A lot has been made of Sony’s upcoming Venom movie, set to launch Sony’s own little Spider-verse adjacent to Marvel Studios’ MCU. Not much has been positive. Sony’s track-record with Spider-Man movies recently has been…patchy. Ever since the conclusion of Sam Rami’s Spiderman trilogy with Spider-Man 3, the last cinematic appearance of Venom, Sony has struggled with their most valuable asset. The Amazing Spider-Man was not an inspiring reboot of the character, despite the impressive performance of Andrew Garfield, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was an all-round train wreck which failed spectacularly to launch a vast series of Spider-Man films, including a Venom solo movie. It’s with all that baggage that we have finally arrived at Venom, the first Sony produced Spider-Man property since the aforementioned The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as Marvel Studios took over the creative duties on Spider-Man: Homecoming after striking a deal on his inclusion in the MCU.
The fact that Sony are in complete creative control appears to be a red flag for many detractors of the movie. They simply don’t trust Sony to do the character creative justice, considering they already messed him up in Spider-Man 3, and one of that film’s producers Avi Arad is back on board again this time. The man chosen by Sony to helm the movie is also a bone of contention for many, relative newcomer Ruben Fleisher. The filmmaker’s back catalogue certainly wouldn’t alleviate any concerns you might have of him as a director of a massive action-adventure superhero movie. None of his previous movies are movies you’d hold as an example that highlight how he might pull something like Venom off. His filmography includes movies such as the hugely enjoyable Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less, and Gangster Squad, none of which scream “he’s our man”, though, let’s not forget that many of Marvel Studios’ best directors have come from obscure backgrounds, with an unproven track record, such as James Gunn (Slither, Super) The Russo Brothers (You, Me and Dupree, Community) & Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
Fleisher’s background experience in horror/black comedies such as Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less could explain the weird humour, particularly at the heart of the most recent trailer; humour which many took against.
However, never judge a movie’s humour based on its trailer, as trailers often struggle to interpret a movie’s feel. Take something like Suicide Squad – its trailers varied widely in tones from the initial to the final. We’ve seen this a little in the Venom trailers, the first two of which didn’t even hint at comedic undertones, while the third certainly implies something comparable with a Marvel Studios movie which mixes humour and action in each entry.
I think that a Venom movie with elements of black comedy is something I could get on-board with, particularly as it was reported that the movie would likely receive a R-rating in the United States, but as we’ve moved closer to the release date, it seems more and more likely that the movie will be a PG-13, albeit on the higher end.
This is disappointing for a number of reasons. First, a R-rating would have helped distinguish this tangential Marvel property from the broader MCU. Secondly, it would fit the character perfectly; Venom is, after all, an anti-hero who doesn’t hesitate to kill, and a R-rating would allow the movie to capture the darker ends of the Jekyll/Hyde relationship between Eddie Brock and the symbiote. I don’t think that a fun for all the family Venom movie is something I want to see, and yet this is what producer Avi Arad implied this in a recent interview with Vulture.
Another huge plus the movie has going for it is its star Tom Hardy, whose star is high and bright in the Hollywood skies these days. No one has doubted Hardy’s ability to bring both Eddie Brock and Venom to life, and while I think it’s easy to say that the movie largely rests on his shoulders, I think that’s an unfair amount of pressure on him. We’ve all seen movies, whether superhero ones or not, where the lead actor was perfect in the central role, and yet the whole machinery of the movie around him was just off. I have no doubt that Hardy will do the role justice, it’s the script where I see the movie’s problems arising.
Based on the trailers, which is all we can go by, the movie’s plot seems incredibly unoriginal and uninspiring. It looks like a superhero origin story from the early 2000’s, when superhero blockbusters were in their infancy; in today’s climate I think we all expect a little something more. The whole trajectory of the movie also appears to be incredibly predictable. Based on the trailers I think that I can guess the entire plot of the movie, act by act, which I’m going to attempt right now, so potential spoilers ahead:
- Eddie Brock interviews Carlton Drake at the Life Foundation, senses something fishy.
- Eddie rekindles a relationship from his past in the form of Anne Weying, who just so happens to work for Carlton Drake…what a coincidence!
- Eddie, using some kind of info received from Anne, whether knowingly or unknowingly, breaks into the Life Foundation to investigate what’s going on.
- Eddie does something which releases some of the prisoners, who have already bonded with symbiotes, while also coming into contact with the Venom symbiote, at which point they bond.
- Eddie doesn’t know what’s happened to him, and so he continues his life until he begins to hear the Venom voice in his head.
- Carton Drake analyses the security footage to find out who broke into his lab. He discovers it was Eddie and sends his men to retrieve it.
- Eddie continues to experience strange things from the symbiote, and then Carlton’s men show up demanding he relinquish the symbiote.
- The symbiote refuses to surrender itself and so it attacks the men, a chase ensues which ends with Eddie crashing and the symbiote taking full control: First Full appearance of Venom.
- Eddie reasons with the symbiote, they strike a partnership.
- Carlton sends out other symbiotes to kill Eddie, they’re unsuccessful…obviously
- Carlton realises the relationship between Eddie and Anne, and decides to use her as bait to lead Eddie back to the lab.
- Eddie is captured for a short time, in which he’s experimented on.
- Eddie breaks out, or is set free, once Carlton bonds with the Riot symbiote.
- A battle between the two ensues, in which Venom wins…obviously.
- Eddie and Venom agree to be a lethal protector.
- Post-Credits scene: Cletus Kasady bonds with the Carnage symbiote… sequel bait!
Apart from a few placement issues with some of the scenes, I’m fairly confident that this is how the movie will play out, and it’s sad because it’s not like I had to think that hard to come up with this plot synopsis, it’s all there in the trailers.
I really want this movie to be good, not least because, as a child, Venom was always my favourite comic-book character, but also because it would be nice to see a good superhero movie released by a studio other than Marvel. Competition between Marvel, Sony, and Warner Bros will help to keep the genre fresh, and that only means more quality movies for us, as audience members, to devour. Venom is certainly a gamble, but I hope it’s one that pays off.