Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Tom Hardy as Venom (Amazon)

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

The year 2018 was a fantastic one for superhero films. It featured genuine game-changers such as Black Panther (Coogler, 2018), Avengers: Infinity War (Russo Brothers, 2018), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey & Rothman, 2018). Each of those films were some combination of cultural phenomenon and meaningful step forward for the genre. Most of the other 2018 superhero films were not culturally 'important', but were enormous fun and beautifully executed their unique visions. These include Deadpool 2 (Leitch, 2018), Incredibles 2 (Bird, 2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018), Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (Michail & Horvath, 2018) and Aquaman (Wan, 2018). And then there's Ruben Fleischer's 2018 anti-hero film, Venom ,

Although it was shockingly successful financially, and has its loyal fans, Venom is inferior compared to its contemporary comic book films. It's the least impressive example of the genre in a landmark year. Its flaws can mostly be explained by the regressive approach to comic book blockbuster filmmaking taken by Sony Pictures. To understand this, we must first understand the history of Venom in the comics and the lengthy production history of the film.

Venom has a complicated comic book origin that I will attempt to summarize. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck), a 12-month event miniseries that includes most major Marvel characters, debuted in May 1984. Amazing Spider-Man #252 (by Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz) was released that same month and depicts Spider-Man returning from Secret Wars with a new black costume. Part of the promotion for Secret Wars involved introducing significant changes to characters that occur during the event, enticing readers to buy the miniseries to discover how and why the changes occurred. Spider-Man acquires the new costume in Secret Wars #8 (December 1984) but by then, in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, he had discovered the startling truth about it. Made of black goo from an alien world, the costume obeyed Spider-Man's thoughts and could reform into any clothes. Spider-Man learns, however, that it's an intelligent symbiotic life-form that's slowly feeding on him. With some difficulty, Spider-Man rejects the symbiote, but it holds a grudge.

Years later, in Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988, by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane), it's revealed that the symbiote has bonded with Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist who also holds a grudge against Spider-Man. The symbiote and Brock combine to form Venom. The suit retains the look of Spider-Man's black costume, but the character is larger and sports a mouth full of fangs.

Tunnel by Dariusz Sankowski (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

Venom was an immediate hit, and is by far the most popular Spider-Man villain created since the '60s. Each of his early appearances in Amazing Spider-Man was a major event for fans. In these early stories, Venom professes a twisted code of honour. He single-mindedly seeks to kill Spider-Man for past grievances, as well as anyone else he deems deserving of violent death, but he also protects people he views as "innocents". Later artists made the character's appearance more grotesque, with a bulging body, a thick extended tongue, and copious amounts of drool. The dark "code of honour", extreme appearance and tendency towards gleeful, juvenile violence -- not to mention massive popularity -- were all qualities that were highly valued by publishers of superhero comics in the late '80s and early '90s. Indeed, Venom is the model of that era's embarrassing excess and ugly values.

Sensing an opportunity, Marvel Comics developed Venom from a Spider-Man villain to a solo antihero. To start this transition, Marvel introduced Carnage, a symbiote offshoot of Venom that bonds with a serial killer. The character is identical to Venom, but more insane and violent. Defeating him creates the impetus for Spider-Man and Venom to team up, and makes Venom appear heroic by comparison.

Beginning in 1993, Venom was spun off into a string of short solo comic book series throughout the rest of the decade. Since 2003, Venom has starred in a series of ongoing monthly books. The symbiote and 'Venom' name has passed to different hosts in that time, but inevitably returns to Eddie Brock as the first and best-known version of the character. I'm a massive Spider-Man fan and I've read many comics featuring Venom. I can therefore say that Venom is a very effective foil for Spider-Man, and generally a terrible solo hero. It's difficult to root for such a grotesque, violent character, even when he's pitted against even more vile opponents. Some writers have attempted to flesh out the character, but he's mostly a relic of the generally terrible early-'90s era of comics. But he was so popular at that time, and retains enough of a fanbase that executives involved with Spider-Man always try to capitalize on his success.

Case in point: Spider-Man 3 (2007). Director Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films were massively successful, well-regarded blockbusters that drew influence primarily from '60s Spider-Man comics. Producer Avi Arad insisted on introducing Venom in the third film, despite Raimi's protests. Spider-Man 3 is a poor film for a variety of reasons, but shoehorning an abbreviated appearance from Eddie Brock/Venom into an already overstuffed, tonally inconsistent film certainly worsened it.

Regardless, a cinematic Venom became something of a crusade for Arad over the following decade. He announced a spin-off film two months after the release of Spider-Man 3. Sony Pictures developed Venom concurrently with Raimi's Spider-Man 4, hoping to expand the Spider-Man series through spin-offs like the X-Men series created spin-offs for Wolverine. At the time, it was a bold idea to centre a blockbuster around a true villain, and the initial writers were eager to tackle the challenge. However, by 2009 the writer-director, Gary Ross, removed any connections to Spider-Man 3 and the villain approach, opting to start fresh with a more conventional antihero approach.

In early 2010, plans for Spider-Man 4 were cancelled, and Sony shifted to a reboot beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man (Webb, 2012). Venom survived the change, and the screenplay was adjusted to take place in the slightly different world of the Amazing Spider-Man films. At this point, Sony planned an ambitious shared Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, modelled after the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Venom was just one of many spin-offs in development. Venom was scheduled for release sometime between Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2016 and Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018.

Unfortunately, Sony executives got ahead of themselves. They were so focused on launching the cinematic universe after The Amazing Spider-Man 2(Webb, 2014) that they neglected to make a good film. The commercial and critical disappointment of Amazing Spider-Man 2 caused Sony to scrap their planned cinematic universe. They brokered a deal with Marvel Studios to share Spider-Man and include him in the MCU. For the second time, a Spider-Man series ended without Venom entering production. Even worse, Sony's deal with Marvel Studios prevented Spider-Man from having any connection to Venom.

After nearly a decade of stalled development, the failure of the second Spider-Man film series and contractual limitations on the Spider-Man character seemed to finally kill Venom. But it returned to life in early 2016. This is surprising because the film had no hope of connecting to Spider-Man, the massively-popular character that's central to Venom's comic book origin and early stories. Given this, why would Sony still make Venom? What is the point of Eddie Brock, the symbiote, or their combination into a large Spider-Man lookalike without Spider-Man's involvement?

The simple answer is that Venom is a recognizable, thus valuable, piece of intellectual property (IP). People know the name from comics, animated series, video games, and even Spider-Man 3. From the outset of active production on Venom, Sony clearly had no grand artistic vision or desire to faithfully adapt the comics. The studio aimed to capitalize on one of its remaining pieces of Spider-Man IP to make up for a decade of false starts and failed projects. Not a great position to be in when beginning a film.

Writers were hired in 2016, and Sony took a cue from the approach of 20th Century Fox to Deadpool (Miller, 2016) and Logan (Mangold, 2017). Both were R-rated films attempting to faithfully adapt violent main characters, and the studio mitigated the financial risk of a potentially smaller (over 17) audience by significantly lowering their budgets. Venom was initially planned as a relatively small-budget, R-rated film, leaning into the inherent horror and violence of the character.

In May 2017, Tom Hardy was cast as Eddie Brock and Ruben Fleischer was hired as director. This all seemed promising until Sony executives, who clearly couldn't help themselves, once again started making big plans. Though the cinematic rights to Spider-Man were entangled with Marvel Studios and the MCU, Sony still owned the rights to many characters related to Spider-Man. Instead of producing a single film about a Spider-Man character without Spider-Man, why not use Venom to launch a universe of such films? Among others, Sony planned films about Morbius, another Spider-Man villain, and about Silver Sable and Black Cat, two Spider-Man allies. Executives even hinted that Tom Holland, the current Spider-Man in the MCU, could appear in the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters (SPUMC). This would connect the SPUMC to the massively-popular MCU. And yes, that is the actual name and acronym that Sony has chosen.

However, connecting the two universes through Spider-Man was contractually prohibited. This means that the rumours were merely a marketing ploy designed to link, in the minds of fans, Sony's proposed shared universe with the one they were emulating. Even so, the SPUMC was potentially very lucrative, making the launch film, Venom, far more important. As with Amazing Spider-Man 2, the executives were no longer concerned with making one good film, but with launching an interconnected series of films.

One of the things I admire most about Marvel Studios and the MCU is that their first priority is making highly-entertaining, well-made blockbuster films. They find great filmmakers who are passionate about the characters, and let them create. For some, the MCU has become the quintessential example of homogenized, mass appeal, unchallenging big-budget filmmaking. I argue that the MCU is the gold standard of blockbuster entertainment, and that criticism should be leveled against the lesser-imitators, such as the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters. Venom began as a spin-off of Spider-Man 3, then developed as an offshoot of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, then became the launch film for an ambitious shared universe plan. To Sony executives, this film is simply a functional blockbuster, valuable IP recycled through endless iterations to fit whatever they happen to be doing at the time.

Given its greater significance as the beginning of the SPUMC, Venom became a target of studio meddling. This is evident by the change of intended rating from R to PG-13. Sony executives were concerned with tonal inconsistencies in potential future crossovers, so they ordered the violence and mature themes toned down. The other examples of studio meddling are obvious in the finished film. The tone of the film is mostly serious, the visuals quite dark, but there are dissonant bits of levity and romance that seem shoehorned into the film. These are classic signs of executives seeking to broaden the appeal of the film. There are no three-dimensional characters, as everyone has been smoothed out into straightforward, inoffensive archetypes.

Finally, interesting ideas or themes from the first two acts are completely abandoned for a loud, tonally-inconsistent action climax that's tacked on. The result is a film that seems focus-tested and market-researched to have the broadest possible appeal and, thus, comes out utterly bland. Venom is a boring, anonymous superhero film, a type that I recognize from a thankfully bygone era of blockbuster filmmaking.

Genre film fans have their own shorthand when describing certain types of films. A decade ago, fans would commonly say, derogatorily, that a blockbuster "felt like a '90s film". In this context, a "'90s film" refers to what I described above: a big-budget film that's finely tuned, through market research, to appeal to everyone, resulting in a film that doesn't really appeal to anyone. Whether or not they began as unique, specific filmmaker visions, "90s films" are meddled with until it's impossible to view them as anything approaching an artistic expression or achievement. They are soulless studio products, with little heart or love of the property behind them and exist solely to generate revenue for the studio. One may argue this describes all studio blockbusters, but I disagree with that assessment. In the past decade, there have been increasing examples of strong, visionary directors working within the studio system to create interesting, artistic, unique visions on a big-budget canvas. Blockbuster cinema has taken a huge step forward, whereas Venom is a step backward.

The quintessential "90s film" may be Batman & Robin (Schumacher, 1997) but, despite the label, films like this continued well into the '00s. In early 2018 I pinpointed Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Story, 2007) as the last in a string of Marvel Films that felt like disposable, made-by-committee "90s films". After that, the MCU launched with Iron Man (Favreau, 2008), and most Marvel Films became more faithful to their source material, more rooted in strong characters, more intelligent and interesting, more narratively groundbreaking and, as a consequence, vastly more successful. As the MCU grew more successful, the studio gave greater licence to interesting filmmakers adapting their properties, a trend that became more widespread in Hollywood. To be clear, the films were still products made for mass appeal to enrich the studio, but they were made incredibly well, with passion and skill. Comic book films had largely shifted from the "90s film" approach a decade earlier, which is why Venom is so regressive.

Venom plays like a film made 15 years earlier, which I believe contributed somewhat to its success. Perhaps some audiences were longing for that era of film around the turn of the millennium, when a simple, bland film like Venom was the typical blockbuster superhero film. For me, it was a nasty, unwelcome shock to the system. It's as if Sony was operating out of an old playbook. Venom wouldn't be relevant to the larger blockbuster conversation if it wasn't massively successful. Clearly, theres an audience for this kind of superhero/anti-hero film.

Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake (IMDB)

And what plot were the filmmakers able to cobble together without Spider-Man or other contractually-prohibited comic book concepts? The Life Foundation, based in San Francisco, is a medical research and pharmaceutical company run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). It has branched out into space exploration (as you do) and the film opens with one of their rockets crashing into Malaysia with four alien organisms on board. Three are recovered, but one organism escapes. After the crash, muckraking investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is assigned to interview Drake for his network, despite his confrontational history. Eddie's fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), represents the Life Foundation through her law firm. Using confidential documents taken from Anne's computer, Eddie interrogates Drake about unethical human testing during the interview. As a result, Eddie loses his job, his reputation, and Anne.

Meanwhile, Drake attempts to successfully bond the alien organisms, which are intelligent symbiotes, to Earth's animals and humans. His stated reason is to cure cancer, but he may really want to make humans strong enough to leave Earth. The human trials consistently result in the symbiotes killing human hosts, but Drake continues his attempts unabated. His lead scientist, Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate), is uncomfortable with the increasing number of dead test subjects, and reaches out to Eddie to blow the whistle. She sneaks Eddie into the lab, where Eddie accidentally bonds with the Venom symbiote.

Eddie exhibits superhuman strength, speed and agility as he escapes the lab. He soon feels sick, hot, ravenously hungry, and he hears Venom's voice in his head. Venom grows to like Eddie, but wants to escape Earth on Drake's next rocket. When Drake's men come after Eddie, however, Venom takes control. The black symbiote goo shoots out of Eddie in all directions to fight the attackers. Eventually, the symbiote encompasses Eddie's whole body, turning him into a gooey, black giant who looks suspiciously like Spider-Man except for his rows of fangs and enormous tongue.

Eddie fights Venom's more violent tendencies, such as biting off heads, as he attempts to expose Drake's activities. Along the way, he reconnects with Anne, who helps him. Ultimately, the missing fourth symbiote, Riot, makes its way to San Francisco to bond with Drake. Riot and Drake intend to use Drake's new rocket to rendezvous with millions more symbiotes in space and bring them to colonize Earth. Venom suddenly decides that it likes Earth enough to stop Riot's plans. Venom/Eddie and Riot/Drake fight on the rocket launchpad until Venom sabotages the rocket, causing it to explode and kill Riot/Drake. Eddie's reputation is restored, he approaches a reconciliation with Anne, and starts to find balance with Venom. They will only hurt, kill and eat bad people.

Given the limitations of the film, there are liberties taken with the adaptation of the character. The symbiote comes from space, as in the comics, but it's taken intentionally by the Life Foundation rather than accidentally by Spider-Man. In the first Venom solo series, Lethal Protector, Eddie moves to San Francisco, befriends the city's homeless population, and runs afoul of Carlton Drake, the Life Foundation, and their batch of symbiotes. In the film, Eddie lives in San Francisco, the Life Foundation brings multiple symbiotes to Earth, and homeless people are the human test subjects. These are nice nods to the comics, certainly appreciated by longtime fans. Venom retains the appearance of a large, black Spider-Man, but the telltale spider-symbol is removed from his chest. Besides severed ties to Spider-Man, the biggest change from the comics' storyline is the relationship between Eddie and the symbiote.

In the comics, Eddie and the symbiote bond over a shared hatred of Spider-Man, and they are of one mind about everything. Eddie/Venom even uses plural pronouns. In the film, the symbiote identifies itself as Venom and remains a distinct character from Eddie. It speaks to Eddie in his head and sometimes takes over his body, but they disagree. In many ways, this is a clever course correction for the character. It allows Venom to speak and act like the classic version of the character, including the juvenile glee it takes in killing and eating people, while also having Eddie criticize such behaviour.

It's difficult to root for a grotesque, violent character, which is the main challenge for the character's solo stories. Venom is made more palatable with Eddie balancing out his awful tendencies. Furthermore, the PG-13 rating ensures any violence or gore is either bloodless or off-screen. Yes, the character bites off heads and eats people, but you never see any of it clearly. Without these fixes, Venom would have had far less appeal. Thus, Venom shies away from its title character's more gruesome traits, making him more widely acceptable while not being faithful to the comics. This is textbook "90s film" studio meddling.

Riz Ahmed as Riot and Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock (IMDB)

While these changes successfully smooth out Venom's rough edges, they ultimately weaken the central character of the film: Eddie Brock. This is a major problem, because the character is already a bland, inoffensive "90s film" archetype before he meets Venom. In the first half of the film, Eddie is a principled, affable man of the people who pays dearly for one bad mistake. That mistake is taking confidential files from his fiancée's private computer to confront Drake. This was a violation of Anne's privacy and trust. But the film can never bring itself to judge Eddie for the mistake, and goes to great lengths to make the audience feel nothing but sympathy for him. He did it for a good reason, exposing the dead test subjects that Drake is trying to sweep under the rug.

So, Eddie's one bad choice is never treated as such, lest viewers feel at all conflicted about him. Pure, bland "90s film" characterization. And the consequences for Eddie's big mistake (losing his job, career, reputation, apartment, fiancée) are extreme, thereby increasing sympathy for him. After his life falls apart, Eddie is on a first name basis with the owner of his local bodega and with the homeless woman outside his apartment, whom he gives $20 despite being broke. Eddie is a perfect, sympathetic character who made one mistake. That's not compelling. What he gains in sympathy, he loses in dimensionality. Hardy plays Eddie with an indeterminate American accent from the "aw, shucks" type to hammer home his lovable loser status. That's the flawed approach to Eddie before he bonds with Venom.

In the second half of the film, he's further diminished by becoming a passive passenger. Venom drives the plot and the action, while Eddie is swept along. Eddie never grows as a character, never embraces his anger or takes responsibility for his mistake. In fact, at the end of the film he's retroactively absolved for his one mistake. This is a "90s film" central character, where all the rough edges are smoothed out to the point where the character is not much of a character anymore.

For much of the second act, Venom goes about creating mayhem all around Eddie. As the film enters the third act, we learn about Riot's plan to colonize Earth with symbiotes and that Venom was a part of that plan. But, apropos of nothing, Venom decides to stop Riot's plan and live on Earth. Eddie asks what changed Venom's mind, and he replies, "You did, Eddie." This is never explained. Venom suddenly decides to save the world because the film needs a big action climax.

Venom suddenly grows as a character in the third act, but only to justify a tonally discordant action climax. Prior to the climax, Venom seems to be exploring themes of corporate responsibility to the public and ethics. It's not very clearly defined, but it's present, possibly from earlier drafts of the screenplay. But that all goes out the window at the end so two symbiotes can fight and a rocket can explode.

This brings us to Carlton Drake. He started in medical research and pharmaceuticals, and is now into space exploration. It seems far-fetched until you remember that Elon Musk exists. Riz Ahmed brings an incredible charisma to the character. That charisma is vital, since it's the only explanation for why most of Drake's employees blindly accept his sociopathic orders. Drake has a lengthy, inspiring monologue for every occasion that sounds great as long as you don't overthink it. For most of the film, he's the quintessential unscrupulous businessman, eager to conduct dangerous human testing and unfazed by the deaths that result from his vision.

He's a perfect foil character for a crusading investigative reporter, such as Eddie, to pursue. Ahmed's strong performance mostly distracts from Drake's oversimplified villainy. His goals are never clearly defined, nor are his motivations. He doesn't blink when the symbiotes kill another test subject. He's basically evil for the sake of being evil, which is typical of villains in "90s films". This is also a way Venom highlights Eddie's bland perfection. Had Drake's intentions or motivations been better defined or more understandable, audiences may have been conflicted about Eddie's fighting against him.

Drake claims to be looking for a cancer cure, but Skirth mentions that he's looking for a way to leave Earth. He has determined that overpopulation and climate change will make Earth uninhabitable, and he believes the symbiotes will allow humans to survive elsewhere. This motivation is pretty thin, and revealed only in passing exposition. The film doesn't sell that motivation. We only see that Drake wants symbiotes to successfully bond with humans and is willing to kill countless test subjects to do it. That makes him the bad guy, and that's all that matters. Whatever his underlying motivations for the first two acts, they don't matter because Drake bonds with the Riot symbiote.

Suddenly ,he plans to pilot his next rocket alone to retrieve millions of symbiotes to colonize Earth. This is all in service of the tacked-on action climax. The undercooked themes of dangerous science or unethical business practices are discarded from the film, as are any interesting aspects of Drake's character. He just becomes a bigger, more dangerous symbiote for Venom to fight. But it's difficult to care about an ill-defined hero and villain suddenly fighting on a rocket launchpad.

The last major character is Anne, who's even more under-written and underserved than Eddie or Drake. It's shocking that Michelle Williams took a role in Venom after her stunning, Oscar-nominated turn in Manchester By the Sea (Lonergan, 2016). Her casting implied that there would be some substance to the role, rather than a typical sidelined romantic interest. But there's no substance here.

Tom Hardy as Venom (IMDB)

Anne is introduced in her and Eddie's apartment, dressed and ready for work, and giving Eddie his coffee in bed. She has her life together, he's a bit of a slob, shorthand for an "opposites attract" romantic pairing. She later witnesses Eddie as Venom, and immediately, without a second thought, tries to help him. This includes Anne briefly bonding with Venom to save Eddie from Drake's men. She passes Venom back to Eddie through a kiss, of course.

Later, despite being a lawyer, Anne rushes into an evacuated mission control room to operate some of the launchpad controls. This keeps her involved during the tacked-on action climax. Anne plays a functional role, as the film slots her in whenever Eddie needs help. Besides that, she's merely an object for Eddie to pine after. This makes Anne more of a prop than a character, and Williams deserves better.

So none of the characters are particularly strong or well-defined in Venom. Since the best humour comes out of character, this is likely why the humour in the film falls falt. Most of the time Venom takes itself seriously. Most scenes take place at night or in dark labs, demonstrating a horror film influence. Indeed, there are moments of gross body horror and, of course, Venom's off-screen violence, but the overall film never achieves a true horror feel.

The humour is injected mostly when Eddie begins to spar with Venom. In one, admittedly pretty funny, scene, Eddie accosts Anne and her new boyfriend Dan (Reid Scott) at a fancy restaurant, babbling like a madman, stealing food off people's plates, and ultimately cooling off in a lobster tank. Eddie acts sillier and sillier as he attempts to wrest control of his body from Venom, but the attempts at levity don't work. At one point, Dan asks Anne what's going on with Eddie, meaning the giant toothy monster, but Anne mistakenly thinks he is referring to her rekindling a romance with Eddie. This kind of sitcom misunderstanding has no place in this antihero comic book film. The tonal inconsistencies are especially apparent in the tacked-on action climax, which is unlike anything else in the film. These all represent the studio's attempts to increase the film's appeal -- awkwardly adding humour, romance or action, including something for everyone in an otherwise dark, serious film. By trying to appeal to everyone, the film appeals to no one.

Everything in Venom is calculated and cynical. This was a film that no one was clamouring for, a film that survived multiple false starts and Spider-Man series collapses. Ultimately, it was made without any connection to one of its core characters, Spider-Man, simply because it was recognizable IP that could be packaged and distributed. Venom is jam-packed with one-dimensional characters, a loose plot, and inconsistent tones to package it in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Venom represents a regression for superhero blockbusters, a step back to the late '90s / early '00s, when this approach was widespread and accepted.

And yet, the studio's plan worked. Using the old playbook paid off. Venom earned $213 million in North America (the 13th biggest film of the year) and $856 million worldwide (the 7th biggest film of the year). Worldwide, it earned more money than Deadpool 2 or Ant-Man and the Wasp. It was not well-received by critics, or fans like me, but the filmmakers mostly shrugged that off as snobbery. People certainly liked the film, but I'd have a hard time finding someone who loved it. How can someone love a cynical, studio-directed "90s film"?

A sequel was announced, and the second Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters film, Morbius (Espinosa, 2021), entered production. I'm curious about the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Serkis, 2021), because its quality will offer insight into Sony's approach. After the financial success of Venom, will Sony continue to make such films or will the studio take the success as an impetus to try something bold, challenging, and interesting? Will Let There Be Carnage be a "90s film" or will the series enter the 21st-century? We will see next June.

***

Stan Lee Cameo Corner: Stan appears at the end of the film, walking his dog. He insists that Eddie do whatever he can to get Anne back. This was the last Stan Lee cameo to appear before his death on 12 November 2018, although he filmed a few more. That is 35 cameos in 51 films.

Credits Scene(s):

• In the mid-credits, Eddie scores an interview in prison with Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who promises carnage when he escapes. This sets up Carnage for the sequel.

• In the post-credits, we are treated to a delightful five-minute clip of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which was released two months later.

First Appearances:

• Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott and Woody Harrelson are all returning for Venom: Let There Be Carnage

• Kelly Marcel, who wrote the final draft of this film, is the sole credited screenwriter on Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Next Time: Comic book films and animation take a huge leap forward into the Spider-Verse.

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