It’s not the most effective time in Hollywood to be a cinematic universe. DC simply completed flattening its personal franchise so studio chief James Gunn can start a brand new timeline with “Superman: Legacy.” Marvel Studios is licking its wounds after a sequence of streaming duds and field workplace disappointments. It’s a fallow, considerably existential interval for each banners: Between Marvel and DC, solely two theatrical options — Disney’s “Deadpool 3” and Warner Bros.’ “Joker: Folie à Deux,” each with solely tenuous connections to franchise canon — are slated for 2024.
Sony Pictures, nonetheless, has three lined up, rising as this yr’s chief within the superhero area after some post-strike launch date shuffling. But not like Disney and Warner Bros., the studio isn’t presenting its movies as installments in a years-spanning narrative structure.
“There could be some hesitation to emphasise the interconnectedness of those films,” says Jeff Gomez, an government transmedia producer at Starlight Runner. Gomez labored with Sony as a narrative advisor when the studio rebooted “Spider-Man” in 2017, casting Tom Holland and reaching an settlement to co-produce with Disney to put the hero within the rival studio’s cinematic universe. “They’ve talked about it earlier than, and it didn’t work out.” So far, post-credits teasers bridging Sony’s spin-offs to Disney’s personal continuity through interdimensional journey have been seen as half-hearted and, in the end, unsuccessful.
Those appendages apart, Sony has largely minimized the interconnected nature of its superhero movies, even because the studio faucets extra closely from the nicely of Spidey-based characters that it licenses. The run started with 2018’s “Venom,” a gross-out comedy-slant origin story in regards to the alien symbiote. The Tom Hardy automobile was a business smash, grossing greater than $850 million.
Successful sequel adopted, together with the continuing “Spider-Verse” sequence of animated movies. The 2018 unique, “Into the Spider-Verse,” bagged the animated characteristic Oscar; its sequel was the sixth-highest-grossing international launch of 2023. But there was additionally 2022’s “Morbius,” the Jared Leto vampire actioner that was as critically reviled because the “Spider-Verse” films had been adored. More “Morbius” appears unlikely.
This yr, Sony’s calendar has aligned for its busiest superhero slate but, providing two origin tales adopted by “Venom 3” in November. Each manufacturing is being bought as a self-contained endeavor, with its personal aesthetic contact and no franchise catch-up wanted.
Up first is “Madame Web” on Valentine’s Day. Set in 2003, the movie stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra, a clairvoyant who should lead three teenage ladies discovering their very own supernatural talents. The solid additionally boasts rising stars like Sydney Sweeney. But Johnson’s conspicuous leap from WME to CAA in November — simply days after a baffling first trailer debuted — raised trade eyebrows, together with a razz in her latest “SNL” monologue describing the movie as “like if AI generated your boyfriend’s good film.” Plus, Cassandra Webb’s interdimensional powers recommend the movie may plant seeds for future diversifications.
“Madame Web, within the comics, tied collectively the multiverse for ‘Spider-Man’ characters,” Gomez says. “The goal of doing that film — I’d suppose — can be to basically arrange a superhighway between universes.”
“Kraven the Hunter” follows in August. The gangster movie is directed by J.C. Chandor, who has earned auteur cred for crime movies just like the buttoned-up potboiler “A Most Violent Year” and the gung-ho “Triple Frontier.” At final yr’s CinemaCon, “Kraven” star Aaron Taylor-Johnson took the stage to bellow, “Fuck yeah, it is going to be rated R!” The trailer guarantees a bloody, macho romp — potential trigger for fan celebration after some grumbling about the “Venom” franchise sticking to PG-13. But comedian buffs may additionally count on just a few “Spider-Man” Easter eggs in a film about one of many hero’s most infamous foes.
“If ‘Kraven’ is a couple of dude with the powers of a lion and doesn’t allude to the larger ‘Spider-Man’ universe or assist to arrange what’s going to occur, then it had higher be a rocking good film,” Gomez says.
“Rocking good” would mark a welcome change of tempo. Beyond the “Spider-Verse” sequence, Sony’s spin-offs haven’t precisely been vital darlings. Yet they’ve largely proved business victories — due partly to comparatively modest worth tags. While budgets at Warner Bros. and Disney commonly balloon above $200 million, Sony has rotated superhero options for a fraction of the determine.
That’s what gave even a franchise nonstarter like “Morbius” — which earned a reception so devastating that it attained mocking-meme standing — a viable path out of the crimson. Like that movie, “Madame Web” value lower than $100 million to provide. “Kraven” is available in a bit north of that determine, although nonetheless beneath a beforehand reported variety of $130 million. And “Venom 3” is seeing solely a slight uptick from the $110 million spent on its 2021 predecessor.
Measured monetary dangers enable Sony to introduce new characters with out dealing with the potential repercussions of a frightening funding in a cinematic universe. At CinemaCon 2022, the studio introduced Bad Bunny onstage to announce “El Muerto,” which might observe a superhuman luchador to be performed by the singer. But his conflicting tour and script revisions now have the mission again in growth — with no star on the books.
Whether or not “El Muerto” involves fruition, its stand-alone nature is the mannequin that Sony is making use of to comedian e book movies. Amid unease that cinematic universes could have grown too expansive, Sony seems to woo viewers through contained narratives — you already know, the way in which blockbusters used to do.