Yesterday Amy Pascal, a producer on Spider-Man: Homecoming and Sony’s mouthpiece in the PR circuit, dropped the weirdest of bombshells.  In discussing the two Spider-Man related films Sony is working on, Venom and Silver & Black, she suggested that those films will be in the “same world” as Spider-Man: Homecoming and hinted heavily that Tom Holland might appear in them.  It is really odd video since Kevin Feige (king of the MCU) was sitting right next to her, responding weirdly.  Here is the video if you have not seen it.

Now fans are immediately responding to this news in a variety of ways.  Much of the talk has been, “I don’t believe it.” I appreciate the skepticism, and I am also suspicious of this news.  That said, I ultimately believe it is actually true.  These two movies will be part of the MCU in some capacity (more to come on that phrasing).  Let’s deal with some objections people are raising.

“Pascal is an idiot and she doesn’t know what she’s doing.  She’s lied to us before.”

It is really important that we do not confuse indiscretion with stupidity or dishonesty.  I do not think Pascal actually has lied to fans yet.  If anything, she just says things that she isn’t supposed to say.  A huge example would be the time that she said that Spider-Man was only scheduled to appear in two Marvel Studios produced Spidey films.  The exact quote is “One of the things that I think is so amazing about this experience is that you don’t have studios deciding to work together to make a film very often. In fact, it may never happen again–after we do the sequel.”  At the time it came as a major blow to fans.  “Feige only got Spider-Man for two movies?!?!”  Let’s be cautious, however, to look at what Pascal actually said.  She said it “may never happen again.”  But she was factually accurate.  Feige confirmed later that a Spidey sequel was “as far as it goes for now.”  Pascal used similar language when she said, “I think we found the right formula and I think everybody is going to want the right thing to continue.”

So let’s recap the situation.  Marvel Studios’ deal with Sony indeed does only go through the next two Avengers and two Spider-Man solo films.  Pascal and Feige agree on it, with both also hinting at a likely extension if things go well.  All this talk about Spider-Man leaving the MCU is only fan talk, not anything either Feige or Pascal has actually said.  So Pascal’s original comments were accurate.  Her sin, it appears, was to share info that Kevin Feige wouldn’t have shared.  He gets that it would cause fans to freak out, so he kept it close to the vest.  She said something out of turn, forcing him to confirm.  That is a far cry from being a “liar” or unknowledgeable about what is happening.

“If Pascal isn’t lying, then Feige is lying.  I believe Feige.”

Feige’s integrity has been great throughout the years.  As he has walked through landmines of spoilers, he has been careful to not lie about anything to fans.  We can trust him.  He has said that Venom is disconnected from the MCU, but he has used an important qualifier.  Recently he said, “For now, there is no plan for Venom in the MCU. It’s a Sony project.”  Notice that phrase “for now.”  It sounds a bit like his comments in October of 2014 about Spider-Man not being in the MCU, “anything that wasn’t specifically and obviously revealed today is either not true at all, or still rumor until it’s worked out.”  We know now that the wheels were turning over at Marvel, but in Feige’s eyes things are “rumor until it’s worked out.”  Venom in the MCU could well be one thing that was a rumor last week, but that got worked out in the days since.

“But look at his face!  He clearly is uncomfortable.”

I agree.  That is not a great look.  But again, there is a difference between him shooting a “what are you talking about?” look and a “that was supposed to stay under wraps” look.  I can’t prove either, but that’s just the problem.  His facial expression suggests that she is certainly saying something he wishes she wouldn’t say, but that doesn’t mean she is just making stuff up.  If anything he might be frustrated that she is sharing stuff she shouldn’t share.  It could be connected to a plot point that he doesn’t want to reveal ahead of time.

“He clearly was just being nice to Pascal.  He didn’t want to embarrass her.”

Ok, let’s follow that logic for a minute.  If this is true, it suggests that Pascal is trying to force her way into the MCU and threatening her relationship with a man who literally is her lifeline.  She has admitted that Sony doesn’t know how to make a good Spider-Man movie anymore, so they went to Marvel.  We are to believe she is that stupid and reckless?  And then we are to believe that Feige wouldn’t respond because he is just so darn chivalrous?  I don’t buy it.  If she really was pulling that kind of stunt, he would be willing to come back at Pascal.

Furthermore, he wouldn’t have to do it rudely.  Feige has proven over the years that he is the world’s best when it comes to deflection and careful speech.  He is incredibly capable at saying things in the most diplomatic way possible and has been careful to avoid beefs, including recent kind comments about D.C. comics and Joss Whedon.  If Pascal was straight up fabricating, I’d expect this kind of a response.  “Amy is right that we are trying to create a world for Spider-Man that is so captivating that it could include more characters.  While their work on Venom and Black Cat is not formally part of the MCU, I think those projects can safely inhabit the world we’ve built in Homecoming in a non-continuity way.”  It isn’t impossible for him to redirect and correct her kindly and patiently.  I struggle to believe Feige was either too cautious or slow-thinking to handle the situation many are positing.

“But Tom Holland has said that he won’t be in Venom!”

Holland has said something like that.  (His actual words were “I have no idea. I haven’t read a script. I haven’t seen any sort of concept art, so that would be something I would decide on when I see material.”)  He also is the least trusted man at Marvel Studios.  He has admitted that Marvel security gives him a hard time about letting things slip.  This meme chronicles the issues well.

So if this is happening, Holland is the last guy that they will tell about it.  And again, it may have happened since those comments.

“Do you have any real evidence?”

I put a lot of weight on the SplashReport story on the nature of Silver & Black.  I’m not alone, because without this report, almost no one would have any idea of what is happening.  Most conversations on this topic originate with it.  Notice the characters included in the report, particularly Jessica Drew, Dominic Fortune, and Roxxon.  Drew’s status as far as film contracts is up in the air.  She has “spider” in the name, but is really tangentially connected to Spider-Man.  Roxxon is clearly in the MCU, but maybe is one of those things that is shared.  But Dominic Fortune is the real red flag.  That character is entirely within Marvel’s rights, because he was a character in Most Wanted.  His publication history isn’t mixed like that of Quicksilver.  If these reports are remotely accurate, then Marvel signed off on some characters they likely or certainly have the rights to.   They’re cooperating on the project.

“If this is the case, why doesn’t Marvel just announce it?”

Have you watched how Marvel operates?  Often we get casting news weeks before we get Marvel officially sharing that information.  They tend to want to do things in their own time and on their own terms.  I also could see a deal done in principle, that doesn’t have all the nuance hammered out.  The idea that Sony would jump the gun and overshare should be not at all surprising.  Look at the way the two studios go about trailers.  Marvel wants to give you just enough to wet your appetite, but save the bulk of the film for its release.  Sony, on the other hand, is notorious for giving you all but 10 minutes of the film in the promotional material.  Marvel Studios comes from a position of confidence and self assurance.  Sony screams out “please love me.”  Getting Venom into the MCU is much more important for Pascal and Sony than for Feige and Marvel.  It makes sense that he wants to carefully reveal and she is ready to spill her guts.

“So what does this all mean?”

I don’t know, but let me speculate what I think is happening.  First of all, I think that Marvel will lose some creative control as compared to Homecoming.  I don’t think Feige will produce these other Spider-verse films.  There is a reason that everyone involved keeps saying “Sony project” for these movies.  Likely Marvel studios will provide some sort of consult on the project, but not heavy guidance.  Also, I’m guessing that the characters in these spin off films won’t see their way to Avengers.  Dominic Fortune won’t swing into Avengers 5.  Less involvement by Marvel and less benefit for Marvel.  As many have said, this could be somewhat like the connection level of the Netflix universe with the MCU.  Kevin Feige isn’t sending story notes to the show runner of The Defenders but they do have to clear characters with him before using them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a new phrase or term come into existence for the MCU.  Something to describe level of canonicity.  Maybe “world” is intentional.  All these properties are in a “universe” together, which includes the “cosmic world” and the “Avengers world” and the “Netflix world” and the “S.H.I.E.L.D./Inhumans world” and the “Spider world.”  It would be a way to acknowledge the down falls and lack of connection fans commonly complain about, without giving up all hope that something could connect in the future.

The key to all of this is to not burn bridges.  If Venom can be an MCU film in a Spider world, then it doesn’t need to connect right now.  Just leave the continuity clean enough that if in ten years James Gunn wants a version of Guardians of the Galaxy with Agent Venom, that can happen.  As Sony has moved ahead with all these projects I’d be surprised if (a) they would give up just because Marvel doesn’t like it or (b) if Feige and co. didn’t care about their use of Marvel IP.  The relationship growing and developing and allowing these kinds of connections and new world building is probably inevitable.