Sony is desperate to create a shared cinematic universe to call their own. While Spider-Man is off web-swinging in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony has been slowly teasing (or punishing) us with information on their own plans for an interconnected universe using the Marvel Comics characters they still hold the film rights to. Venom was released back in 2018 to mixed reviews, but was a huge box office success. Currently, two more Marvel films from Sony are in post-production and slated for release: Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius.
Additionally, Sony has a number of films in various stages of development as of 2021. Madame Web, Kraven the Hunter, The Sinister Six, and untitled projects from Roberto Orci and Olivia Wilde are being planned to help expand the shared universe that began with Venom. It is currently unknown if these films will feature Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, a different iteration of the character, or no Spider-Man at all. Venom altered the character’s background from the comics to make him unconnected to Spider-Man. It is possible that the same could be done for the above projects. However, it is hard to imagine films focused on Madame Web or The Sinister Six without mentioning Spider-Man. Luckily, there is one more character that has a film adaptation in the works that would be Sony’s best shot at a successful superhero solo movie: Jackpot.
Jackpot has been the alias of two different females – Sara Ehret and Alana Jobson. Ehret was an employee at Phelcorp (a subsidiary of Oscorp), who worked on “gene therapy to cure Parkinson’s disease when she is accidentally exposed to Lot 777. The virus rewrote the DNA in her cells leaving her in a coma for four months. After coming out of her coma she displayed superhuman strength.” Ehret eventually retired and the mantle passed on to Jobson, who, in addition to super-strength, was a dramatic gymnast with increased stamina and minor invulnerability to injury. Jobson was eventually killed in action, and Ehret returned to take up the alias of Jackpot.
Jackpot has never been adapted onscreen before. This is a character priming with endless potential. There are no previous adaptations that fans will compare Sony’s upcoming film to. As we’ve seen with previous adaptations of Marvel’s more well-known characters, fans are quick to pick apart differences between portrayals and what Tom Holland’s Spider-Man still lacks from the comic version. But with Jackpot’s relative obscurity, this means that the film can make minor tweaks to the character’s background without causing a fan uproar. It’s a chance to write a truly compelling narrative with a female superhero without worry about upsetting the fanbase.
A Smaller Budget
Marc Guggenheim, who co-developed and wrote the DC superhero series Arrow, has been hired to write the script. I think Guggenheim is a great choice because his past work adapting superheroes to the small screen will allow him to be conscious of the film’s budget when writing fight scenes. Arrow had a much smaller budget than the 200-million-dollar superhero blockbusters, but still managed to include some memorable scenes.
Jackpot’s powers ensures that the film does not need a large budget. Somewhere in the area of $50 to $80 million would work just fine. Super strength and stamina are easy enough powers to replicate onscreen without the need for fancy special effects. A smaller budget will also give Sony a better chance at turning a profit and should hopefully allow the director to retain more control over the final cut of the film.
Strong Female Protagonist
Sara Ehret is a working mother raising a newborn child. This type of superhero has not been seen onscreen yet. After the critical and box office successes of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, fans have shown studios that there is an interest in female-led superhero movies. The fact that Sony is developing a Madame Web movie shows that they probably don’t have too many female Marvel characters at their disposal that can warrant their own feature film. Jackpot would also add some much needed diversity in Sony’s Marvel Universe.
Standalone, But Connected
One major issue I have with the recent Spider-Man films is that they make way too many references to the larger MCU at every chance. The first Morbius trailer also featured a lot of *wink-wink* moments reminding fans that “hey, maybe this will be set in the MCU.” I don’t need any of that in a superhero film. Jackpot can tell a standalone story that just so happens to also be set in the universe established with Venom.
Standalone superhero films work at their best when they tone down the connective tissue and focus on telling a good story first. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Amazing Spider-Man are two recent examples when a superhero film attempted to set up a whole slate of other movies instead of focusing on the story at hand. All Jackpot needs to be concerned about is telling a compelling story about a crime-fighting mother. I know Ehret works at at a subsidiary of Oscorp, so by all means you can namedrop Oscorp or even Norman Osborn, but don’t show his face. There is no need to shoehorn any Spider-Man characters into the plot for the sake of “boosting the potential box office”. Trust in your character and her story and the success will follow.
It Can Be Sony’s Logan
20th Century Fox’s Logan was the pinnacle of its X-Men franchise. It told a post-apocalyptic tale set in a world without the X-Men. Wolverine is now an old man caring for an ailing Professor X when he finds out he has a daughter/female clone. There are superhero moments spread throughout the film, but at its forefront Logan is a modern western with some amazing dramatic performances. It felt completely different than any previous X-Men film and that helped it stand apart from its competition. A Jackpot film could learn a thing or two from Logan.
Sony should not shy away from focusing on the more personal and intimate moments of a superhero’s life. When Ehret was initially exposed to the “Lot 777” virus, she was pregnant. She was in a coma for four months, but still managed to giver birth to a healthy baby girl with no complications. It wasn’t until until her family came under threat and her adrenaline kicked in that she realized she had superhuman strength. Saving your family from injury is one thing, but deciding to suit up and fight crime is another.
What is going through Ehret’s head when she decides to risk her life to fight crime? She knows that she might die and leave her daughter without a mother. How does that factor into the decisions she makes? How does that change her outlook on fighting crime? These are all really interesting things to consider that no other superhero film has really had a chance to explore. Marvel Studios tried it a bit by giving Hawkeye a family, but it never felt like he was ever in any real danger. Jackpot has a 9 to 5 job and an infant daughter, and she still chooses to fight crime. Spider-Man has “with great power comes great responsibility” driving his choices, but what compels Jackpot? It is something that would be well worth exploring in her feature film in a similar way Logan explored Wolverine’s life after he stopped being an X-Men.
Jackpot has the chance to be a crown jewel in Sony’s Marvel Universe moving forward. In the same way Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse set the bar for theatrical animated superhero movies, Jackpot can set the standard for future mid-budgeted superhero films.