When it comes to the current feature film iteration of the Spider-Man character and film studios, it’s an extremely complicated situation—but it now sounds like things may be more connected than we initially thought. When Marvel Studios started making its own movies with Iron Man in 2008, the studio was treated like a joke, working with subpar characters after they had previously sold the rights to “A-list” characters like Spider-Man and X-Men to other studios (Sony and Fox, respectively). But as Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment started taking off to the tune of massive box office and stellar reviews, under the stewardship of president Kevin Feige, Sony took notice.
Sony was in the midst of rebooting its only major comic book character, Spider-Man, with The Amazing Spider-Man movies while also attempting to jump start its own interconnected universe of Spider-Man films. Features like Venom and Sinister Six were in active development alongside Amazing Spider-Man sequels, but when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters to somewhat disappointing box office and tepid reviews, producer and Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal was finally able to pull the trigger on something she was hoping would happen for a long time—a creative partnership with Marvel Studios.
Indeed, finalizing a deal to share the character of Spider-Man with Marvel Studios would be one of Pascal’s final acts as Sony Pictures exec, but it was years in the making as she and Feige had long hoped to convince their respective bosses and boards that sharing Peter Parker could be beneficial to Sony, Marvel, and Disney equally. The resulting deal saw Marvel Studios serving as creative lead on Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequel, which Sony Pictures would produce and distribute, while Marvel and Disney were allowed to use Tom Holland’s new Peter Parker in a fixed number of MCU movies starting with Captain America: Civil War.
Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 already has a release date and Holland has been shooting Avengers: Infinity War, but at the same time Sony has been forging ahead with other comic book adaptations stemming from its ownership of the Spider-Man comics. Venom recently landed Tom Hardy as the lead and Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad) as director, while Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) was recently set to helm the female team-up movie Silver & Black, which brings together the characters of Silver Sable and Black Cat. With these films, Sony announced that it intended to create its own “Marvel Universe” of movies, but given that Marvel and Sony are currently sharing the character of Peter Parker, it was assumed that Holland’s version would not be appearing in these Sony projects to avoid audience confusion.
As recently as last week, Feige reiterated that Venom is not a film that takes place in the MCU, noting it’s “a Sony project.” Basically the understanding was that neither Feige nor Marvel Studios are involved with these “Marvel Universe” movies at Sony. However, in a video interview with FilmStarts, Pascal—sitting alongside Feige—revealed that Holland’s Peter Parker will in fact exist in the same universe as Venom, Silver & Black, and the other Spider-Man movies Sony is developing:
“Well those movies will all take place in the world that we are now creating for Peter Parker. They’ll be adjuncts to it, it may be different locations but it will still all be in the same world, and they will be connected to each other as well.”
This is a tad confusing, especially since Sony had previously stressed that these films were not connected to the Peter Parker movies, but Feige does smile at the end of the answer here. It’s unclear if that’s a knowing smile, or a polite “That’s not exactly what we’re doing” smile.
Pascal went on to say there’s “a chance” that Peter Parker could appear in Venom or Silver & Black while also laying out that Sony is not-so-secretly copying from the best when it comes to creating its Marvel Universe:
“There’s a chance [that Peter Parker will appear]. There’s always a chance. I think one of the things that Kevin has done with Marvel that was so brilliant is by bringing the fans along and making each movie seem like a chapter in a book, that you have to read that chapter in order to go forward. And I think the investment that the fans get to feel in being a part of a larger story and understanding what’s happening, I think is something that I know Sony would want to emulate.”
Some reports are flat-out saying that Pascal is confirming here that Venom and Silver & Black are now part of the MCU. That’s not what Pascal is saying, and it’s important to note that while Pascal is producing these movies, she’s no longer the head of Sony. Moreover, if those films were part of the MCU, a new deal would have to be struck that would allow Marvel Studios to produce and be creatively involved in these movies. When Marvel Studios announces a film, they spend years developing the script, choosing the right director, fitting it into the release calendar in the right slot, etc. Venom is being developed as an R-rated superhero movie and is already set for release in 2018. Will Marvel/Disney allow such a thing in the MCU? Will Feige be consulting on the script? Will the film aesthetically fit within the MCU?
These are all good questions and the truth is we don’t have all the answers. It’s entirely possible that negotiations are underway for Venom and Silver & Black to be part of the MCU, and for the Sony/Marvel partnership to extend far beyond simply crafting these standalone Spider-Man movies. It’s also equally possible that Marvel will continue to be involved with Spider-Man movies, but Sony is still developing these other non-Peter Parker films on its own which would thus not be part of the MCU.
That’s the sticking point. If Marvel Studios is not involved in these “Marvel Universe” movies at Sony, but Sony still wants to use Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in these films, does that tangentially then connect Venom to exist in the same universe as, say, Doctor Strange? That would seem a bit messy and, frankly, off-brand for Marvel Studios. Feige and the execs are Marvel are intimately involved in every film they create, so it doesn’t exactly make sense that Feige and Co. would allow Venom to be part of the MCU without having a say in the director, casting, rating, story, etc.
So where does that leave us? My guess is that Pascal was speaking generally, and that “adjuncts” is the operative word here. Venom and Silver & Black are based on Marvel comics, those films would absolutely benefit from audiences assuming they’re MCU movies, but it’s possible that Sony is just looking to walk a tightrope of sorts here—not explicitly having Peter Parker appear in these movies, but alluding to the character by name and letting audiences connect that in their head to Holland while the existing contract with Marvel regarding Parker stands. That would ensure Sony has full creative control over these “Marvel Universe” movies while not having to include Marvel Studios in the decision-making, which in turn allows for them to fast-track something like Venom and put it in theaters next year rather than waiting for the right time in the MCU slate.