Venom: Let There Be Carnage has finally released in theaters after having several delays, and it seems like it was worth the wait - at least, from a box office perspective. The film’s success has now painted a healthy picture of the pandemic era movie-going experience.
Needless to say, lots of people saw the film. Audiences got to see Tom Hardy act crazy with Venom pulling his own wacky stunts, all while Woody Harrelson slaughters people with his blood-fused symbiote; good times all around.
The symbiotes aren’t the only characters on display. New to the Venomverse is Naomie Harris’ Frances Barrison, aka Shriek. The character is the first to be introduced in the film's opening moments and ends up being the Clyde to Cletus’ Bonnie.
There was even a big Shriek-related detail that the film breezes over which could have huge implications, or at least that’s what people think.
The Shriek Mutation
As Venom: Let There Be Carnage goes over Frances Barrison’s introduction, a very important term is casually dropped: mutation. The film offers no further explanation or details, and it doesn’t even tread on the topic later in the plot.
The term is simply thrown out there to describe how the character’s abilities came to be. However, the implications are obvious: Mutants. Before diving into that bombshell, let’s go over the character’s backstory in the comics.
In her early life, Barrison was a drug dealer, something which sent her sanity into a downward spiral. To add some gasoline to the fire, a run-in with the vigilante Cloak caused her to crack even further, and exposure to his cloak’s Dark Dimension was likely the reason her latent mutant ability manifested itself.
Not long after, she was shot in the head by a police officer named Detective Mulligan; yes, the very same one that had the honor of doing it in the opening scene for Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
The difference here, though, is two-fold. For one, she had never met Cletus Kasady up to this point in her life, and her death was never needlessly faked like it was in the film.
What is similar, however, is that the two of them crossed paths at Ravencroft Institute, where they broke out and began a similar crazy killing spree. All of this began with her character’s first appearance in Spider-Man: Unlimited #1 in May 1993. Funnily enough, this same comic issue happened to be the beginning of the famous Maximum Carnage storyline.
The Complicated Rights
So, if Shriek is in fact a mutant, then why is she showing up in a Sony-owned Venom film? After all, the term Mutant, and the superhuman traits they bring to the table, are a package now owned by Disney/Marvel Studios.
Well, the answer to that is likely because she was a Spider-Man villain first and foremost, giving Sony the ability to use the character in its film. Marvel Studios, however, probably could use the character in its end as well, in a completely different film interpretation.
See, character ownership rights, and the many copyright stipulations that come with them can be very complicated. While characters are more often than not only able to be used by one studio, sometimes two different companies can access the same character, just with a different set of terms.
The most famous example of this happened with Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Pietro and Wanda Maximoff were introduced. Around that same time, Fox decided they wanted to introduce their own Pietro in X-Men: Days of Future.
Thus, there were two different versions of Quicksilver from two competing studios in the span of just over a year. Marvel Studios couldn’t reference or allude to the twins' Mutant origins, while Fox couldn’t get anywhere near their ties to The Avengers.
Yet somehow Sony slipped in the term “mutation” while specifically addressing Frances’ powers and where they came from. This seems like a pretty clear indication of her Mutant status.
However, does the term “mutation” always have to denote the trademarked concept of a Mutant? After all, the word is a scientific term and doesn’t have to refer to the X-Gene that lies under the copyrighted hood.
This is probably why Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn’t even try to go anywhere near explaining her powers further; that’s a road Sony can’t go down.
The Grey Area
There is a gray area though. As fans know, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have been working together for quite some time now when it comes to bringing to life Spider-Man.
The agreement between Sony and Marvel allowed for Tom Holland’s web-slinger, still fully owned by Sony, to become a core member of the MCU; he's since gone on to star in six installments from the famous cinematic universe.
Recently, the two studios had a small falling out, which was resolved in a new agreement. Many of the details remain vague, but Spider-Man got to remain in the MCU, as seen with the upcoming film Spider-Man: No Way Home.
For everyone who watched Venom: Let There Be Carnage through the credits, it’s now clear that this new agreement between the two studios added quite the benefit for Sony: Tom Hardy’s Venom is now in (or at least visiting) the MCU.
So, with the two studios being able to have their storytelling go both ways, could this mean that Sony’s name drop of “mutation” was purposely and approved/allowed by Disney and Marvel Studios? Could Frances’ mutation be the first building block to the proper introduction of Mutants to the MCU?
Marvel Studios Wouldn’t Allow It
The answer is a fairly solid 99.9% no.
Marvel Studios’ CEO Kevin Feige would never let Sony Pictures hold such a valuable piece of the MCU puzzle if they didn’t have to. When it comes to Spider-Man, Marvel’s hands are tied, but there’s no such restraint when it comes to something like Mutants.
There is absolutely no way that Marvel Studios would start ramping up to Mutants via a mediocre film—at best—based on a Spider-Man villain not even under its control.
While the agreement between the two parties is certainly necessary to realize Spider-Man's full potential and his place in the wider MCU, it’s not something Feige would do if he didn’t have to; when it comes to Mutants, Marvel doesn't need to form such agreements due to their full ownership of the X-Men characters.
As previously mentioned above, Spider-Man was almost snatched out of the MCU and lost forever. That was rough for fans. Imagine the nightmares Kevin Feige had to contend with.
When the time does come for Mutants, it will likely be obvious, and the world will know what is heading their way. There won’t be any vagueness to it; Marvel is going to want everyone to know that the X-Men are on the horizon.