The just-released debut trailer for sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage will obviously leave fans fawning over the unveiling of Marvel Comics’ crimson symbiote serial killer, Carnage. However, it also happens to tease imagery that could end up becoming a consequential Easter egg for where this film and its 2018 predecessor fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, thusly, any presumed connection it might have to Spider-Man.
The Venom: Let There Be Carnage trailer shows a police detective named Mulligan, played by Stephen Graham (Greyhound, Line of Duty), reading a paper that should be instantly recognizable even to those with only casual knowledge of Spider-Man lore: The Daily Bugle, the New York rag of Spider-Man-shading publisher J. Jonah Jameson, who unwittingly employs Spider-Man himself, Peter Parker. While a knee-jerk reaction might declare this image the long-awaited proof of Venom‘s Spider-Man connection, it actually proves the opposite, which might be a sobering revelation for MCU purists. Indeed, director Andy Serkis confirmed to IGN that Venom: Let There Be Carnage is not operating in the MCU.
“We’re treating this very much as his own world. Venom’s story is his own world,” reveals Serkis. “There are nods and little moments just like this—newspaper The Daily Bugle—but on the whole, he’s unaware, they’re unaware at this point of other characters like Spider-Man. So, that’s the way we’ve chosen to play this particular episode of the movie.”
Indeed, Mulligan’s copy of the Daily Bugle—a prop that hints his own adversarial connection to Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady—is a traditional print newspaper, which immediately differentiates it from the MCU’s version. Of course, the Bugle’s surprise introduction in the MCU, seen in the post-credits scene of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home, depicted it as a “controversial news website,” an InfoWars-esque, conspiracy-coveting website brandishing an old-fashioned .net domain, centered on the video rantings of a new, flattop-deprived version of Jameson, played by his portrayer in director Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy, J.K. Simmons.
In Far From Home, we saw Jameson run Mysterio’s posthumously-hoaxed claim that accused Spider-Man of his murder, which also revealed his identity as Peter Parker. While one might theorize that momentum from that scoop could have quickly propelled “TheDailyBugle.net” to transform into a thriving print paper, Serkis effectively nipped that notion in the bud.
Serkis’ clarification mercifully eliminates the ambiguity in which the Venom franchise has been mired. The Sony Pictures films were seen as vexing when it came to their place in the MCU canon for numerous reasons, notably because they kicked off a cold introduction to the Spider-Man villain-turned-antihero with the 2018 film, which was set in San Francisco; nearly 3,000 miles from NYC’s never-mentioned Spider-Man.
It was an approach that comic purists saw as egregious, since it ignored Venom’s traditional Marvel origin story—and even Topher Grace’s divisive Spider-Man 3 version—which was still directly tied to Spidey, since he started out as Eddie Brock, a journalist for rival paper The Daily Globe, whose star-making scoop on the identity of psychopathic vigilante the Sin Eater was debunked by Spider-Man’s apprehension of the character, resulting in a downward spiral for his life and career that made him the perfect new host for the equally-bitter alien symbiote that Spidey rejected.
That, of course, is a far, Wall-Crawler-deprived cry from the origin story established for Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock in the 2018 film. The Venom franchise has been effectively relieved of the weight from its ambiguous canonical status, which was always the elephant in the room, especially as Tom Holland’s version of the Wall-Crawler continues to bask in MCU glory due to Sony’s historic deal with Marvel Studios. Venom now appears to be proof positive that the studio was left to its own devices on the Spider-Man movie front.
However, that isn’t to say that Sony’s non-Spider-Man property spinoffs will be completely devoid of MCU connections. Lest we forget, the trailer for the studio’s next cold-intro villain spinoff, the Jared Leto-headlined living vampire movie, Morbius, directed by Daniel Espinosa, made a shot across the MCU bow by showing the titular character walk by a poster of Spider-Man, which was defaced by a graffito of “murderer,” a direct reference to the events of Far from Home.
Moreover, Serkis’s MCU-debunking comments seemed carefully constructed, especially when he limited his non-MCU approach to “this particular episode of the movie,” which leaves room for an eventual MCU retcon. He also teases more prospective Spider-Man Easter eggs in the film by stating, “Well, we’ll wait and see. We’ll see what little things you can pick out of it.” Indeed, if Sony’s long-mooted plans for a Sinister Six Spider-Man villain team-up ever comes to fruition, it probably will need to establish some kind of MCU/Spider-Man-related foothold in order to justify its existence.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is headed to theaters on Friday, September 24.