Like Forcing a Puzzle Piece: Venom and the MCU

In Culture, Featured, Tyler Carlos by Amanda Valdovinos

– By Tyler Carlos –

Spoilers Below

With superhero mania still in full swing in Hollywood, it was only a matter of time until the world was reintroduced to one of the most iconic comic book characters – the parasitic symbiote Venom. After the trainwreck that was 2008’s Spider-Man 3, Sony announced in 2016 that a new Venom film was in the works that would hopefully quash the nightmare of Topher Grace’s interpretation of the iconic character. This film was set to take place in its own standalone franchise separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with the potential that the new film would launch its own universe based around Sony-owned comic book characters.

In May 2016, it was announced that Tom Hardy would be taking the role of Eddie Brock, a down-on-his-luck journalist who eventually becomes the host body of Venom. Following his casting was Michelle Williams as the main love interest Anne Weying and Riz Ahmed as the main antagonist Carlton Drake, who hosts Venom’s archenemy named Riot.

The first teaser trailer was released in February 2018, and it was seriously underwhelming, to say the least- mostly due to the fact that the title character did not make an appearance. It was later revealed that this was due to the visual effects not being complete, but this nonetheless gave this risky film a rocky start. When the second trailer launched and fans finally got a look at Venom, the positive reactions began trickling in, though there was still some hesitancy in regards to the dialogue.

And then, on October 5th, Venom was released in theaters nationwide, and the reaction was… not good.

How Was the Movie Itself?

As is typical with big Hollywood films, critics got a chance to review Venom before it hit theaters, and boy did they hate it. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said of Venom, “A tone-deaf, uneven and maddeningly dumb clunker that never settles on an identity, all the way to the closing credits.” Johnny Oleksinski of The New York Post said simply, “‘Venom?’ More like ‘cyanide’.” The general consensus from critics is that the film is just all over the place, never deciding if it wants to be an action, comedy, or drama while integrating substandard CGI that even the talent of Tom Hardy cannot fix. The film currently holds a 30% Critics Score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Audiences, however, were more generous with an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The general consensus among audiences is that the film delivered exactly what it promised – lots of action, good acting, and the origin story of an iconic character that would erase the memory of Spider-Man 3. Overall, they called it a good “popcorn flick,” and said that the critics were simply being too hard on the movie. To be fair, when it comes to big action films like Venom, the critics and audiences don’t always see eye-to-eye. Some fans just like to see over-the-top fight sequences and car/motorcycle chases, and more often than not, critics are the opposite.

As for what I thought of Marvel’s latest, I would have to give it a 5 out of 10. It’s not good but it’s not terrible. The interactive dialogue between Eddie and Venom was no doubt the best part of the film, and Tom Hardy, as usual, really came through with his acting. But I agree with the critics when I say that even Tom Hardy couldn’t save this film. The pacing was completely off-putting, as some action sequences last over ten-minutes, while the character development of both Eddie and Venom is rushed for the sake of time. I also agree that the movie just didn’t know what it wanted to be – most of the jokes just fell flat and didn’t fit in with the darker tone of the film. And lastly, the main villain (Carlton Drake/Riot) was just boring. We’ve seen villains like Carlton Drake play the “scientist playing God” act a lot before, and Riot as the villain for Venom was just boring – no backstory or reason behind his motives except destruction.

Who is Venom Supposed to Be?

The biggest challenge that the filmmakers behind Venom had was how to have Venom without Spider-Man. While there have been different origins for Venom in the Marvel Comics, some of which do not include Spider-Man, the most popular storylines are those that include the famed web-slinger. Plus, the Spider-Man connection goes well with Venom’s overall look, as he is supposed to have the same abilities as Spider-Man, as well as the same symbol on his chest. Simply put, Venom is best known as the “anti Spider-Man.”

So who is Venom without Spider-Man? Well, in most cases, Venom is described more as an anti-hero than a true villain. For those of you that don’t know, the difference between an anti-hero and a villain is that anti-heroes typically are only out for themselves, but they still have a conscience and assist in doing good from time to time. Catwoman from the DC Universe is a perfect example.

The problem with this version of Venom is that he is a hero. Yes, he eats people, but this is out of necessity, as this is Venom’s diet. And yes, he is more violent than what is perhaps necessary. But this Venom actually falls in love with Earth and decides to stay to protect it. Venom and Eddie team up to stop Riot because they want to save lives. Venom even attempts to sacrifice his own life to save Eddie and kill Riot. And in the end, Venom agrees to only eat the bad people when he and Eddie decide to help people together.

The filmmakers have set Venom up to be a hero. If the character is to go on and become a villain, it would means taking a huge step back in terms of character development and forcing this iteration of Venom to become just like the villain of his own standalone film. Not a good idea.

From R to PG-13

When Venom was first announced, many of the fans wanted the movie to follow in the footsteps of Deadpool and be rated R, and there was a lot of speculation that Sony was going to do so. After all, Sony executives said that they were hoping to launch their own cinematic universe with this film, plus, Venom is known to be a more violent character, so why not?

Well, after the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, many folks were, and still are, eager to have a Spider-Man vs. Venom battle. It appears that in post-production, the decision was made to change the rating from R to PG-13 in order to keep that possibility alive. Tom Holland has been praised for his comic-accurate interpretation of Spider-Man, so introducing another Spider-Man into the Venom universe simply wouldn’t fit. And with the explanation that Venom was supposed to take place “adjacent” to the MCU, it makes sense that the producers couldn’t let the film be too violent, or else the potential for a crossover would be gone.

The Difference in Tone

Now, it is POSSIBLE that the movie was always intended to be PG-13 to attract a younger audience, but somehow, I don’t think so. This is a VERY different movie than the MCU films. It’s darker, grosser, and overall just more violent. With all the speculation that this is supposed to fit into the MCU, that could explain why the film wasn’t able to properly find its footing. The jokes typical of the MCU didn’t fit into the darker tone of this movie. There was a lot more swearing than is typical in an MCU film. And on top of this, most Marvel films do a great job of establishing the fact that everything in the MCU is connected. This one had no such acknowledgement.

COULD It Fit In?

After all this has been said, COULD Venom fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, I believe it actually could, but with reservations. Despite what the critics said, audiences did seem to like this iteration of the Venom character, which means that it would be harder for Marvel to create its own version of the character to interact with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. On top of that, Sony is already planning to move forward with a sequel that was set up in a post-credit scene, which will feature one of Venom’s biggest enemies – Carnage.

The only logical way that I could see Venom and Spidey fighting it out in the MCU is if it is a Peter Parker vs. Eddie Brock situation. This Venom is NOT a villain. He is a misunderstood anti-hero, but a hero nonetheless. Peter is known to try to protect people at all costs, and Eddie is known to do what he has to for a story (he is a journalist).

All I’m saying is that it is possible, but it has to be done organically. People love the MCU’s current Spider-Man, and it seems that audiences like this Venom, but for wildly different reasons. If Marvel was to make them interact in the next film, I don’t think it would work. It will need some setting up, but it could happen.

SHOULD It Fit In?

So, should Venom become part of the MCU? Really, I don’t know. This was a decent attempt at Venom – way better than the monstrosity that was Spider-Man 3’s Venom. Basically, it all comes down to how Marvel wants to use the character. To have it fit nicely in the MCU puzzle, they may have to make overall changes to the character setup in this film. In my opinion, if Venom is meant to be a villain in MCU, then no, don’t introduce this version of the character into the MCU. Keep the two separate and keep the character consistent; that’s all we can ask.


About the Author 

Tyler Carlos is a proud nerd originally from Baton Rouge, LA. He completed his undergraduate in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University, and graduated from JPCatholic’s MBA in Film Producing in 2016. In his off time, he enjoys Crossfit, escape rooms, and watching Gotham and This Is Us. His ultimate goal in life is to learn how to fly.

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