Well before 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool scored $783 million at the worldwide box office, fans were already asking if the Marvel Cinematic Universe had room for an R-rated superhero movie. The rating doesn’t inherently mean much, but it would signal at least a more mature and hard-edged take on the superhero genre, and there are certainly a number of fans that would turn out for such a film. But Marvel Studios is ultimately owned by Disney, which does not make R-rated movies, so the prospect of an R-rated MCU movie seemed improbable at best.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently addressed the potential for an R-rated MCU movie for what feels like the 10th or 11th time with Allocine, and while he’s definitely not confirming anything, he did leave some wiggle room should the occasion arise:
“I don’t think it’s out of the question. When I started at Marvel seventeen years ago, the Blade franchise was doing very well. A lot of people didn’t even know that it was based on a Marvel character because at the time they sort of hid the fact it was Marvel. So, not out of the question, but not something we’re working on right now,”
Again, Disney does not traditionally greenlight R-rated movies, and you have to go back to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger to find an MCU movie that made less than $500 million worldwide. Basically, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and the MCU is far from broken—why risk alienating parents who see these movies as appropriate for almost all ages? From a creative standpoint I’d definitely be interested in seeing what an R-rated Marvel movie looks like, but at this point in time it doesn’t make enough business sense for Disney to risk it. Moreover, it’s not like the MCU is going to suddenly churn out a film as gritty, dramatic, and intimate-stakes oriented as Logan anytime soon—although an R-rated film on the scale of, say, Guardians of the Galaxy would be pretty neat.
But there is another R-rated superhero movie in the offing that has fans curious, and that’s Venom. Sony Pictures owns the rights to the Spider-Man property and all of its characters, and while Sony and Marvel are currently in a deal that sees them sharing the character of Peter Parker, Sony is also moving ahead with Spider-Man movies of its own without Marvel’s involvement—and that includes Venom.
When asked by Allocine if Venom might pop up in the MCU, Feige had this to say:
“For now, there is no plan for Venom in the MCU. It’s a Sony Project.”
Would Feige and Marvel Studios love to have the Venom character in the MCU fold? No doubt. But Sony still maintains the rights to those characters and seems keen on forging that path on its own. They recently nabbed Tom Hardy to star in Venom with Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad) directing, and the R-rated film is intended to kick off Sony’s “Marvel Universe”—which is a universe of Marvel Comics characters that Sony owns and Marvel Studios does not. Venom will be followed by the female-fronted Silver & Black, which has Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) directing a team-up movie featuring Black Cat and Silver Sable.
If these plans don’t work out it’s possible Sony reaches across the aisle and brings Marvel into the fold on all of its Marvel Comics properties, but I doubt it. The Spider-Man relationship is beneficial to both parties in that Marvel Studios gets to use Parker in the MCU movies and Sony gets to use what will hopefully be positive clout from Spider-Man: Homecoming to get folks interested in Venom and Silver & Black, even though these movies won’t technically be connected to Homecoming and certainly won’t have the same Marvel Studios creative oversight.