In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT! We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes.
Welcome to the second half of my dive into the unmade cinematic adventures of Spidey and his amazing f(r)iends! This week, I’m taking a look at the unmade spin-offs. Get ready for lots of baddies and a couple of Marvel’s toughest ladies in this round.
The many Venoms: New Line’s Venom, Topher Grace’s spin-off, & Venom Carnage
What If?: The road to finally seeing Venom on the big screen was a rocky one. Even before he appeared in Spider-Man 3 and his own solo film, there were attempts to bring everyone’s favorite Symbiote to life, but most of them didn’t get very far.
The first of these came in 1997. While details were scarce, David S. Goyer was hired by New Line Cinema to draft a screenplay for a Venom movie. According to Goyer, the studio was circling Dolph Lundgren to star and the film may have featured Carnage as the lead villain. However, for undisclosed reasons, the film ended up not being made and the rights to Spider-Man and related characters were bought up by Sony Pictures, leading to the Raimi trilogy.
Which brings us to our next near-miss Venom adaptation. Following Spider-Man 3, Sony was interested in spinning off Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock into his own film. Never mind the fact that Eddie and his suit were straight-up vaporized in the final battle of Spider-Man 3, they still wanted to make it work. They hired the team of Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (the duo who would go on to write Deadpool and its sequel together) to write the film, following a pitch that has been described as “realistic” and “grounded,” not at all the words that spring to mind when an alien symbiote is concerned.
The final of these attempts was the terribly-named Venom Carnage. If you thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a bad title, at least that one didn’t sound like the name of the world’s worst monster truck rally. The oddest thing about Venom Carnage is that it was meant to be a story focusing solely on Venom as the main character, even though it was being developed by Sony around the same time The Amazing Spider-Man came out.
It started development under the title Venom, during which time directors such as Josh Trank and Gary Ross were attached at some point or another. Eventually, Sony hired Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Ed Solomon to write the screenplay, with Kurtzman being tapped to direct as well. The plan was to release the film sometime after The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which obviously never came to be (see Part One of this retrospective for some of the details on that unmade flick).
Why not?: Quite frankly, I’m one of those fuddy duddies who doesn’t understand the appeal of a Venom origin story that is completely divorced from Spider-Man (which we still eventually got, anyway). Even acknowledging how woefully miscast and poorly-written Spider-Man 3‘s Venom was, he still at least had the core of the character there, with the themes of abandonment and a general hatred toward Peter Parker driving him. In other words, it would have been interesting to see how the Raimi Venom would have evolved in a future film. It may not have been good, but it’s still something I’d be curious about.
As for the others? There’s one good reason why I’m glad Goyer’s Venom didn’t happen: Blade, baby. There’s a possibility that, in the days before superhero films were a bankable idea, New Line might not have put all their chips on a Blade adaptation after investing in a Venom film. It’s not really acknowledged as often as it should be, but Blade really changed things for comic book films, showing that they could be dark and gritty, but still goofy as hell and … well, comic-booky. In a lot of ways, that first Blade movie paved the way for the future of comic book adaptations. For that alone, it’s a good thing Venom didn’t move forward the year before Blade would have gone in front of the camera.
With Venom Carnage, there’s just not that much information. The most damning thing against it, unfortunately, is that the talent behind it was also responsible for writing The Amazing Spider-Man films. If you dig those, then there’s a chance this could have been your cup of tea. Also, given the fact that Sony eventually made a Spider-Man-less Venom film, this one probably wouldn’t have hurt or delayed Spidey’s eventual emergence in the MCU.
What If?: Remember the Gentleman? You know, the guy who kept showing up in both of The Amazing Spider-Man movies to talk vaguely about “the truth” about Peter Parker and who seemed to own all of the sweet gadgets belonging to villains who didn’t exists yet? Yeah, that guy sucked. But it was all supposedly leading to this spin-off movie. No, not anything that would pay off in the main Spidey flicks. We were going to get a movie where six of Spidey’s villains hang out and … do stuff in a sinister fashion.
Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard was set to direct the film, departing his position as showrunner of the Netflix Daredevil series before its premiere to take this gig. Not only that, but he passed on directing The Martian (for which he wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay) in order to helm Sinister Six. Basically, at some point, this flick seemed like a sure thing.
This movie was confusingly described as a redemption story for the villains. This would seem to be an impossible feat, considering most of the villains hadn’t actually been introduced in the Amazing Spider-Man universe and therefore would seem to have no attachment to Spider-Man, adversarial or otherwise. Oh, and Spider-Man apparently wouldn’t have made an appearance in this film, adding to the question: what would the point have been?
Following Sony’s deal with Marvel, which allowed Spidey to exist in the MCU proper, there was talk of reviving the project and retooling Goddard’s script to tie into the new Spider-Man continuity. As of 2017, nothing seems to have come of this project.
Why not?: I think Suicide Squad may give us a clear look at why a film starring villains who haven’t appeared elsewhere wouldn’t work. It’s a little difficult to understand how we can see a redemptive arc for Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, considering we haven’t seen them go up against the webslinger. And again, Spider-Man was apparently excluded from this flick, so it’s not like we could have even gotten the barest of baselines for the villains’ dynamics with our hero. The whole thing just sounds like a misguided idea.
That being said, this could have been a neat chance to see some B-list villains who may not have been able to carry their own movie, especially if the film switched up the classic Sinister Six lineup as planned. I mean, as rad as the Scorpion is, can you imagine a movie where he’s the sole villain? While it’s probably okay that we missed out on this one, it would certainly have been an interesting experiment.
Silver & Black (and Aunt May?)
What If?: Following some hilarious rumors that Sony was interested in developing a spin-off featuring a young Aunt May (presumably the one from The Amazing Spider-Man universe), Sony clarified in 2017 that they were interested in pursuing more adult-oriented spin-offs utilizing Spidey’s supporting cast, much like their in-development Venom film.
While it’s not clear if the Aunt May rumors had any truth to them, Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man‘s Aunt May) even balked at the idea, asking, “What would you do with her?” So it’s likely that this never was discussed in any official capacity.
So, the plan was to follow up the Tom Hardy-starring Venom with a movie featuring Black Cat and Silver Sable. Comic book and film writer Christopher Yost was tapped to draft a screenplay. The film, titled Silver & Black, was set to be helmed by Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood, with production meant to start in spring of 2018. However, following some problems cracking the screenplay, production was delayed indefinitely, then finally cancelled.
The current plan seems to be to retool the screenplay into a solo Black Cat film, but details on that project continue to be somewhat scarce.
Why not?: Honestly, of all of the unmade projects I’ve discussed here today, this is the one that I most wish had been made. It could have been a fun way to introduce the two characters to film audiences. Sable’s status as a lead character would be huge for a character that is normally used in a supporting role and could have given the film a fun, globe-trotting, Bond-esque feel to it. Yost was an interesting choice, mainly because of his hand in introducing the character of X-23 to the X-Men canon. Basically, the guy knows how to write capable female characters without oversexualizing them, which is very important when bringing a character like Felicia Hardy to the big screen.
Overall, this could have been a real blast, and it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see it. Then again, if the script just wasn’t working, then maybe we were spared a weak cinematic introduction to Black Cat and Silver Sable. Hopefully the eventual Black Cat film will do her character justice and this will just be one of those false starts that no one remembers.
And that does it for the Spider-Verse’s unrealized live action capers! Which ones would you like to have seen? Which ones are you glad we never saw! Let me know in the comments!
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