It was announced last week that Sony was taking another stab at this whole "cinematic universe" thing, only this time, they're backing a different wall-crawling comic book character: Venom. An R-rated Venom film is supposedly in the works and the plan is that it will launch Sony's own Marvel Cinematic Universe, using Spider-Man side characters that will be completely unconnected to the MCU's continuity. So far, this has failed to enthuse many people beyond a curious raise of the brow, but Sony seems serious about making Venom the center of... whatever this is. But is that a good thing?
Apart from divorcing Venom from Spider-Man (an ill-advised move, for sure), this new movie would likely take Venom off the board for the MCU as well; It doesn't make much sense to have two different version of the same character confusing audiences, so don't look for him to be part of the planned Spider-Man sequels. However, taking Venom away from the MCU cripples his chances at success, and takes him away from what should be his strongest ally. These are the reasons why Venom can't succeed without the MCU in his corner.
Venom Can't Carry A Cinematic Universe
To create a cinematic universe, you need enough material to fill in, well, a universe. The MCU, DCEU, MonsterVerse, and even the Transformers universe have more than enough characters and stories to provide a wealth of movies for years to come. Venom is just one character, and he doesn't exactly come attached with a memorable cast of friends and enemies that are exclusively his. He's a symbiotic monster who has a revenge boner, and even from his lethal protector days, there is just not enough here to work with to support multiple slates of films. True, we don't know who else will be in this Sony-verse helping to bear the load, but Venom by himself is certainly not enough.
You Need Spider-Man For Venom's Origins
This one seems obvious, but apparently not to Sony; you can't have Venom without Spider-Man. Venom's whole identity is based on Spider-Man -- his powers, his look, his whole shtick come from Spider-Man. Sony can easily tinker with Venom's backstory so that it doesn't involve Spider-Man (he's an alien parasite that controls his host to do bad things, done), but then they have to explain why this character can shoot webs and crawl on walls just like that other more famous character. Plus, Venom is at his best when fighting Spidey or when his hosts have a connection to him. Venom's whole persona is based on someone else, which also contributes to my next point.
Venom Doesn't Have Solo Appeal
Venom is a popular Spider-Man villain, but he's hardly the deepest. In fact, he might be one of the most shallow. Venom's main strengths are that he's a menacing figure, has powers that surpass Spider-Man, and his pure hatred for Spidey keeps him coming back for more, no matter who he's possessing (usually). But that hate is really all there is, and while Venom got a LOT of attention in the 90's for his look and anti-hero ways, it's not the 90's anymore. While one Venom movie may be fun to watch, the character doesn't have a lasting enough appeal to warrant multiple sequels. What you see is really what you get, and the character would be better used sparingly in a larger MCU-sized sandbox. Sure, Venom could show up in Spider-Man movies, but why stop there? Give the symbiote a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, or have a familiar character become the new Venom. Wouldn't it be cool to see symbiote versions of the Avengers or the Guardians? Simply put, Venom isn't the draw.
Not Even Marvel Comics Knows What To Do With Venom
Venom's struggle as a lethal protector got him through the 90's, but when readers grew up/got smarter, Marvel realized that the symbiotic monster was in need of a redo. So, the symbiote ditched original host Eddie Brock (who Marvel also hasn't been able to figure out what to do with) and found a new boy toy. And then another. Both of these characters, despite being different people, were largely the same, so the symbiote joined with Flash Thompson and became a full on good guy doing missions for the army. Then he went to space for a while and became a "space knight." Now, he's back on Earth with a new host and is sort of evil again. While every character gets a shakeup now and again, it's never this drastically or frequently, as Venom does total 180-degree spins to stay relevant. It's not a good thing that Marvel Comics continually has to find a new angle to refresh Venom. And this is the character Sony wants to jumpstart a whole cinematic universe? Comics are comics, but once that first Venom comes out, we're stuck with it. It might be time to go back to the drawing board.