For all the talk I’ve done about movie and television adaptations of video games and comic books needing to show some kind of reverence to their source material, the Sony line of Spider-Man spinoff movies are in a unique position where they really can’t be as true to the source material as they need to be.
Thanks to the unique relationship struck up between Disney and Sony and their shared ownership of Tom Holand the the Spider-Man character as a movie property, Sony have created their own pocket Spider-verse, one that primarily seems to focus on Spider-Man’s substantial rogues gallery.
So we find ourselves in a position where villains are getting their own movies now. Which is an odd thing to do considering these movies still need to be suitable for audiences of varied ages and the nature of many of the characters that Spider-Man coming up against are reprehensible murderers and criminals.
The problem with this, many of these characters find their origins intrinsically tied to the character of Spider-Man himself, a character that Sony can’t really use in their movies outside of the possible brief cameo. So how do they solve this problem when they have to keep making movies to justify their dogged clinging to the property they acquired so many years ago.
Thus we find ourselves with a movie like Venom, that ends up having very little to do with the character’s actual origin or basis in the comic books. You might be wondering why I’m talking about this now. With the recent reveal of the Morbius trailer, I felt like I should probably get around to seeing the movie that preceded it.
And so, I only got around to seeing Venom for the first time a few weeks ago, and like many other people who saw the movie, I found myself thinking that the movie stunk of something made over a decade ago, in the days before the first Iron Man.
From a time where studios had little to no faith in utilising the material that was already there for them to utilise. Probably because they were too apprehensive about how audiences would respond to the inherently campy aspects of the characters, as well as intimidated by the deep lore and depth to the characters that came from decades of stories being published about them on a weekly basis.
While things really have changed since then, in no small part due to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony simply doesn’t have the freedom of creativity and forethought to be as ambitiously creative and expansive with their upcoming movies based on the ownership of properties they do have.
Venom seems like a relic of the mid 2000s, not because the studio is coming at the properties with a tired, out of touch board with a lack of respect for their audience’s intelligence. Although I’m sure there is still some element of that present in there. It’s creative factors holding them back. But with how good Spiderverse was, I’m sure Sony is more than capable of making movies on par with that of the MCU.
As of right now, we have one example of them doing it very well, and another of them doing like Venom. A movie they wanted to make for a long time, but simply couldn’t considering how inherently tied both the Symbiote and Eddie Brock’s eventual transformation into Venom. Thus we have a movie that ends up having very little to do with the source material, which mostly only ends up working because it gets dragged along by Tom Hardy’s performance as both Eddie and the Symbiote.
It’s a weird situation, had Sony picked nearly any other character then they’d have had a much better shot at getting the character and their origin much closer to the comic book source. Which is why Morbius is actually the perfect movie for them to go forward with. It’s a character nowhere near as well known as Venom is, and thus they are much freer to get creative with the lore of the character as he appears in the comic books.
It might seem kind of obvious, but how much I respond to faithfulness or disregard of the source material is directly related to how much I care about and know about the material in question. But does it ultimately matter? Well, it really depends. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie didn’t really have a fat lot to do with the character seen in the video games, but that didn’t bother me because it was a children’s movie.
Venom doesn’t bother me as much because I understand there were particular circumstances that mean they can’t simply tell the story as it was in the comics. But then we get the likes of the upcoming Monster Hunter movie, which seems to throw the original premise of the games out of the window entirely for the likes of making what is essentially a very weird Japanese video game into a easily digestible fantasy movie which has little to do with the material it’s based on.
Might the movie be entertaining regardless of that? It’s certainly possible, Sonic managed it. But looking at Resident Evil as a basis for what this director and star are going to produce, well, it’s not hard to guess where it’ll end up. In the end though, you don’t necessarily need to follow a property’s source material to show it respect.
There’s a line between doing something new and creative with a property while showing it the respect it deserves as something you thought enough about to use as source material, and just taking a name and slapping it onto a super generic, box cutter style narrative that could be interchangeable with a dozen other properties and hardly be noticeable as being any different.