Venom was created in 1988 by David Michelinie, Mike Zeck, and Todd McFarlane. An evolution of an alien suit that Spider-Man had acquired during the original Secret Wars comic event, Venom was initially intended as a simple one time threat for Spider-Man. The entity bonded with disgraced reporter Eddie Brock, and played into his darker impulses and thoughts. It was initially intended that the symbiote would abandon a dying Eddie Brock and move onto a number of different hosts. But Eddie Brock was such a popular combination with the creature that he ended up becoming the star of his own storylines and series. After many failed attempts, a movie about the character is finally coming to big screens, starring Tom Hardy in the main role.
But here’s the thing: Venom is kind of a mess. And there have been plenty of reasons why there hasn’t managed to be a film about the character. He’s a muddled character all around, with lots of different motivations and confusing origins. He’s a tricky character to bring to the screen, with his unique look being both a possible positive and negative for the production. And while there is a really compelling character at the center of the story (especially with Tom Hardy in the lead role), too often it’s easy for creators to lose sight of those important characteristics and get swept up in his grisly and shocking attributes. Here are seven reasons Venom might be great, and eight why it probably isn’t going to work.
15. Won’t Be Great: Grim & Gritty For The Sake Of Grim & Gritty
It’s an inherent problem with Venom in the comics, but it’s the kind of problem that could easily overwhelm the movie. Venom as a concept is extremely “radical,” and that means turning the usual opposite number situation that many heroes get over the years (like Bizarro, Reverse Flash, or Sabertooth) into an over-the-top violent joke. Spider-Man is easy enough to give an opposite villain, but unfortunately it ended up Venom, who was quickly identified with the era, which meant a LOT of blood and gore and “cool” comments. And as we approach more and more R-rated superhero movies trying to ape off the style and success of Logan and Deadpool, it’s not impossible to imagine that Venom will end up being a grisly and dark movie without any subtext or story. It’s the stuff that made Venom annoying in the comics, and that’s a fair enough problem to think about when going into a movie.
14. Could Be Great: Tom Hardy As Venom
Tom Hardy is fantastic. Besides being a gifted actor in any role, he’s also an actor that likes to throw himself into a role when he gets the chance. This is a guy who’s been Bane, Mad Max, and starred in the skiing scene from Inception, which is seriously the coolest scene of the last fifteen years. It’s an exhilarating sequence, and a good sign of the kind of unique and ridiculous places Hardy can and will bring his acting gravitas to. So seeing him struggle with the internal conflicts of a troubled but good soul fighting against a super powered alien parasite that likes to eat brains sounds straight-up amazing. Besides, Venom is always portrayed as having a deep, dark voice, unlike anyone else we ever meet in the comics, and you know Hardy is going to have a blast with that.
13. Won’t Be Great: Picking The Character For The Wrong Reasons
A lot of people like Venom, to the point where there’s been movies in preproduction about the character for decades. And there’s a good core to his character that makes him interesting, but it often seems like people don’t always pick up on the better pieces of his character. To the outside eye, Venom represents a different type of superhero. Like the equally problematic Punisher, he focuses more on street crime than big and bold heroics. And without context or depth, it ends up being brutality for the sake of brutality. But instead of just running around with guns, Venom offers a set of fantastical powers that the other character doesn’t offer and pushes it over the edge. It’s easy to turn him into a one-note revenge character as a result, and that loses the interesting elements of him in the process.
12. Could Be Great: The Rest Of The Cast
This film might actually have a shot because this thing got stacked with good actors before anyone even really realized it. As with the plot, the list of specific characters has been kept to a secret, so we don’t know who each actor is going to actually be playing. But we do know Michelle Williams from Wonderstuck will be the lead actress, with Riz Ahmed (seen in Rogue One and Nightcrawler) and Jenny Slate (seen in Gifted and Obvious Child) filling out some of the other major roles. And any movie with those four in the lead roles would be able to get audience’s attention, regardless of the subject matter. Add on the fact that it’s about a killer alien monster that also sometimes has to turn into clothes just makes it even better.
11. Won’t Be Great: Carnage
Carnage is the worst. Seriously, he’s one of the most annoying and dated characters to come out of Marvel Comics, and for a company that has actual villains like the Hypno-Hustler, that’s saying something. Carnage is the offspring of the Venom symbiote and a particularly crazy one at that. Instead of ending up bonded to Eddie Broke (a man struggling to remain good in the face of his own emotional hangups) and Flash Thompson (a former high school jerk turned US Army veteran superhero), Carnage is instead tied to Cletus Kassiday, a hilariously over-the-top serial killer whose backstory includes pushing a little girl in front of a bus because she laughed at him. Every bad trope with Venom is all that exists for Carnage, a brutal killer who just murders people for the sake of murdering people and has no depth beyond that. And if we’re getting a Venom movie, that means we’re probably going to get Carnage too, and seriously, we do not need that.
10. Could Be Great: Agent Venom
So, a relatively recent development in the comics saw Venom reinvented completely, and it was actually pretty cool. After leaving Eddie Brock (who had cancer) and Mac Gagen (a crappy super-villain called Scorpion), the venom symbiote ended up bonding with Flash Thompson, long-time Spider-Man supporting character and US Army veteran. The symbiote gave the double-amputee a new lease on life, while Flash manages to actually tame it somewhat. Together, they become known as Agent Venom, who even manages to rise up the superhero ranks and joins both the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. And seeing that take on the character, a soldier conflicted by an inner darkness and trying to channel it into something good, would be like getting the Punisher on a grander scale.
9. Won’t Be Great: No Spider-Man
It’s just weird to think that there’s going to be a Venom movie where his entire reason for existing is going to be absent. The symbiote part of Venom initially tries to bond with Spider-Man, but Peter is eventually able to get it off him. Afterwards, it’s forced to bond with Eddie Brock and the two find a mutual hatred for Spidey that motivates a complete connection between them. It’s why Venom ends up with the appearance he does, to the point that he has a giant spider on his chest! It’s the basis for many of his powers (besides the brain eating and living suit aspects), and Spider-Man plays such a major role in the backstories of both Brock and Thompson that changing those aspects might ultimately weaken the character. It might help simplify the character, but it’s just weird.
8. Could Be Great: No Spider-Man
Venom has always (somehow) been one of Spider-Man’s more complicated villains. Across a number of different incarnations and re-imaginings, the character has always been quick to become muddled and confusing. Look, there’s never been a simple origin behind this character in any of his forms, and the various attempts to streamline it all have failed miserably. Whether he comes from space, is a bio-weapon run amok, or if he’s a living, breathing disease demon, he always get tangled up in Spider-Man’s influence and just brings a whole mess of confusing weirdness to the table. Without Spider-Man, hopefully the character will have the room to exist as its own entity and even transcend all the past attempts to make Venom into a popular, standalone character as a result.
7. Won’t Be Great: Ruben Fleisher Is Directing (Gangster Squad)
Ruben Fleisher walked away from Zombieland looking like he had all the potential in the world. And then came the next few years. Gangster Squad was a poorly-constructed historical action film that failed to really ever pick up any steam despite the incredibly impressive cast on display. 30 Minutes or Less had a funny conceit at the center but wasn’t able to come together and even really be all that funny. Both were huge disappointments, and while he’s found success again with Superstore, that show doesn’t really scream Venom, Tom Hardy, or a hard R-rated horror super-villain. He’s a weird pick, and while those have paid off for Marvel in the past it’s fair to wonder what exactly brought him into this beyond any leftover passion from Zombieland – which wasn’t the kind of movie fans wanted from a serious Venom movie.
6. Could Be Great: Ruben Fleisher Is Directing (Zombieland)
In 2009, Zombieland became a surprise smash hit. The comedy – which explores a world during the zombie apocalypse but with tongue firmly planted in cheek – helped elevate Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg’s status around Hollywood, and gave Woody Harrelson one of his most memorable performances. The film was able to mix horror and gore along with the more tricky comedic tone, and even managed to get some real emotion out of the story. If there’s anyone who can mix the gore that Venom will inevitably require alongside the broader strokes of a the genre, it’s Fleisher. Plus, in his Venom movie, there’s a chance we’ll either get to see a clown get gleefully destroyed or Bill Murray showing up and then dying almost immediately after.
5. Won’t Be Great: Could Be Ugly As Sin
The cardinal rule of special effects is that the marvel of today is the lame of tomorrow. Just look at the relatively short history of CGI, and how quickly the effects have shifted in no time at all. While some effects have managed to stay impressive (like Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings) thanks in part to their real-world components, most of the movies that try to rely too much on the special effects end up feeling ancient in no time at all. Venom as a character is someone who will have to rely on CGI, as the visual aspect is vital to the appeal of the character. It’s going to be depressing if the effects wear out in no time. So while it might look cool for a little while, it’s the kind of effect that’ll lose its impact in no time.
4. Could Be Great: CGI Could Make Venom Look Amazing
As special effects have gotten better and better, the superheroes that children grew up with have been able to make the translation from page to screen with incredible results. Characters and concepts that only twenty years earlier were relegated to unconvincing green screen effects now are done with such loving care that audiences can actually be convinced into thinking a guy could really put on a robot suit and fly around shooting aliens with his laser hands. And seeing Venom’s suit constantly flowing and moving would be one of the coolest effects in a comic. His suit is supposed to be fluid in a way that very few things have ever looked like on film, and that’s a fascinating prospect for the future movie. The trick is going to be in how it’s presented, and to make it cool enough to stand the test of time.
3. Won’t Be Great: A Weird Mixture Of Tones Is Coming
Everything about Venom just seems like a weird mishmash of concepts and tones, and that never goes well. The kind of comics that the movie seems to be riffing off come from the super serious days of the early 1990s, where they played ridiculous scenarios and settings completely straight. But the cast doesn’t play to that style at all, seeming like the kind of actors that you would see in something hard-hitting, dramatic, and compelling. And then, to make things even more complicated, Ruben Fleisher is directing the film, who doesn’t immediately come to mind for either of the two kinds of films that seem to be what Venom wants to be. Those three different kinds of movies will all be running into one another. Know what the last superhero movie to have that problem? Suic*de Squad.
2. Could Be Great: A Horror Superhero Movie
One of the things that the MCU has been very good about, especially as the Marvel movies approach the ten year anniversary of the first Iron Man movie, is keeping the universe feeling fresh and original. The shifting tones and feelings behind the different series and movies have kept them from feeling like any other superhero movie out there, and even from feeling too similar themselves. The espionage and action of Captain America: Winter Soldier contrasts well against the high school comedy of Spider-Man: Homecoming, with all these other different takes on superheroes littered throughout the universe. And with Venom (alongside the upcoming New Mutants), it seems like creators are open to making a superheroic horror story, the kind of thing that could really be special. Seriously, seeing Venom smile with all those teeth is going to be a great reveal.
1. Won’t Be Great: Lethal Protector
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Venom is the inherent contradiction of his character. He’s a Lethal Protector, meant to be a big scary monster that’s trying to use that evil for the pursuit of good. That’s a really interesting core to a character, but it’s somewhat complicated when that monster also sometimes eats brains. Venom is a weird character who has had a very scattershot record in his solo stories, with his worst narratives being grisly for the sake of the gore. It’s all style, no substance, and covered in blood along the way. We want to have hope for Venom, because if it’s good, it’ll be really good. But if it’s bad, it’ll be confusing mess that does for Marvel what Suic*de Squad did to DC.