Venom and the Proliferation of Movie Franchises

Ten years in the making,Venom is the latest movie in the Sony and Marvel collaboration to hit the big screens. But with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 33 per cent to match its $100 million budget, is this just another superhero flop? Starting as Timely Productions in 1939 and changing to its prolific contemporary branding  in 1961, Marvel has to date printed as many as 32,000 issues of numerous brands of superhero. Although infamous for its now 10-year reign of the box-office, it is Sony that started bringing the Marvel universe to the silver screen.

Starting the trend was X-Men (2000), with an 11 strong movie list in the franchise. This lays the benchmark with more and more of these franchise movies being released, specifically in the new superhero genre that has emerged over the last decade. In fact, since 2008, there have been 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) productions, with another four planned for release next year. Combine that with the aforementioned X-Men movies, six other Marvel franchises, and a further 11 DC movies and we total over 50 superhero movies by the end of 2019. Considering the budgets of the MCU movies are a combined $3.834 billion, is it really worth all the money?

The answer would seem to be yes, as the films gross billions of dollars. However, there have been a number of flops, with a lot of those mishaps being the Sony side of the franchises as opposed to the Marvel. This begs the question as to whether it was worth the risk for Sony to make Venom. Spider-Man finally entered the MCU last year in the form of now 22-year-old Tom Holland, with rave reviews for both the movie and the actor. When it was announced that one of Spider-Man’s most notorious enemies would have a stand-alone film, newer fans were undoubtedly excited for what this could mean for the franchise. Yet the more seasoned fans were less enthused — flashbacks of Topher Grace’s adaptation of Eddie Brock and his alter ego coming into their minds. Tom Hardy, another British actor to take on an American Marvel character, was, for some people, a strange choice to play Eddie Brock, the reporter turned anti-hero. The idea itself of a villain movie had raised questions, with the closest comparison of Deadpool (2016) meaning that there were high expectations to live up to. Fans questioned whether Holland, or any other incarnation of the web slinger would make an appearance in Venom, with no official casting of the character ever being released. The movie would, in fact, seem to step away as much as it can from the rest of the Marvel Universe and it could be argued that its definite placing in San Francisco could be to avoid the Marvel characters and the cost of Stark Tower making an appearance.

Venom could have been a great stepping stone into a whole new franchise of  movies, looking at superheroes from the villain’s point of view, whilst giving  the hated characters some much needed backstory and compassion that they rarely get in such films. It is often the case, in these franchise movies, that although the superhero or protagonist is given (some may say) too much backstory, any extra details of the villains are left to the comic book fans. Although Venom is able to provide much of this usually unseen story arc, the movie as a whole falls flat, as so many franchise films do. If we look farther afield from Marvel, but stick within the superhero genre, we only need to look as far as DC to see how easy it is for a movie to fail, specifically in the case of Green Lantern (2011) for example. With the movie only having been out for two days, it has already set itself up for a sequel, which will no doubt be made despite the reviews of the first instalment. It would be easy to question whether a franchise within a franchise within a franchise might be pushing the limits of superheroes, but it does not seem to be stopping or even slowing Sony down any time soon.

Image: Marvel Studios via Wikimedia Commons. 

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