, viewers get to follow multifaceted personalities and can choose which protagonist they like best. The SSU should incorporate team-ups to have a diverse set of characters with their own traits and mannerisms.
Sony’s Spider-Man Universe supporting characters are relatively one-note in characterization because their entire purpose is to make up the cast for the main superhero. This is in contrast to the MCU, where supporting characters can sometimes have their own story arcs independent of the protagonist.
This was seen as far back as in Iron Man 2, as Pepper was shown struggling with becoming the new CEO to keep up Tony’s antics. Similarly, fans of Venom have enjoyed characters like Anne but were disappointed she had nothing to do in Venom 2 other than to search for Eddie. To carve out a backdrop that viewers can be immersed in, the SSU needs to expand on the supporting cast.
There are a whole lot of cameos in the MCU’s history that have now become second nature. However, fans still love watching an unexpected appearance from a major superhero because it hypes up what’s to come. So far, the SSU has been lacking in this area, although Venom 2’s post-credit scene was a step in the right direction.
While Morbius tried to do the same by bringing in Vulture, the latter just doesn’t invoke the same kind of excitement someone like MCU’s Tony Stark did when he appeared in The Incredible Hulk. The SSU should ideally add high-profile appearances – like Venom in a Morbius film and so on – for viewers to watch a new film with a level of unpredictability.
So far, the SSU has failed in bringing memorable antagonists, with many still seeing Venom as a villain in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe even though he’s a hero. The key to incorporating a villain people actually care about is by adding in either a sympathetic backstory for them or for them to have a genuine connection with the protagonist.
The MCU has received massive praise for villains like Thanos, Hela, Killmonger, and Loki – all of these have personal issues with the heroes. The SSU has opted to make the villains entirely despicable but taking a page out of the MCU’s book to make them tragic figures will do a better job at retaining an interest in them.
Not all characters can be instant hits despite the backing of a massive franchise – the MCU understood this and commissioned TV series for lesser-known heroes. The likes of Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, and others, wouldn’t have generated much interest on the big screen and the MCU went with presenting these heroes in TV series so viewers would get to know them.
Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is taking a gamble with adapting Spider-Man villains that aren’t mainstream popular like Morbius and Kraven the Hunter – the former’s box office flop proves that not every character can get the desired success. The SSU will be better served by using the small screen route to minimize losses while giving fans an avenue to check out these lesser-known characters.
Much of the marketing behind Sony’s Spider-Man Universe protagonists has been about how powerful they’re supposed to be, along with how distinct and flashy they are. This only works on the surface because viewers essentially see them as one-and-done characters that don’t really have much to relate to.
Meanwhile, the MCU has added human qualities to its heroes – the god Thor had an arc where he became heavily depressed and had to forgive himself, to go with billionaire Tony Stark’s story of finally thinking for others than just himself. While characters like Morbius have cool powers, it would be more beneficial for the SSU to go deeper into the protagonists’ characterizations.
The MCU is lauded for diving its movies into phases and the first three had the overarching plotline of the Infinity Stones. It all culminated in the hugely successful Avengers: Endgame, where all the universe’s heroes were brought together to stop Thanos from using the Infinity Stones.
The SSU also needs something to connect all the films together so that fans can understand why there’s a cinematic universe, to begin with. This common element can be MacGuffins like the Infinity Stones that each hero can pursue or seek to defend in order to justify an eventual crossover between them. The curiosity and intrigue that the overarching plot commands are a big reason for the MCU’s success and the SSU needs to incorporate this as well.
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