Why Spider-Man Is In The MCU
Salvation came from an unexpected source; Marvel Studios. In late 2014, Marvel contacted Sony with the suggestion of striking an unprecedented deal that would bring Spider-Man into the MCU. Marvel was working on Captain America: Civil War at the time, and the studio felt the wall-crawler would be the perfect addition. Sony was initially unconvinced, but then in December 2014 the potential deal became public after the studio was hacked and a huge number of confidential emails were posted on Wikileaks. Feeling the weight of public pressure, the studio called a Spider-Man summit in February 2015 to decide the future of the franchise. They chose to accept the deal.
Here's how it all works: the relaunched Spider-Man films are financed and distributed by Sony Pictures, meaning they both pay for the movies and profit from their box office takings and home and digital release. Marvel Studios, however, produce the movies on Sony's behalf. In return, Marvel get to use Tom Holland's version of Peter Parker in MCU films like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. They also continue to profit from all merchandise associated with the Spider-Man franchise. This is a win-win for both studios. Sony profit from a reinvigorated cinematic Spider-Man brand, Marvel essentially get creative control and to team Spider-Man up with the Avengers, while both see dividends from the brand.
Sony is Starting Their Own Spider-Villains Universe With Venom
But that doesn't mean Sony is done with making their own Spider-Man movies. The studio still intends to create their own shared universe, one that makes the most of the 900+ other characters they have the film rights to. It's true that they can't use Spider-Man in them, but Sony believe that secondary characters like Venom, Kraven the Hunter, Morbius, and even Silk have the potential to become box office hits in their own right. They'll require substantial rewrites, of course; to use the example of Venom, in the comics it was Spider-Man who brought the symbiote to Earth. Venom director Ruben Fleischer has admitted it was something of a challenge figuring out how to make the tongue-slavering symbiote work without the wall-crawler. Even the character's aesthetic has changed; given the revised origin, it wouldn't make any sense for Venom's chest to carry a spider-symbol.
But what is the relationship between Sony's Spider-villains universe and the MCU? It's possible they could actually coexist after a fashion. After all, the MCU traditionally operates a sort of "two-tier" canon. The top tier is the MCU movies themselves, which are expected to (mostly) work together. On the second tier, you have tie-in content such as the official Prelude comics and countless Marvel Television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. While these are considered part of the wider MCU, they have a very loose relationship indeed with the films; Marvel Studios isn't bound by anything stated in a comic or TV series, and can choose to discount them from canon altogether should they need to. That happened when James Gunn decided to ignore a Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in when he told Nebula's backstory in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Is it possible the Sony Spider-villain movies could be part of this second tier of MCU canon as well?
This speculation has been exacerbated by the fact Marvel and Sony appear to be avoiding "doubling up." In June 2017, there were reports that Sony was working on a potential Mysterio film, plans for which seem to have been dropped when Marvel decided to use Mysterio as the villain for Spider-Man: Far From Home. It at least suggests an effort to minimize conflict between the two shared universes.
- Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018