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Sony missed its chance to steal the MCU’s thunder

Published Feb 16th, 2024 4:31PM EST
Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney) in Madame Web.
Image: Sony Pictures

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Last May, I penned a piece about Sony’s Spider-Man Universe that has sadly aged like milk. I genuinely believed that Sony had a chance to take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that was months before The Marvels tanked at the box office. All the studio needed to do was string together a few hits to prove that Marvel was not the only game in town. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse proceeded to nearly double the box office take of its predecessor while receiving rave reviews across the board. Everything was falling into place.

And then Madame Web happened.

When I said the SSU had a chance to transcend the MCU, I had obviously yet to see the trailer for Madame Web. If I had known what an absolute mess this film was going to be nine months ago, I wouldn’t have been so optimistic about the SSU’s future:

Admittedly, I still have not seen Madame Web, so I don’t have any of my own opinions to share. But what I do know is that the Spider-Man spinoff is currently sitting at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is somehow even lower than the score for Morbius.

As I said last year, Sony does not need its own Avengers: Endgame. Heck, it doesn’t even need Iron Man. Just a few competent origin stories and standalone superhero adventures would have been enough. Instead, here’s what people are saying about Madame Web:

  • “God-awful is too wimpy a word for this superdiva cash grab that sinks Dakota Johnson in what feels like a random batch of half-baked ideas tossed at the screen in the cynical assumption that we’ll buy any lazy hack-work that is Spider-Man adjacent.” – Peter Travers, ABC News
  • “Dakota Johnson’s Spidey-adjacent misadventure — about a paramedic with arachnid-based psychic powers — is the ‘Cats’ of superhero movies.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone
  • “Madame Web is the kind of bad you don’t see that often in the modern age of machine-tooled, quality-controlled superhero fare.” – A.A. Dowd, Digital Trends

Not only is it an unmitigated disaster critically, but it’s also tracking to earn just $26.8 million at the box office over its opening weekend. By comparison, The Marvels made $47 million on its opening weekend and ended its theatrical run as the lowest-grossing movie in MCU history. Madame Web had a much smaller budget but might still lose money.

We’re four movies into the SSU (Venom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Morbius, and Madame Web), and each new release has made substantially less money than the last. Venom didn’t win over critics, but it made a whopping $856 million worldwide. Its sequel dropped to $506 million, Morbius made $167 million, and Madame Web might not reach $150 million.

Sony has no idea what to do with these characters. Audiences have caught on to that fact, and convincing them to spend $12 on a ticket is a challenge. At this point, I have no idea how Sony turns this ship around without committing to a full reboot à la James Gunn’s DC.

After all, the future doesn’t look much brighter. Kraven the Hunter has been in the can since mid-2022, but a series of delays have pushed it all the way to August 30, 2024. The trailer isn’t nearly as concerning as Madame Web’s, but how many chances does Sony get?

The other two SSU movies on the docket were Venom 3 and El Muerto, but it’s not clear if the latter is even happening anymore. Sony pulled El Muerto from its release schedule in June, and not long after, Bad Bunny — who was set to be the star of the movie — seemingly confirmed in an interview that he was no longer attached to the project at all.

Meanwhile, Marvel has a chance to right its wrongs this summer with the release of Deadpool & Wolverine, which will undoubtedly make a killing. Just days after debuting the Deadpool 3 trailer during the Super Bowl, Marvel also finally revealed the cast of The Fantastic Four. The window for Sony to make a move might have already closed.

I’m honestly not sure where Sony’s Spider-Man Universe goes from here. If audiences aren’t even willing to give these live-action, “Spidey-adjacent” movies the benefit of the doubt, why not just stick with the animated films and video games that actually work?

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.