The implication that Sony Pictures' Morbius and Venom are extensions of Disney-owned Marvel Studios' interconnected franchise already poses a major continuity problem for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First footage from Morbius acknowledged Spider-Man (Tom Holland) exists in "Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters" when Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) walked past a conspicuous poster labeling the wallcrawler a "murderer" — referencing Peter Parker being framed for the supposed death of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Spider-Man: Far From Home — and the MCU connection was confirmed in a stinger when Morbius crossed paths with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a.k.a. the Vulture, whose vendetta against Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was thwarted by Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
In Venom, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is recruited by the Life Foundation's Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) to look into the illicit dealings of billionaire industrialist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake's off-world exploits resulted in extraterrestrial creatures called symbiotes finding their way to Earth, and the revelation that aliens exist surprises the seasoned journalist — who would be familiar with "The Incident" of 2012, where an alien army indisputably invaded New York in The Avengers.
Despite Marvel Studios' lack of involvement on Venom and Morbius, both films appear to have been ushered into the MCU through a renewed pact reached by Sony Pictures and Disney upon expiration of the original five-movie deal allowing Spider-Man to take part in the shared universe home to the Avengers.
Holland first swung into Marvel's Captain America: Civil War before starring in Homecoming, distributed by Sony, and again in Disney-Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The deal ended with Far From Home, creatively produced by Marvel and backed by Sony, which became the studio's highest-grossing movie at a time when Sony was embroiled in a public divorce with Disney that threatened to pull Holland's Spidey out of the MCU.
A new deal was reached in late September, this time for just two movies: Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige will mastermind the untitled Spider-Man 3, to be distributed under Sony Pictures, allowing for Holland to appear in at least one more Disney-owned MCU movie. Under this new deal, Feige will again take creative charge on Spider-Man 3 and Disney will put up 25% of the budget. Disney will also claim 25% of net gross from the film set to swing into theaters July 16, 2021.
When announcing the new deal, Feige said in a statement Spider-Man "happens to be the only hero with the super power to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold." One such surprise, it turns out, is Keaton's involvement in Morbius.
That crossover appears to fit the bill for a description of the renewed Disney-Sony partnership. As Deadline reported in September, "We hear that as Sony progresses their own Marvel universe with titles likes Venom 2 and Sinister Six, and Disney/Marvel their own, there could be a 'call and answer' between the two franchises as they acknowledge details between the two in what would loosely be described as a shared detailed universe."
In plainer terms, Feige — who has long served as the master architect of the MCU before he was elevated to Marvel Chief Creative Officer — could treat Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters as he did the since-cancelled line of Netflix programming backed by Marvel Television.
Series such as Daredevil and The Defenders were technically set in the MCU and sometimes referenced its events — including "The Incident" — but the feature side of the franchise did not likewise acknowledge projects not guided by Feige himself. This was reinforced by a slew of TV cancellations and the unveiling of multiple live-action series coming to the Disney+ streaming service, series that will be fully intertwined with the movie side of the MCU for the first time.
Spider-Man and Venom producer Amy Pascal appeared to hint at this unique arrangement in a 2017 interview, when she said Sony's spinoffs would "take place in the world that we are creating for Peter Parker." She added, "They’ll be adjuncts to it, they may be different locations, but it will still all be in the same world, she said. And they will be connected to each other as well."
After Feige appeared to dispute this claim, saying in a later interview there was "no plan" to bring Venom into the MCU, Pascal clarified "all these characters are a part of the Marvel comic book universe."
"In that universe, they are all related to each other. Kevin makes characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe," she told ComicBook.com. "These characters are separate, except for Spidey, who belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is why he's there."
Three years later, Sony's offshoot franchise seems to have tangled Feige's carefully crafted franchise in its web. But it may be a small price to pay if it ensures Holland's Spider-Man sticks around in the MCU.
Sony Pictures' Morbius opens July 31, followed by Venom on Oct. 2. Marvel Studios next opens Black Widow May 1 before The Eternals on Nov. 6. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.