Over the next twelve months, there are a whopping nine superhero movies coming from four different studios, a new record from the industry. But while there are reasons to get excited for Earth's Mightiest Heroes and X-Men in space, the studio whose output you should be most amped for is - somewhat unexpectedly - Sony and it's expansion of the Spider-Man property.
As it stands, the King of the hype machine is Marvel, who continue from a record-breaking 2017 with three major releases: in February they have their first person-of-color led movie Black Panther, then in May is the start of the epic, two-part culmination Avengers: Infinity War, and finally in July Ant-Man and the Wasp will offer some more classical, family-focused heroics. Matching them in terms of output is Fox, who are going all out in their recent bid for alternative movies: horror New Mutants in April, R-rated comedy Deadpool 2 in June, and cosmic redo X-Men: Dark Phoenix in November. And, of course, DC will be making a show with Aquaman in December.
Then there's Sony, who aside from loaning out Spider-Man for Infinity War have two solo-produced releases: Venom and Into the Spider-Verse. Of course, as both are coming in the later months (October and December, respectively) and only one has begun any form of marketing (and that was just an announcement trailer), there's currently comparably little hype for these. That's doubly true because of who's producing; Sony's been on the backfoot in terms of superheroes for well over a decade. They struck gold early on with Sam Raimi's Spider-Mans 1 & 2, but since then have been blinded by corporate greed or reactionary to outside trends; The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted to keep the rights, then a sequel tried to set up an entire universe of spinoffs but failed so badly the entire thing was scrapped and the character moved over to the MCU. Even after Fox delivered X-Men Origins: Wolverine and DC spiraled ever downwards with the Justice League series, Sony's tact has remained the low-bar for the genre.
But they seem to have learned from their mistakes, diversifying the output and taking chances. Here's how 2018 could be the year of the alternative Spider-Men.
What Makes Sony's 2018 Spider-Man Films So Exciting? (This Page)
Tom Hardy's Venom Hasn't Put A Foot Wrong
The prospect of a Venom movie has been around for years. It was one of the first Amazing spinoffs announced (along with Sinister Six), and even after the Marvel deal brought most of that crashing down, rumors abounded it was still on cards. In 2017, it was confirmed it was indeed going to happen, with Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner (whose last film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, made over $500 million) and an incredibly close release date of October 5, 2018 (it was a little over 19 months at the time). After everything that had happened prior, it felt as if Sony had tasted the return of Spidey success from Civil War and rushed to double down. Things did not look good.
And then they cast Tom Hardy.
No casting in recent memory has had quite a fundamental shift on the perception of a project as Hardy as Eddie Brock. Because of the actor's general discerning approach to his roles - even if the movies aren't hits, there's a clear depth to the characters he plays - all of a sudden Venom gained legitimacy. This wasn't a run-and-gun brand exercise, but a deep, brutal character piece. The later additions of Riz Ahmed, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Williams only further sealed the deal. Add on the flair of Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer and an R-rating and it ticks a shocking number of boxes. Whether it can deliver is another matter, but the hype is real - all thanks to Tom.
The move also reshaped the perception of the wider spin-off enterprise. Sony has always wanted to pivot into Spider-Man-lite rogue gallery movies, and are speeding ahead with Silver & Black following up Venom in 2019, and projects for three other characters all in stages of development. It's quite clearly planning too far ahead - see also: the DCEU, the Dark Universe - but that the creative angle on Venom appears to be somewhat about quality cultivates excitement for the rest regardless of how they end connecting to each other or the MCU.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Moves The Brand Beyond Peter Parker
We've known about the Animated Spider-Man film since 2014, but despite some very smart casting - Shameik Moore as Miles Morales, Mahershala Ali as Prowler - it's not really been on anybody's radar. That's the curse of animation - everyone loves it, but it's oh-so-easy to create something utterly forgettable. Fortunately for Miles, this film was written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. While the duo may have become controversial in the past year after being fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story, there's no denying their energetic approach to screenwriting, seen best in their directorial efforts Jump Street and, of course, The LEGO Movie. That latter masterwork appears to be the reason they're here, and from the trailer they've come over to the Marvel world successfully.
That teaser did for Spider-Verse was Hardy did for Venom. With eye-popping visuals and an art style at once fluid and comic-inspired, it felt wholly unique in a well-defined genre. We still know very little about what the film entails beyond the presence of multiple Spider-Men, and so making declarations beyond hype are tricky, but the potential for this one is massive. After all, while animation is well-revered in terms of comic book adaptations, there's not been many high-profile, wide release cases; the most "recent" is The Incredibles, which was an original idea and came out fourteen years ago.
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