In 2016 there was Captain America: Civil War. It split Marvel’s established cinematic super team down the middle, ending friendships for the foreseeable future. But more importantly, it reintroduced Spider-Man to the world. Sure, he had only just left us in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, when Andrew Garfield was under the mask. But this was a bold new Spidey. This was Tom Holland.
Fast-forward to 2018 and Sony was feeling the itch of not having its own cinematic universe — its greatest toy was being used to full effect in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). So Sony pivoted to Venom, and when Tom Hardy bonded with a head-munching maniac, Sony was onto a surprising box office hit. What is it about this monster that fans adore? Is it the relationship goals many of us only hope to achieve? Maybe. Or is it that comic book fans are looking for something a little less heroic in these characters?
Humans and Horrors, Maybe Not Heroes
Sony’s cinematic universe has a distinct lack of heroism. This can be seen in its first two outings with Venom. In Venom’s debut adventure, Eddie and the symbiote deal more with coming to terms with their new relationship. The main reason they even save the planet is because the woman they both love would likely die during an alien invasion. Also, they don’t want to die.
In Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the stakes are even smaller. Instead of an alien invasion, Eddie and Venom have to deal with their evolving relationship and the emergence of a (serial killer) child. Their relationship is on the rocks, with Venom wanting to be the lethal protector and Eddie desperately wanting a normal life — or whatever that is when you’re bonded to an alien.
Fascinatingly, the story decides to veer almost completely away from the superheroics. Instead, it focuses on their strange symbiosis — and this is likely the reason fans flocked to the cinema to see the film. The decision to make this not about the superhuman elements, but the human ones seemingly paid dividends. Even though Eddie and Venom are fictional characters, their plight feels real. The combination of relationship issues and the fears of your own children hating you are seen in the dynamic Venom had with Carnage.
There is little heroism within the Venom films. But they do showcase a fascinatingly human side to superpowered beings that speak to the sort of unorthodox, hero-less superhero universe Sony is building.
Nobody to Save You in the Superhero-less Sony Superhero Universe
This disconnect with heroism seems to continue into the footage we have seen in Morbius, another film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (which is currently Spider-Man-less). Within the recent footage, fans can see Vulture and newspaper reports on the Rhino and Black Cat. This culminates with nods to Venom’s activities. This means of course that Morbius is within the same universe as Venom — along with all these other villainous and monstrous superpowered beings.
With the introduction of so many villainous characters who seem to be following the same eccentric track as Venom, Sony is setting up a non-superhero universe filled with all too human flaws. These characters are in it for themselves; the power they obtain seems to feed their greed, or at least their self-serving ends, and it is that all too human sin that differentiates them from the other studios’ characters.
With the MCU, we rarely see outside the shimmering cities filled with shining superheroes whose problems are few and are apparent paragons of justice. Meanwhile, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has the elements of the operatic and overly intense combined with an occasional lack of humanity in its superheroes.
Sony has found an unusual way into a crowded party with its quasi-villain, hero-less superhero universe. It’s a universe of flaws, and the characters within it are not of the highest caliber, especially placed beside the characters in the MCU and DCEU. However, Sony is aiming to make up for this with a combination of eccentric and engaging stories filled with unruly characters that are ultimately more relatable, and that will give them something I believe other studios are lacking. After all, where else would you see Tom Hardy bathing in a lobster tank with live lobsters?