I had my suspicions about a "Venom" movie without Spider-Man. It's like doing a whole movie about Joker without Batman - crazy idea, right? But I think one of the best part about the general success of the blockbuster comic book movies is that filmmakers are getting more comfortable trying new things and exploring more obscure titles. Sony may have relented to partner with the MCU on Spider-Man, but they are holding tight to Venom and apparently trying to use this movie to launch their own shared universe, because why not?
I think we sometimes forget just how unlikely it was that the MCU would ever be so successful. There was very real speculation somewhere in Phase 2 that the market would be saturated with comic book movies or that as the franchise slogged on with increasingly obscure titles people would eventually get tired. This never really happened with the MCU, which seems to have settled on its money-printing formula. But other franchises were not so lucky. By 2019, "Spider-Man" had already made it through two iterations before succumbing to the MCU and now the "X-Men" franchise was on its last legs. "Apocalypse" had dramatically underperformed and, true to actual comics lore, the universe's timeline had become convoluted. There were still plans to keep this film universe going, but they hinged on "Dark Phoenix" being successful.
The X-Men franchise is a bit unpredictable. Unlike the MCU, which discovered a formula to keep even its worst installments from being truly terrible, the X-Men movies run the gamut from the spectacular to the spectacularly bad, sometimes one right after the other. After using "First Class" to reset the franchise and "Days of Future Past" to reset the timeline and erase past mistakes, the X-Men were once again on top, only to once again create a movie that was absolutely... fine? I guess?
If you're going to adapt one of the iconic story lines of a comic series, you want to get it just right. In the case of the X-Men franchise, that doesn't always happen (we have talked about Dark Phoenix once already, and we will get there again. Oh, and Apocalypse is coming too. Be patient.) In the case of "Days of Future Past", based on the comic run of the same title, X-Men nailed it.
By 2011 the comic book movie age was in full swing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had found its footing with two Iron Man movies and "The Incredible Hulk" already in the books, and both "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on their way. The MCU had teased their ambitious ensemble "The Avengers" to audiences that ranged from excited to skeptical. On the DC side, Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" had paved the way for "The Dark Knight", a movie that promised to change the game as far as comic book films were concerned. But X-Men movies had been coming out for a decade, and this was one of the first comic book film franchises to truly stumble. "X-Men: The Last Stand" was still considered a laughingstock, and the only "Origins" movie was so middling that the planned series had been largely abandoned. Instead, it was up to "X-Men: First Class" to relaunch the series, bringing familiar characters back along with some new ones in a sort of prequel that vaguely connects back to the original trilogy's timeline (calm down, we'll get there). Rebooting a franchise to prove that there is still life in it isn't easy (I'm looking at you, "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Fantastic Four"), so how does "First Class" do?