SPOILER WARNING: Do not read if you haven’t seen “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” currently playing in theaters.
The first time a spider shows up in “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” it’s smashed dead by the movie’s villain, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). While in the middle of penning an unhinged invitation to reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) to come see his execution, a large spider lands on the notecard on which Cletus is writing, and the notorious serial killer thinks nothing of slamming his hand down to kill it.
The moment could be seen as a wink to fans who’ve made no secret of their frustration that Eddie and Venom — the alien symbiote occupying Eddie’s body and mind — haven’t been able to interact with Venom’s best-known nemesis, Spider-Man. Since 2015, that’s been impossible. A tangled web of intellectual property dealmaking allowed Sony and Disney to share the web-slinger within Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it also kept the 900-some Marvel Comics characters most closely in Spidey’s orbit strictly under Sony’s cinematic umbrella, with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker outside of it. It’s meant that 2018’s “Venom” didn’t even allude to Spider-Man, even though the characters are closely linked in the comics and Venom played a critical role in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” starring Tobey Maguire, with Topher Grace as Eddie Brock.
Other than Cletus’ spider smackdown, there’s no mention of arachnids of any kind throughout “Let There Be Carnage,” either — that is, until the post-credits scene.
Hiding out from capture in a ramshackle fleabag hotel somewhere south of the U.S. border, Eddie and Venom banter about the nature of the universe, with Venom teasing that no human could handle the mutliversal realities alien symbiotes have experienced in their lifetimes. Eddie insists to Venom that he could handle it, and right when Venom says he’s about to show Eddie what he’s talking about, their lodging transforms into a luxurious resort hotel room.
Something has clearly changed the fabric of Eddie and Venom’s reality. Venom insists it wasn’t him. And then they both notice the TV, which has shifted from a telenovela to a news report anchored by the muckraking version of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) from the post-credits scene in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” with a shot of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in his Spider-Man costume, but without his mask. Venom licks Peter’s face on the TV and says he looks “tasty,” before the bewildered (new) resident of the hotel room pops in from the bathroom and asks Eddie what he’s doing there. Eddie shrugs. End of scene.
For many audiences, those final beats in the “Let There Be Carnage” post-credits scene many not have even been audible amid the raucous cheers from fans realizing what it all means: Holland’s Spider-Man and Hardy’s Venom can finally exist in the same movie.
The implications of the scene appear to be even more far-reaching, fundamentally changing how fans should think about Spider-Man, the MCU, and Sony’s upcoming slate of Marvel comics adaptations. Here are our biggest burning questions:
Does this mean Venom will appear in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in December?
Sony isn’t commenting — why would they, it’s a major spoiler! — but with the third of Holland’s “Spider-Man” movies set to debut in just two-and-a-half months, why else would the studio drop this tease if Hardy wasn’t set to appear in it? The first trailer for “No Way Home” already resurrected a different Spidey villain, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from 2004’s “Spider-Man 2,” and strongly implied several other established Spidey rogues — like Jamie Foxx’s Electro, from 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” with Andrew Garfield, and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, from 2002’s “Spider-Man” with Maguire — will show up as well.
As fans of Spidey comics know, Venom belongs in their company. In fact, at various times, Venom has been a member of the Spidey villain team known as the Sinister Six. Other members have included, yes, Doc Ock, Green Goblin and Electro — as well as other established Spidey movie villains like Vulture (Michael Keaton, from 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church, from 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”).
Even if Venom doesn’t show up in “No Way Home,” it’s clear that he and Holland’s Spider-Man are fated to share the screen. That could be in a “Sinister Six” movie. In 2018, “Spider-Man” producer Amy Pascal told Vanity Fair that she was still keen to make one with writer-director Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods”); “No Way Home” could pave the way for that film to finally come to fruition.
Will Holland appear in “Venom 3,” the upcoming “Kraven the Hunter,” or any other of Sony’s Marvel movies that aren’t produced by Marvel Studios?
In August 2019, in the wake of the $1.13 billion–grossing success of “Far From Home” — the highest-grossing film in Sony Pictures history — Disney and Sony briefly parted ways on Spider-Man over Disney’s desire for a bigger take than the 5% of the “Spider-Man” movie grosses it was getting. Holland reportedly brokered a peace, cooler heads prevailed, and a month later, Sony and Disney announced that they’d renegotiated, with Disney upping its take of the grosses — and contribution to the financing — to roughly 25%.
In that announcement, Marvel Studios chief creative officer Kevin Feige also dropped a tantalizing hint that the new deal was more flexible in terms of which cinematic universes Holland’s Spider-Man could cast his web.
“Spider-Man is a powerful icon and hero whose story crosses all ages and audiences around the globe,” Feige said. “He also happens to be the only hero with the superpower to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse, you never know what surprises the future might hold.”
And yet, if anything, the post-credits scene in “Let There Be Carnage” suggests that Venom is the character who’s jumped from Sony’s Marvel-verse into the (more poshly appointed) MCU — most likely by the spell that Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casts in the “No Way Home” trailer that causes the multiverse to go all wackadoo.
Feige, though, is never one to choose his words lightly. And in May, after Sony Pictures cast Aaron Taylor-Johnson to play Spider-Man villain (and Sinister Six alum) Kraven the Hunter in his own standalone movie, Sony’s Motion Picture Group president Sanford Panitch told Variety that “there actually is a plan” to allow Spider-Man more flexibility to appear within Sony’s Marvel universe.
“I think now maybe it’s getting a little more clear for people where we’re headed and I think when ‘No Way Home’ comes out, even more will be revealed,” Panitch said.
So, yes: Sony urgently wants to create its own cinematic universe of Marvel characters built around Spider-Man, and the post-credits scene in “Let There Be Carnage” was the first domino to fall in the studio’s plan to make that happen.
Is Holland leaving the MCU?
In the short-term, no. An explicit part of Sony and Disney’s new deal is for Spider-Man to appear in one more Marvel Studios film. That could be in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” set to open in March 2022. (That film is directed, incidentally, by original “Spider-Man” auteur Sam Raimi.) More likely, Holland’s Spider-Man will show up in an as-yet-unannounced crossover movie — something like “Avengers 5.”
After that point, the picture grows much fuzzier. One possibility is that the events of “No Way Home” effectively creates two different versions of Holland’s Peter Parker: one that lives on in the MCU, the other, a slightly different Peter who occupies Sony’s Marvel universe. If that sounds too outlandish, it’s already happened in a Spidey movie: 2018’s Oscar-winning animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” featured two Peter Parkers — one voiced by Chris Pine, the other by Jake Johnson — from different strands of the multiverse.
Besides, Marvel Studios’ Disney Plus series “Loki” featured a plethora of different versions of Tom Hiddleston’s god of mischief, and we’ve already met an alternative, zombie-fighting version of Holland’s Peter Parker in Marvel Studios’ animated Disney Plus series “What If…?” (though the character was voiced by sound-alike actor Hudson Thames).
More to the point, should “No Way Home” perform as well as Sony and Disney hope it will and become the first pandemic-era movie to gross $1 billion, both studios will be highly motivated to keep Holland slinging webs in elaborate spandex for as long as the actor wants to do it.
Finally, what about “Morbius” with Jared Leto?
Here’s where Sony’s plans for its Marvel-verse have the potential to get super confusing. Prior to the pandemic, “Morbius” — starring Jared Leto as scientist, and Spider-Man foe, Michael Morbius, who cures himself of a rare blood disorder by making himself into, essentially, a powerful vampire — was supposed to open in July 2020, a year before “No Way Home’s” originally scheduled debut of July 2021.
Sony’s first trailer for “Morbius” — released, sigh, in January 2020 — caused no small amount of Twitterpretation among Marvel fans, thanks to a shot of Leto walking in front of a poster of a Raimi-era version of Spider-Man with the word “MURDERER” scrawled across it, followed by the surprise appearance of Keaton’s Adrian Toomes from 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” When director Daniel Espinosa shot these scenes, he expected that they would come before the multiverse-shattering events of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Thanks to the pandemic, however, “Morbius” is now scheduled to debut on Jan. 28, 2022 — six weeks after “No Way Home” is set to open on Dec. 17.
That would make “Morbius” an accidental prequel in whatever grand plan Sony has for its Marvel-verse.
This ultimately may only matter to a small subset of Marvel super-fans, but it’s the starkest example yet of the perils of attempting serialized storytelling at a blockbuster movie scale.