While the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) prepares to enter its Phase Four stage, there's a whole other superhero movie universe that's set to expand.
We're talking about Sony's Marvel Universe (SMU), which officially kicked off with the release of 2018's Venom. The Tom Hardy blockbuster introduced us to journalist Eddie Brock and his symbiotic alter-ego Venom, in a movie that defied critical consensus to gross more than $800 million worldwide.
Both the SMU and the Venom storyline are set to continue in Venom 2, which is officially known as Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The title refers to the feared villain who was introduced in the Venom mid-credits scene: psychopath Cletus Kasady, as played by Woody Harrelson.
Harrelson knows his way around a menacing character, having performed the feat in the likes of Natural Born Killers, Out Of The Furnace and War For The Planet Of The Apes. Given the violent nature of Carnage in the comic books, it remains to be seen how tough and gritty the Venom sequel will be.
In the director's chair is Andy Serkis, who replaces the first film's Ruben Fleischer. Serkis pioneered CGI motion-capture effects with Lord Of The Rings, King Kong and the aforementioned Apes movies, although it's unclear if Venom 2 will be utilising such technology to enhance the depiction of the titular symbiote.
Serkis, who has recently directed emotional drama Breathe and Jungle Book adaptation Mowgli, will be working with Saving Mr. Banks writer Kelly Marcel on the screenplay. Michelle Williams will reprise her role from the first movie as Brock's ex-wife, Anne Weying. And Moonlight's Naomie Harris will be appearing as Carnage's girlfriend, Shriek.
Behind the camera is noted cinematographer Robert Richardson, recently Oscar-nominated for his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He also worked with Serkis on Breathe, a moving true story about one man's battle with polio, starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy.
"I would say yes anyway to Andy Serkis just because I would say yes to Andy, but I also think [Venom] is unexplored yet, and it’s going to explode," Richardson told Collider.
"This film, I think, will help it explode, because you have a remarkable central character with Venom, but now you’ve got Woody Harrelson, who’s going to obviously make his own little entrance here. I look forward to it. It’s a massive change for me, but I’m excited. I think Hardy is one of our best. He never misses. I so look forward to sitting with him and watching him perform."
Not only does the Venom sequel have a title, but it also has a new release date. Originally scheduled for October 2020, it's now set to arrive on the 25th of June 2021. The film will trail the release of fellow SMU movie Morbius, which introduces Jared Leto as a doctor cursed to transform into a vampire. That film will arrive on the 19th of March.