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It's Time To Talk About The Future Of Sony's Spider-Man Universe

Marvel fans are living in a truly unprecedented time right now, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to thrive and grow. The MCU's past achievements are now the stuff of legend, and the franchise continues pushing into new, more cosmic reaches with both "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

However, the MCU is not the only Marvel Universe in town, because Sony also has its own stable of Spider-Man-adjacent characters that it's bringing to life on the big screen. Long story short, this all comes down to Sony buying the rights to the wallcrawler, his villains, and other supporting characters during Marvel's financial rough patch in the 1990s, and while Sony and Marvel Studios do have a unique partnership that keeps Tom Holland's Peter Parker in the MCU, it's clear that Sony also wants its own universe to play with — a universe that, so far, includes "Venom" and "Morbius," with "Madame Web" and "Kraven the Hunter" on the way.

However, this dark, grungy universe is rough around the edges. Jared Leto's "Morbius" recently earned itself a dire 16% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch. The scathing reviews didn't initially stop audiences from heading to theaters, as the Living Vampire has already scooped up over $100 million worldwide (via Forbes) against a $75 million budget, but the movie's second Friday saw a record attendance drop of 83% (also per Forbes), which clearly bodes poorly for reception. 

Sony's Spider-Man universe is headed down the wrong path. Going forward, Sony needs to adjust its gameplan for future solo movies and the inevitable "Sinister Six." That's going to involve making good movies before crossovers, and when crossovers do happen (particularly involving a certain friendly neighborhood superhero), ensuring they actually make sense. 

Sony's Spider-Man universe should keep it simple

Although "Morbius" hasn't been well received by critics, there is a solid idea underneath the muddled storyline and bizarre post-credits scenes: Michael Morbius grapples with his own terminal blood disorder, but the cure he creates comes with the devastating consequence of becoming a vampire. Fate's a fickle thing. Unfortunately, Sony's desire to rush a "Sinister Six" movie off the ground means that by the post-credits scenes, they've already wedged Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes (aka the Vulture) into this universe. This occurs when Toomes is (inexplicably) transported into the Venom-verse as a result of Doctor Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) spell at the end of "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Keaton returning to play Vulture should be tantalizing after his brilliant performance in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," but Sony's approach renders it completely bewildering, instead. In "Morbius," when the vampire meets Vulture in the desert, the winged villain suggests that they team up to "do some good." What does he mean, though? It makes no sense why Toomes suddenly wants to be a "good" man or team up with Morbius. Until now, his only motivation has been providing for his family (in his home universe). We can assume that Toomes probably got the idea for a team from the Avengers in his universe, but this isn't clarified.

The studio is already working on their next chapter with "Kraven the Hunter," led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Right now, Sony needs to focus on telling a good story with Kraven, rather than using it as a "Sinister Six" stepping stone. Keeping the story (and the wider universe) simple will go a long way to making these movies more interesting. Sure, "Kraven" can nod to other characters in the same world, but Vulture's arrival in "Morbius" just made Sony's approach feel cheap.

Vulture should be the driving force of the shared narrative, but his actions need to be logical

Obviously, it's always great to see Michael Keaton on the big screen — and hopefully he'll get to add new layers to Vulture in future appearances, acting like a villainous Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for Sony's bad guys and antiheroes. But let's face it, recruiting the "Beetlejuice" and "Batman" star for this universe should be a much bigger deal than it is right now. 

One way of fixing this is to make Keaton the driving force of the franchise and its connective tissue. Let's not forget that Toomes' family are in a completely different universe, finding a route home to them could — and should — be his story arc in the SSU. 

The building blocks for the story are already there, because who else has experience crossing over into different realities? Venom and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). At the end of "Let There Be Carnage," the symbiote tells Eddie that he knows all about the multiverse, before the dynamic duo are yanked into the MCU by a blinding white light — only to get sent back home, thanks to Strange's spell at the end of "No Way Home." There's some legwork to do in Vulture finding out about Venom's multiverse adventure, but it would make way more sense for Toomes to pursue Brock than Morbius. Meanwhile, there's also the impending arrival of Dakota Johnson as the titular mystic in "Madame Web," a character known for her multiverse connections.

Giving Vulture a compelling, tragic reason for assembling the Sinister Six would make a lot more sense than him banding people together to "do some good."

When crossovers do finally get going, there needs to be a Spider-Man at the center of it

But what about the Spider-Man of it all? 

It's still not completely clear whether Spidey exists in Sony's universe or not, although he clearly did in an earlier cut of the film, because of the "murderer" graffiti seen in the early "Morbius" trailers — but that scene isn't in the theatrical cut at all. Vulture briefly references his Spider-Man in the post-credits, but that's the only mention of the wallcrawler. 

Let's face it, it's weird to have a whole universe of Spider-Man-adjacent characters without actually having a Spider-Man. And to solve this, Sony should bring Andrew Garfield back (again).

After "No Way Home," fans clearly want to see more from Garfield's "Amazing" webslinger. His edgier take on Peter Parker would fit perfectly next to antiheroes like Venom and Morbius. Besides, remember how he tells his fellow Spiders that he stopped pulling his punches after Gwen Stacy's (Emma Stone) death in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2?" There's an easy explanation for the "murderer" graffiti that got cut from "Morbius." Bringing Garfield back wouldn't magically fix the issues in Sony's superhero universe, and there's some work to be done to make Spidey's return feel worthwhile. Nevertheless, it'd be incredibly crowd-pleasing.

Although "Morbius" is disappointing, Sony clearly knows how to make hit movies, as "Venom" and its sequel prove. However, the studio needs to stop racing to catch up to the MCU when it should instead lean hard into what audiences love about the symbiote's movies — wacky, bizarre humor with a tinge of edgy action and horror. Let's hope "Kraven the Hunter" and "Madame Web" push Sony's Spider-Man universe to greater heights.