If you had asked me this question a week ago, the answer would have been “obviously no.” Of course Sony’s stand-alone, Spider-Manless Spider-Man movies, made independent of Marvel Studios, wouldn’t be MCU canon.
Marvel Studios has a carefully laid out their future movies, which are conceived of and negotiated years in advance. They have a sterling reputation for impeccably made blockbusters that they are able to make work because they’re made 100% in-house. Even after Disney bought out the company, they didn’t mess with the proven Marvel formula. Marvel wouldn’t throw all that away just so that Sony can pretend to still be a relevant player in Superhero movies long after they’ve given custody of their only superhero back to the company that actually owns him.
Conceptually, Sony’s planned franchise is built on a foundation of terrible ideas made by terrible people who turned out terrible movies starring the same characters in the very recent past. The writers in charge of Venom are actually planning to make Life — a modern day successor to 1979’s Alien — into a prequel for this completely unrelated movie. Silver and Black stars two B-list Spider-Man love interests in a movie that won’t actually involve Spider-Man.
And yet, this is the world we live in.
While doing the press rounds for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, Amy Pascal — the head of Sony’s film division — was asked about how her company’s Spider-Man shared universe would relate to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her answer was bizarre, to say the least.
Pascal referred to Sony’s stand-alone films as “adjuncts” to the MCU: movies that are, at least theoretically, connected to the larger Marvel movie continuity. They won’t cross-over with the likes of Iron Man or Captain America, and the character’s won’t be name-dropped by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, but she promised some kind of substantial connection between the two.
Although infuriatingly vague on the issue, she clearly is promoting these side-offers as at least tangentially part of the MCU. While the Marvel TV series have crossed-over with the movies on a number of occasions — sharing characters and referencing each others’ events — that’s apparently more than the Sony movies will do.
Kevin Feige, the mastermind in charge of the MCU, has given a contradicting opinion. He has repeatedly assured fans that the two movies are unequivocally separate and will not cross over into one another. Marvel will continue to make its movies — this time with the Spider-Man characters — but Sony can still make their own side projects: essentially multi-million dollar fan fiction.
It’s Schrodinger’s continuity: somehow both part of and separate from the MCU. At best, the mainline Marvel movies, TV series and shorts will ignore that the Sony movies exist and the Sony movies won’t be able to dip their toes into the Marvel Studio films: both existing in an unspoken limbo of whether or not they’re mutually exclusive offerings. The worst case scenario is, of course, that Sony’s piss-poor record with Spider-Man will sink the carefully crafted continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel really needs to get ahead of this problem and clearly explain their movies’ relationship to what Sony wants to put out. Sony’s opportunistic cash-grab on Spider-Man’s renewed popularity could devastate the fan goodwill that Marvel’s arduously built over the last decade, even if the two franchises are unrelated to one another. People need to be told — emphatically — what does, or does not, count as a Marvel movie.
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