Folks who have already checked out the first “teaser” trailer (Does something clocking in over two-and-a-half-minutes qualify as a “teaser?”) for Sony’s upcoming superhero film “Morbius” were greeted by a couple of pretty big MCU surprises. It appears that “Morbius” is the first Sony “Spider-Man” spin-off film to unambiguously reference the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its allusions to Spider-Man and an appearance by Michael Keaton’s Vulture. And in doing so, the trailer has given us a first glimpse at what the new status quo between Marvel Studios and Sony might look like after the Great ‘Spider-Man’ Scare Of 2019. But let’s make sure fans don’t get ahead of themselves just yet with their hopes of “Sinister Six vs Avengers” film.
You probably remember the dark time that was the month-long “will-they-or-won’t-they” public negotiations between Disney and Sony over the rights for the “Spider-Man” film franchise last year. Sony wanted to fully integrate its hero in the new Spider-verse that was kicked off with 2018’s “Venom,” while Disney wanted to keep Peter Parker sticky feet firmly planted in the MCU. Well, a compromise was agreed upon and the fruits of that labor seem to be on display in “Morbius.”
It’s quite clear that “Morbius” takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, the very same one that was almost destroyed by Thanos and is currently being protected by the Avengers. But just because we see references to Spider-Man and an appearance from the Vulture doesn’t mean Sony has free-reign to include Captain America in “Morbius.” To break this down, even more, we have to look at what the rights situation looks like today.
Sony owns the film rights to the character of Spider-Man and his various supporting characters that are in the comic books (collectively known as the Spider-Verse). That means that Sony, at any moment, could use Spider-Man in a “Venom” movie and throw Morbius in for shits and giggles. The studio owns the film rights and can do whatever it wants with those characters. On the flip side, with the current deal with Marvel Studios (similar to how it has been done since 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”), Spider-Man is free to be featured in MCU films, as long as Sony allows for Kevin Feige and Co. to produce the solo films. And there is nothing forcing Feige to include the Spider-Verse in anything.
Sony is able to reap the benefits of having Marvel Studios-produced “Spider-Man” films under its banner but hasn’t yet established how the various spin-off films fit in with the flagship franchise. In 2018’s “Venom,” Spider-Man isn’t referenced explicitly at all, and outside of a few lines of dialogue referencing New York City, there’s no mention of anything that can be construed as an MCU tie-in. But then again, there’s nothing proving that “Venom” doesn’t exist in the MCU either. However, in “Morbius,” we see our first overt references to the MCU, which clearly shows the film takes place in the coveted superhero cinematic universe, opening the floodgates of speculation.
Basically, as our own Rodrigo Perez stated on Twitter, think of the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios as a bridge where only one of the lanes is currently being used. In this scenario, Sony is referencing the shit out of the MCU, using characters, names, situations, etc. But so far, we’ve heard nothing from the Marvel Studios side to reference “Venom” or “Morbius” or any of the potential spin-offs. Put simply, Sony has all the reasons in the world why it wants the Spider-Verse to be linked to the MCU, but Feige’s company has no incentive for linking back to Sony…yet.
Another way to think of it, in its most basic sense, is with how Netflix’s Marvel series “linked” to the MCU. Yes, “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” could reference the Avengers and the events of the films, but the films never talked about The Defenders. Why? Because Kevin Feige wasn’t interested in what Jeph Loeb and Marvel TV were doing, therefore, he pretended that those various series didn’t exist.
But Netflix didn’t have a hit like “Venom.”
Like it or not, “Venom” was a huge win, and a sequel is already in production. If “Morbius” becomes another big box office success for Sony (and creatively intriguing), we could be looking at a situation where Marvel Studios is incentivized to reference those films in some way, truly integrating the MCU with Sony’s Spider-Verse. This would also likely come after the new deal struck in 2019 expires (post-‘Spider-Man 3’ and whatever future MCU film features Peter Parker).
Even though Sony Seems fully invested in linking the MCU to its spin-off films, there’s no guarantee that Marvel Studios will have a friendly partnership with the studio in the future. And in that case, it’s also beneficial for both parties to ensure that these films can exist on their own, without the larger cinematic universe connection. That said, you can probably expect that ‘Spider-Man 3’ will still have MCU references but will begin to show signs that Spidey is off doing his own thing and isn’t as reliant on the Avengers characters. And whatever MCU team-up film that Peter Parker finds himself in will likely just reference events in the MCU, not the Spider-Verse spin-offs. But if the two studios forge a longer-lasting agreement, that is where things could actually get interesting.
After the 2019 deal between Sony and Disney was reached, Deadline posted a report that included an acknowledgment that a situation where the MCU and Spider-Verse could be integrated even more exists. The report claimed that a “call and answer” between the two franchises could be utilized, where the Feige-led MCU references situations in the Spider-Verse and vice versa. We’ve seen the one-sided aspect of that happening in “Morbius,” but we have yet to get confirmation that the Marvel Studios films will ever do the same.
TL;DR — Yes, there are references to the MCU in “Morbius.” We’ve seen it already. But let’s not jump the gun and assume that “Venom 2” will include the Avengers or whatever other scenarios fans are attempting to will into existence. As of now, this bridge only goes one direction. (Beautiful artwork embedded below to really bring it home.)
“Morbius” arrives in theaters on July 31.
Marvel for now is under no obligation to include narrative elements in their world and probably won't have any incentive to do so until it comes time to sign up (or exit from) a new Sony/Marvel deal. The end.
— YrOnlyDaddy???????????? (@YrOnlyHope) January 13, 2020
There are direct links to the #SpiderMan franchise & #Spidermanfarfromhome in the new #Morbius trailer including the appearance of Michael Keaton's Vulture. https://t.co/gb9xgx1ZqP pic.twitter.com/ZDXlJAWkX6
— The Playlist ???? (@ThePlaylist) January 13, 2020