[This story contains spoilers for Venom: Let There Be Carnage.]
The mid-credit sequence of Venom: Let There Be Carnage was, in many respects, an unexpected pleasure. Not that there was a post-credit scene; it is, after all, a superhero movie in 2021, a period when such a sequence is a pre-requisite for every superhero movie. Instead, it’s what happened in that scene that’s such a surprise… and just what movie it appears to be setting up in the process.
Since 2008’s Iron Man, audiences have become used to the idea that a movie will end by laying groundwork not necessarily for a direct sequel, but for another story elsewhere in the shared universe setting; it’s a successful formula that built the Avengers franchise, before going on to build out larger storylines across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the first Venom movie came out, it offered a post-credit sequence introducing the villain of Let There Be Carnage, but the second installment comes ahead of 2022’s Morbius, leading some to expect a cameo from that film’s Jared Leto before the movie finished. What actually happened was, arguably, bigger.
In the post-credit scene, Eddie and Venom’s attempt to escape on a beach getaway was interrupted not only by Venom’s revelation of possessing “80 billion light-years” of knowledge that he wanted to share with his human half, but by the two being relocated to… well, somewhere. The nature of their relocation remains a mystery, but as an on-screen cameo from J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson makes clear, the two have ended up inside the MCU, seemingly teasing a continuation in December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.
On the one hand, this isn’t an entirely unexpected development; both Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home are Columbia Pictures productions featuring Marvel characters who, in comic book continuity, are intimately linked — Venom, after all, didn’t just get his start in Spider-Man comics, the character got his start as Spider-Man’s costume. The two have previously co-starred in a movie together (2007’s Spider-Man 3, although it’s different versions of both character), and a potential meeting of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Tom Hardy’s Venom has been anticipated by fans since the announcement of Hardy as Venom in the first place.
Additionally, it’s been known for some time that Spider-Man: No Way Home will feature characters from different incarnations of the Spider-Man movie franchise as it deals with a literal multiverse of possibilities, with Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus re-appearing for the first time since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 in the first teaser trailer for the project. If Tobey Maguire’s villains can meet up with Holland’s wall-crawler, why can’t the current cinematic Venom?
There are quite a few questions left hanging from the way that Let There Be Carnage ends, however, ones that could prove to be particularly important moving forward. For example: the post-credit sequence suggests that Venom arrives in the MCU around the same time that the post-credit sequence of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place. If that’s the case, then has Venom been operating in the background of the MCU for the last couple of years — and if so, what has he been doing, and who has he run into?
Secondly, what, exactly, brought Venom to the MCU in the first place? The most obvious answer is that it’s connected to whatever causes the fragmentation of realities in No Way Home — something that, judging by the trailer, is the result of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) getting distracted. But this is Marvel, where everything is famously connected. Who’s to say that Venom didn’t shift realities because of the reality reboot that seemingly happened at the end of Loki? For that matter, do the multiverse-shattering events of the most recent episode of Disney+’s What If? play into what’s happening here?
Maybe just as importantly, is this a temporary realignment of reality, or something more permanent? Is Venom just visiting the MCU, or here to stay? Either answer could alter not only Sony’s future plans for the character in dramatic ways, but Marvel’s future, as well. After all, if one alternate cinematic reality could be permanently folded into the MCU via multiversal shenanigans, then any number of them could be — which could answer the longstanding question of just how Marvel Studio plans to bring the X-Men into the MCU, now that Fox and Marvel are under the same corporate roof.
For that matter, what actually changed? Did Venom move between parallel realities, or did reality itself change? What if it’s not that Venom went from the Sonyverse to the MCU, but that both have permanently merged — allowing some things to change in the MCU, as well, if Marvel wants them to.
Even if the most reductive solutions to each issue are the ones that get chosen — Venom has only been temporarily added to the MCU, and disappears at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home without having learned anything important to keep him occupied in future movies, nor having changed anything of note in the regular MCU — it’s worth recognizing the post-credits tag of Venom: Let There Be Carnage for the chaotic possibilities it presents, without any real clue of where things are headed as a result. It feels simultaneously out of nowhere, and entirely true to the attitude of the rest of the movie; somewhere, there’s a very happy symbiote, ready to infect the Marvel Cinematic Universe one way or another.
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