Sony’s Spider Web – Building the Spider-Verse

It’s a great time to be a Spidey fan because Sony are smashing it at the moment. As a huge fan myself I have had many occasions throughout my life to get excited about this hero but actually I would say that the coming two years is an incredible period for Spider-Man fans. The current Spider-Man run with Tom Holland has, in my opinion, been some of the best portrayals of Peter Parker for a long time and to put this into perspective I grew up with Toby Maguire and Spider-Man 2 which hold a very special place in my heart. But the live action Spidey hasn’t always been well received with the Amazing Spider-Man trilogy being cut short due to a myriad of issues at Sony including the undeservedly mixed reviews Andrew Garfield received. I’ll stand by that Maguire was the better Peter Parker with Garfield was the better Spider-Man if I had to compare the two, while Holland combines the two in a nice blend of youthful naivety and cheekiness sprinkled with the weight of responsibility. This post isn’t about the best Spider-Man though but more about how Sony are using the Web-Slinger to drive a Universe that transcends the silver screen.

From the MCU to the SPUMC to the SCC

It has been hard to have faith in Sony’s use of the character over the past half a decade but Marvel’s influence allowed them to place Spider-Man into a bigger universe that gives him scale, perspective and growth. The use of Iron Man allowed for a seasoned, well known character to teach Parker what it meant to be a hero but also what it meant to be a player on a superhero stage. The other two were defined, as always, by the responsibilities installed in them by their Uncle Ben which develops the core ethos of a hero, but not necessarily how they operate in a world dominated by superhumans. The MCU allowed for Parker to learn from others while also making mistakes to grow from, all within the bounds of a wider universe which gave his actions that extra pinch of threat as his decisions no longer impacted just his immediate sphere of influence. So when they then mention that Spider-Man may be leaving the MCU to potentially head to Sony’s Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters (or SPUMC...) it didn’t fill me with much faith. This isn’t to say that Venom was bad but the characters they have (Venom, Morbius, Kraven etc…) are intrinsically linked to Spider-Man in my mind and their development outside of their antagonist just doesn’t feel right to me. A hero is often defined by their villains, so creating the villains without their antagonist allows for deeper personal development sure, but you sometime lose the weight of the conflict if and when the hero and villain are united. The approach with Venom worked but I still feel that his powers and his motivations are defined by his experience with Peter Parker so developing him solo becomes that bit more of a task. In some ways this is even harder with Venom as the relationship with Spider-Man is on two fronts; the one with the symbiote and the one with Eddie Brock, so building this partnership without this history becomes that bit harder.

Sony’s approach has shifted somewhat though and this can be seen with their rebrand from SPUMC to Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, or SCC for short, meaning that they seem to acknowledge that Spider-Man is central to this universe. Although the shift in name suggests that they have an awareness of both snappy naming conventions and the use of characters, I would also say that they have had plans for the Spider-Verse much earlier than SPUMC with two stellar contributions to Spider-Man fans – one being Into the Spider-Verse, the second best Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2 and the other one is the Spider-Man PS4 game. These two served to show how the character could be utilised in new ways, with the PS4 game channelling the great PS2 Spider-Man game and Into the Spider-Verse introducing the wider Spider-Verse to audiences along with the wealth of characters that come with it. Although, at the point of release, these two were largely (a few comic tie ins and easter eggs aside) unconnected, their legacy at Sony has started to take shape into a web of sorts that is now looking to take off.

The Sony Web

There was a fair bit of context above but I think its important to highlight how fractured Sony’s use of Spider-Man has been and how the MCU has informed his growth recently. However, with No Way Home on the horizon I think there is some surprising synergy to Sony’s plans that we are yet to fully appreciate. If we begin with No Way Home (trailer above) you can see that we are diving into the multiverse (Spider-verse) with a Parker we are used to while also being familiar with the concept of the Spider-Verse courtesy of 2018’s film. This allows for Sony to integrate the MCU Spidey into their SSC without breaking lore and continuity, thereby taking the character growth of our Parker and applying it to his own new or old rogues gallery. There’s a lot more I want to say about No Way Home but for the sake of this post I will simply point out that I am excited about this film not just because we get another instalment of my favourite hero, but because it has the opportunity to throw him into an entirely new world. It also looks like it is going to tie up the older films, bringing back that nostalgia hit of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock and other rumoured stars such as Willem Defoe and Jamie Foxx while allowing us to catch up with Toby Maguire’s and Andrew Garfield’s iterations of Parker. This means that this film has the potential to be a reboot, epilogue and prologue all at the same time; launching Holland’s Spidey into a new world with new challenges and stories without the need of an origin story, a close to all the Spider-Men that have come before and a reboot as it re-establishes Spider-Man and the series in the new form, whatever that may be.

The concept of this Multi-Verse/Spider-Verse also allowed for the introduction of Miles Morales, the less experienced but arguably more powerful Spider-Man which Sony has now utilised several times. We see his mainstream intro and origin in the Spider-Man PS4 game in September 2018 as voiced by Nadij Jeter and again, two months later in Into the Spider-Verse as voiced by Shameik Moore. In both of these we get to see Parker, in various forms, play the mentor rather than the mentee which is a stark (pun intended) contrast to his experience within the MCU. By doing this, Sony are opening the Spider-Man world up and even if, at this point, they are unconnected, they already create a certain synergy between them. These characters and concepts become common knowledge well before Loki opened up the Multiverse this year for example. And lets not forget Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle, is played by Donald Glover in Homecoming where he even acknowledges he has a nephew meaning that Miles exists, in some form, in the MCU. Miles’ story has been fleshed out as well outside of Into the Spider-Verse in his own game last year where we get to the see the development of a hero that we don’t see with the original Parker while also answering what it takes to be a Spider-Man. All of these things show that Sony is priming us for this wider world even if, in 2018, we weren’t sure what that world was going to look like.

I’ve rabbled on a bit but now I get to the forward looking Spider-Man world. With the announcement of Spider-Man 2 on PS5 (trailer above) you can see that they are introducing Venom into the gaming universe but this reveal can’t have been a coincidence given that it came the month before the release of Venom 2. Not to spoil the Venom 2 post credit scene either, but it has a huge ramification when it comes to his place within this web of stories that is being built. It is also worth considering that the cycle of Venom releases is, at the moment, expected the be every two to three years meaning the next one puts it in 2023… the same year Spider-Man 2 releases. I am also sure that the narrator speaking in this trailer is Kraven the Hunter on the basis that he talks about finding an ‘equal’ as well as the distinct accent which are both synonymous with this Spidey foe. It is also worth noting that during the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline Peter is actually in possession of the Symbiote Suit so having these two villains in the same story is a distinct possibility. These things are cool and all as it could be a great villain to face in the game but its all the more impressive when you consider that Sony’s Kraven film is also slated for release in 2023… a year we get to fight Kraven & Venom and potentially watch their live action counterparts come to life. And even before all of this, we have Into the Spider-Verse 2 that is planned for October 2022 allowing for another chance to delve into Miles’ story who will also be a playable character in 2023’s Spider-Man film. The second Spider-Verse film will also be taking place a year after we have been introduced to the Marvel Multiverse too which has been developed heavily in recent What If’s meaning that the role this 2022 film could have in the wider Multiverse is huge, especially following No Way Home.

If you take all this into account, there is a level of synergy here between characters and storylines that hasn’t really been seen since the early MCU films, except this time, they are utilising video games as well. Everything that Sony are releasing goes on to directly and indirectly promote and raise awareness of it’s other projects. It’s almost as if it was planned. When I look back at Venom I was worried that Sony were scrambling around with the rights that they had and it was going to be more of a DC anthology sort of format than an MCU affair but it actually now looks like there is an overarching plan for this all to come together. I am not saying we will see the PS5 version of Spider-Man in an MCU film but I believe Sony are educating audiences across various platforms to allow for some of the lesser know characters get the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I am apprehensive of the upcoming films like Venom 2 and Mobius (whenever that releases) and I would like to see Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in a decent universe if he does leave the MCU however it does feel like Sony is laying some serious groundwork for its future be it within the MCU, parallel to it or away from it. I actually find it quite impressive as it feels like the web is becoming clearer with every project meaning that if Sony do keep the rights to Spidey it has the potential to be a promising run of content.

This level of connection is important too as it introduces an entirely new audience to a world that has only previously been available in the comics. It creates a sense of familiarity which encourages new audiences to experiment a little more in a universe they may not have dabbled in before. The concept of the connected universe is not a new one now, but one built around a single character or mantle is quite an ambitious undertaking. From a business point of view, it also allows a wider net (web?) to be cast as it removes a lot of barriers of entry. A gamer who doesn’t watch films may be intrigued by the story weaved in the PS5 game or alternatively an action oriented film goer may be encouraged to pick up the controller to experience more about a story that piqued their interest. These are general, sweeping statements but the sentiment is that by creating this diverse web of stories and characters you create more options, as a business, to grow a community and fanbase. And I don’t believe the expectation will be that every Spidey fan will love every iteration; there will be those that love the games and hate Tom Hollands portrayal for example, and that is fine. But all the while the characters, universes and stories succeed, it allows for further opportunities as time goes on.

Something that can’t be denied, as I said at the start, is that its a great time to be a Spider-Man fan. For the older among us, we get to see our childhood versions on the big screen again while those of us fortunate enough to have a PS5 can enjoy the thrills of taking on the role of the Web-Head in two years time. We get to see new heroes and old villains rise and fall and iconic storylines (although no clone saga please) get reimagined for today’s audience. For every Spidey fan out there, we have a whole slate of films dedicated to the Wall-Crawler to hopefully see us through the next few years and this, surely, can’t be a bad thing right?

What do you think – do you have faith in Sony’s ability to pull all this off? Do you think that the coming years hold great things for Spider-Man or great disappointment? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! Until next time!

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An all round gamer, aspiring Pokemon master and someone trying to chronicle my hobby!

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