This post contains mild spoilers for Venom. You can read our review here.
Venom swung into cinemas late last week, finally giving comic-book fans their first chance at seeing how ‘Sony’s Marvel Universe’ might shake out. Based around Spider-Man’s extended universe of characters, but with Spider-Man noticeably absent, the first film in the series sees disgraced reporter Eddie Brock bond with an alien symbiote to become a monstrous anti-hero with a penchant for biting off people’s heads.
However, despite the distinct lack of Spider-Man, the powers that be at Sony have made it evident that they would, one day, quite like to crossover their fledgling cinematic universe with Marvel’s. In fact, while the film was still in development, there seemed to be a fair bit of confusion (generated by Sony’s former chairperson, Amy Pascal) about if their films were intended be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or not.
The term various parties have settled on to describe Sony’s Marvel Universe and it’s relationship to Marvel Studios is that these films are ‘adjuncts’ to the MCU. Which is basically code for ‘they’re not related, but Sony wants them to be’.
But if it came about that a crossover was imminent, would Venom actually fit into the MCU?
In a departure from most superhero films, Venom takes place in San Francisco, California. With the majority of Marvel heroes operating in New York, that gives Venom pretty much free reign to do what it wants, with the only Avengers present on the West Coast being Ant-Man and the Wasp. As such, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that in Venom or Ant-Man & the Wasp the events of each film could happen without being referenced by the other. Beyond Ant-Man occasionally turning into a giant, his adventures are quite small scale, and so are generally inconsequential to the goings on of other heroes.
Similarly, the biggest event in Venom’s solo outing is a disastrous shuttle launch towards the films climax, which, while it would make the news, doesn’t really have that much effect on Ant-Man, and is over quick enough that it wouldn’t warrant the Avengers getting involved.
However, there is one particular detail that would suggest that Venom is definitively set in its own distinct universe. When Eddie Brock is informed of the presence of the alien symbiotes, he responds with disbelief, questioning how realistic aliens are. Of course, if this film was set in the MCU, the existence of aliens would probably be pretty common knowledge, as they invaded New York in 2012, informing the story-lines of the various films that followed.
A counter to that comes courtesy of Stan Lee, who at the end of Avengers dismisses the events of the film with the line: “Superheroes in New York? Give me a break”, which tells us that there are sceptics in the Marvel Universe who still don’t believe superheroes exist, despite evidence to the contrary. And if some people don’t believe in superheroes, it’s not too much of a leap to believe they may also question the authenticity of aliens.
One might argue that as ‘the best investigative journalist on the planet’, Eddie Brock would push past sceptiscsm and uncover the truth, but in the movie, he’s not exactly depicted to be as savvy as his reputation suggests (i.e. he’s a bit of a goof).
Furthermore, while the Marvel Studios films generally reference one another, there is already a whole section of the MCU that operates in it’s own little world – the Marvel television shows. While there are passing mentions of the Avengers and the ‘incident’, generally, they keep to themselves, and highlight that there’s a whole lot going on on Marvel’s Earth that doesn’t register on the Avengers’ radar. If we view Venom in this same light, a joint continuity could be feasible.
But of course, if Venom were to be inducted into the MCU, he couldn’t remain completely separate, as it would be a necessity that, at some point, he comes into contact with Spider-Man. Like the Netflix shows, Venom has brief references to characters who could relate to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. In fact, one of the first characters we meet in the film is an astronaut named Jameson, who the more Spider-Man savvy viewers will understand to be the son of prominent Spider-Man detractor J. Jonah Jameson. This inclusion, though brief, not only links to Spider-Man, but could be used as a way to develop side-characters like JJJ if they ever come into the MCU.
Having already established his character and power-set, a ready-made Venom would also allow Marvel to forgo retelling the ‘Black Suit Spider-Man’ story we were shown in Spider-Man 3. It would add another fully formed rogue to Spider-Man’s gallery, who would be a more unique challenge than the tech-based villains Vulture, Shocker and the upcoming Mysterio (to be played by Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-Man: Far From Home).
This would also benefit Venom in a number of ways, as introducing him to Spider-Man could present him with an adversary or reluctant ally who isn’t an exact mirror of him, and could also avoid the visually jumbled symbiote-on-symbiote battles seen with Riot and inevitably, with Carnage in the sequel. An encounter with Spider-Man would also give him a proper reason to take on a spider-like emblem to complete his look, finally making him the most comic-accurate adaptation of the character we’ve seen in live-action.
But most of all, for all the flaws that Venom has, the main character himself isn’t one of them, and should be allowed to flourish under better creative direction.
Venom is in cinemas now.