San Francisco’s self-proclaimed “lethal protector” has squelched back into cinemas for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. A sequel to 2018’s Venom, the film exists in a hypothetical state of being both an absurdly entertaining comedy and mind-numbingly bad action movie at the same time. It’s Schrödinger’s movie, both rotten and fresh at the same time – to borrow the parlance of a popular review-aggregation site.
Honestly, if I had to remove the fence from my posterior and choose a side, I’d come down on liking Venom 2 more than I dislike it. It makes about as much sense as filling a tumble dryer with fish fingers but there’s something to be admired in how little it cares about being coherent; especially in light of how buttoned up and pre-packed superhero films have become in recent years.
Venom 2 is a movie that, like its main character, indulges in its every desire. Want to see Venom at a rave? It’s in there. Want to introduce mutants to the world? Don’t worry we just did in a throwaway line of dialogue. Need Carnage to find his girlfriend? Well, symbiotes are compatible with the internet, it turns out. It’s silly, fun, and most importantly it’s entertaining.
And yet I take issue with it, or to be more specific I take issue with Venom 2’s post-credit scene. Warning, there’ll be spoilers from here on out. Still with us? Good, this is worth reading.
In Venom 2’s post-credit sting we see Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) laying on a bed in a crappy hotel watching a soap opera with his parasitic partner in crime. After a bit of chat, the Venom symbiote offers to show Eddie a fraction of his intergalactic knowledge to which Brock readily agrees.
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Before the symbiote can impart its cosmic wisdom, though, the room starts to shake and transforms into a much nicer hotel suite. As Eddie gets up the soap opera has become a news report where a familiar face, J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) is reporting on Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) secret identity.
As Venom looks at the screen he angrily snorts “that guy” and licks the picture of Peter menacingly, cut to credits. Yes, it seems Venom’s been transported to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, somehow – presumably involving the spell Doctor Strange casts in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
This, if I’m being frank, bothers me immensely like fanboy toothache. It’s the lazy crowbarring together of the MCU and Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, or whatever we’re calling it this week, that irritates me so much because I really want to see Venom and Spider-Man battle on the big screen. But not like this.
This to me smacks of a studio desperate to get to the finish line, a hypothetical Venom versus Spider-Man movie, without bothering to put in the work. You see the reason why Venom is an interesting character in the comics isn’t that we just like seeing guys in black goo batter a bloke in red and blue pyjamas. No, we like Venom because of the unique threat he poses to the Wallcrawler.
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Venom is one of Spidey’s few foes who, physically speaking, is his superior in every way. He’s got all of Peter’s powers and more. Not only that, he negates Peter’s greatest power, his spider-sense, essentially robbing Spidey of the thing that makes him effective in combat. None of that is what makes Venom scary, though, sure, it makes him intimidating, but the amazing Spider-Man has taken on tougher foes and walked away the winner.
What makes Venom truly terrifying and a memorable villain is that he knows everything about Peter and hates him with every fibre of his being. This is because before Eddie was the symbiote’s host Peter was and during their time together it learned a lot about Parker.
When Spidey rejected the suit it was filled with hate for the Wallcrawler and found a willing vessel for its malice in Eddie Brock who similarly despised Spidey. Upon bonding with Eddie the symbiote shared all Peter’s secrets meaning Brock knows Peter almost better than he knows himself.
In the past, Venom’s used this knowledge to hurt Peter in ways few other foes have by going after Mary Jane, Aunt May, and even threatening to reveal his secret identity to the world. Outside of the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, few foes have ever really gone after Peter personally and it’s one of the defining things about the character. This brings us to the big-screen version of Venom.
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Hardy’s Venom is a lovable goofball who looks like and shares the same name as the comic book character but that’s where the similarities end. He has no pre-existing relationship with Spider-Man or Peter Parker, he could be called ‘Goo Guy’ and the films would make about as much sense. So I’ve very little interest in seeing this version of Venom fight Spider-Man because the stakes just aren’t there, he’s simply another villain for Peter to take down.
I think that’s a real shame because Spider-Man versus Venom should be an event, not a quick throwaway thing. It’s worth putting the effort into, planning for, and building towards. Maybe I’m wrong and the pair’s meeting will be a satisfying movie but right now I can’t say I’m in symbiosis with that idea.