With the impending acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Disney-owned Marvel Studios is about to have a lot more toys to play with as previously licensed Marvel Comics characters come back under their control. But Marvel Studios still doesn’t have all of its characters in one box, as Sony Pictures maintains the license for all things Spider-Man-related. An impossible gap was bridged a few years ago thanks to Sony’s Amy Pascal and Marvel’s Kevin Feige who brought Peter Parker into the MCU, with Marvel Studios producing the standalone Spider-Man: Homecoming for Sony, thereby allowing the character to be officially included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But Sony is separately developing a bevy of other Marvel Comics adaptations that don’t have the involvement of Marvel Studios, and thus aren’t actually connected to the MCU. The first of these is Venom, which hits theaters later this year, but while Sony is kicking up development on various standalone films based on supporting Spider-Man comics characters like Kraven the Hunter, Black Cat, and Silk, they’re keeping their options open.
In a report over at Variety detailing Sony’s plans for its Marvel Comics adaptations, it’s revealed that Sony “is open to having other characters from its Spider-Man films pop up in Marvel movies that are produced under the Disney aegis,” adding that Sony would presumably also not be opposed to adding a cameo or two from established MCU characters pop up in their films.
This is one of those no-brainer statements, but the actuality is more complex. There’s a reason that Spider-Man: Homecoming is explicitly part of the MCU and Venom is not. Marvel Studios is all about quality control, and if it can oversee the creative decisions made on a movie like Homecoming, it’s fine including that as part of the MCU. But what Marvel Studios is not cool with is, say, having Tom Holland’s Peter Parker cameo in Venom, thereby making Venom a part of the MCU by proxy—a film with which Marvel Studios had zero creative oversight.
But Sony Pictures appears to be keeping its options open. The same report says Venom is likely to be rated PG-13, to make Tom Hardy’s character more amenable to an eventual MCU crossover should Marvel Studios grant that kind of access. Basically, Sony is going to keep developing its own films separate from Marvel Studios while hoping that Marvel will become interested in partnering up on more of their films aside from the standalone Spider-Man franchise.
Whether that’s likely to happen is unknown. Marvel Studios reaps zero box office money from Spider-Man: Homecoming and its upcoming sequel Spider-Man: Far from Home. It gets a producer credit, intimate involvement, and the licensing fee from Sony, but monetarily speaking these films remain Sony Pictures movies. It’s unlikely Disney would want to extend this relationship even further with more and more movies—ideally they’d want the Spider-Man license back outright, but Sony isn’t about to give up its one and only major comic book license.
Moving forward, while Sony is developing a series of disparate Spider-Man comics adaptations, they’re not necessarily doing so with the idea of a strictly unified cinematic universe in mind. Variety notes that Sony’s model differs from that of Marvel or DC in that it’s more producer-driven. Instead of having a Kevin Feige or a Walter Hamada overseeing all the films, each individual Spider-Man movie is spearheaded by its own producer—Palak Patel runs point on Venom and the upcoming Morbius, Pascal spearheads the Homecoming sequel and Silk, and Spider-Man veterans Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach are producing several other Marvel comics adaptations at Sony.
If Sony’s endgame is introducing more characters in partnership with the MCU like Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, this could actually work in their favor. If Marvel Studios likes what they see during Silk’s development, they could decide to partner up on that film without Sony having to fret about whether Silk will correctly connect to the Venom or Morbius universe.
No one can predict what the future holds, but for now it’s clear that Sony is basically DTF with Marvel Studios when and if Marvel opts to partner up on Spider-Man comics characters other than Peter Parker. Stay tuned…