Spider-Man is Sony Pictures' most valuable piece of intellectual property. Since 2016, the web-head has been used inside the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe after getting two solo franchises under Sony's umbrella alone. In many ways, nearly 20 years of Spidey films all culminated in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which grossed $1.89 billion at the global box office.
Beyond the coordination with Disney and Marvel Studios, Sony has expanded its film offerings using the full library of Spider-Man-related characters. The strategy has been fairly simple in that regard: take a Spider-Man villain or secondary character, cast a recognizable star, and hope for box office success.
The first entry in Sony's Spider-Man Universe was Venom, starring Tom Hardy, and it grossed an impressive $856 million worldwide. After this huge monetary success following the formula, they produced a sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Jared Leto's Morbius in 2022.
Another SSU project currently in pre-production is Madame Web, a somewhat obscure character from the comics who has normally been portrayed as an incredibly intelligent older woman with the gift of telepathy and clairvoyance.For Sony Pictures' upcoming film, Dakota Johnson has been cast in the lead role and Sydney Sweeney will join her.
Now, another upcoming actress has been added to the growing cast.
Spider-Man Spin-Off Gains New Cast Member
According to Deadline, Isabela Merced (Dora and the Lost City of Gold) has been cast in Sony Pictures' Madame Web. She'll join Dakota Johnson in the titular role and Sydney Sweeney in an unknown role. The film will be set within Sony's Spider-Man Universe and directed by S.J. Clarkson.
A recent description of Madame Web revealed that “the film will be an origin story of the clairvoyant [Madame Web], whose psychic abilities allow her to see within the spider world.”
Will Madame Web Have an Audience?
It is clear that Sony wants to cast a largely female cast full of up-and-coming stars. Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, and Isabela Merced are an impressive group of young talents that could draw an equally youthful audience.
Without the inclusion of Spider-Man, it will be interesting to see where they take this story. A common theory is that Sydney Sweeney may be playing a variant of Gwen Stacey, probably Spider-Gwen. Web's connection to spider people and the aforementioned "spider world" seems to be the focus of the film.
This opens up a lot of possibilities within the Multiverse for those specifically with spider-like abilities. Similar to Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, this film could see a collection of spider people (probably none being Spider-Man) face off against a greater evil.
No matter the plot, Sony needs to focus on creating a film that fans can get around. Jared Leto's Morbius was a critical and financial flop, a fiscal pass, and a continual meme amongst fans. The future of the SSU isn't clear, but in order to keep making money, Sony needs to produce enjoyable films for young audiences.
Madame Web hits theaters on July 7, 2023.