That slippery symbiote is back on your screens, as Venom: Let There Be Carnage has wrapped its tendrils around the box office. With Andy Serkis replacing Ruben Fleischer as director, the sequel to 2018’s Venom picks up following the dramatic tease of Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage.
As the title suggests, Venom’s nemesis Carnage is suiting up for mayhem in a very loose adaptation of the fan-favourite Maximum Carnage comic book arc from 1993. Alongside Harrelson, Tom Hardy is back as the titular Venom/Eddie Brock, Michelle Williams reprises her role as Anne Weying, while newcomers include the likes of Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison/Shriek and Stephen Graham as Detective Patrick Mulligan.
Even though Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn’t (quite) part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it does some serious world-building, and hints at what comes next in terms of both the MCU and the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters. Like any good Marvel movie, there are a tonne of Easter eggs to unpack, so let’s get cracking.
St. Estes Home for Boys
Sticking with Let There Be Carnage’s more adult themes, the movie version of Cletus is a lot like his comics counterpart, with both versions sharing a sadistic streak and a childhood home.
After murdering his mother and grandmother, Kasady crosses paths with Harris’ Frances at the St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children. This more inclusive locale lets girls through its doors, which is unlike the comic book St. Estes Home for Boys.
The residents of Ravencroft
DC has Arkham Asylum and Marvel has the Ravencroft Institute. Famous inmates have included everyone from Doctor Octopus to Loki – and even Mister Sinister as a doctor on staff. This home for the criminally deranged has plenty of potential for the future of the Venom-Verse, and Serkis has said as much.
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The director told Screen Rant that while everyone is begging for the Spider-Man crossover, he thinks there are more legs in exploring the villains of Ravencroft. The Morbius trailer featured the surprise return of Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, and if the two are cellmates at Ravencroft, a certain Sinister Six could be formed in the shadows.
There’s no official cameo from Web-Head (we don’t count that still on the TV) meaning that the much-hyped appearance of Tom Holland doesn’t happen in Let There Be Carnage.
There’s a hat tip to the legacy of Spider-Man, with Venom taking a shot at the red and blue hero. When arguing with Eddie in Mrs Chen’s store, Venom jibes, “Responsibility is for the mediocre”. It’s a subtle swipe at Uncle Ben’s iconic, “With great power comes great responsibility” line.
Venom’s desire for it and Eddie to become “lethal protectors” is a deep cut to the 1993 miniseries of the same name. In “Lethal Protectors” the pair have made up, Eddie moves to San Francisco, and Venom is officially established as an antihero. Much of the Lethal Protector arc was told in the first Venom, but it seems there’s more to the story.
Stan Lee’s cameo
Although Stan Lee was once known for his Marvel movie cameos, the Spider-Man co-creator’s passing in 2018 means he’s remembered for a final (posthumous) appearance as a digitally de-aged version of himself in Avengers: Endgame.
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Lee also popped up in 2018’s Venom as one of his final cameos, however, Let There Be Carnage has a nod to the comic book legend thanks to a magazine featuring his face in Mrs Chen’s store. Here, Venom reaches out from Eddie and even tries to steal the copy from the magazine rack.
The Cult of Carnage
The now-synonymous image of Carnage posing in front of a stained glass window echoes the cover of 2019’s Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage.
Although it’s Kasady’s serial killer symbiote here, the comic featured symbiote overlord Knull on the cover. Let There Be Carnage ends with Venom showing Eddie the symbiote hive mind, but could it be Knull pulling the strings?
An MCU crossover
There’s a whole lot to unpack in that shocking post-credit scene, and delivering a twist none of us expected, Let There Be Carnage threw Eddie and Venom into the MCU. When the odd couple are hiding out and planning their next steps, they are suddenly transported to a new reality.
Alongside the booming voice of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, the post-credit scene appears to be set in a post-Far From Home timeline when Peter Parker’s identity has been revealed. Venom snarls at the screen – showing it’s at least aware of Holland’s wall-crawling hero.
When this dangling plot thread will be picked up remains to be seen, but with rumours that Holland, Garfield, and Maguire will be sharing the screen in Spider-Man: No Way Home, there could also be room for Hardy in this bulging ensemble.
What a Nightmare
For those looking for the big bad of Venom 3 or possibly even Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Serkis does a “strange” job of setting them up. When Mulligan is reading the Daily Bugle, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it headline that reads, “Avengers lose to Nightmare”.
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So, while Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can topple the Mad Titan, is the Fear Lord really too much? Nightmare also has connections to a certain Living Vampire, and with Jared Leto tweeting that he couldn’t wait to “sink his teeth” into Let There Be Carnage, Nightmare could be the big bad of the Venom-Verse.
Another easy sell for Venom 3 is the return of Graham’s Mulligan in a more villainous capacity. Let There Be Carnage showed that the downtrodden detective had some serious anger issues – which is the perfect setup for a symbiote bond.
Following the dramatic showdown with Carnage and Shriek, Mulligan is left writhing on the floor with his eyes glowing blue and him ranting about “monsters”. In the comics, Mulligan takes on the mantle of Toxin, which is the spawn of Carnage and is stronger than Carnage and Venom combined.
Toxin is arguably one of the good guys thanks to Mulligan’s noble intentions, and although the symbiote and host have even formed a partnership with Spider-Man, we’re guessing Toxin will be a full-blown villain in Venom 3.
The MCU’s first mutant
Here’s where things get a little complicated. With THAT post-credits stinger, it has even more widespread consequences when it comes to Shriek. Although comic book Shriek is largely associated with Spider-Man and never appears in the X-Men comics, she is actually a mutant.
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In Let There Be Carnage, Shriek mentions that her “mutation” is getting worse. If this wasn’t a good enough tease of Charles Xavier’s Gifted Youngsters, there’s another scene where Eddie is scribbling down notes and inadvertently writes the word “Phoenix” with a little girl next to it. Paging Jean Grey, Jean Grey to the MCU, please.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is in theatres now.