After years of rumbling and development issues, Sony’s standalone Venom movie is finally getting off the ground. Tom Hardy is playing Eddie Brock, and a teaser trailer was recently released. While originally, this movie was supposed to be part of Sony’s own Spider-Man “cinematic universe,” it now truly stands on its own as that endeavor fell apart and Sony got into bed with Marvel Studios. Word is that the new Spider-Man will be making a cameo appearance, but it isn’t likely things will progress more than that for a while. So does Venom, as a character, have enough to stand mostly on his own? I have my doubts.
Venom has an interesting history in the world of comics. You’d think he’s one of the most popular characters, and in a way he is, but he’s also conspicuously absent from the spotlight a lot of times. He really took off in the nineties, when that kind of character was super popular. He’s a hulking, evil version of Spider-Man who speaks like a horror movie monster, has gnarly, jagged teeth and that crazy tongue. Carnage would eventually show up to make the edge even edgier, but Venom is definitely the more marketable, t-shirt friendly adversary. He often shows up in video games, such as Marvel vs Capcom, Separation Anxiety, and Web of Shadows.
But Venom hasn’t aged well. He often only shows up as a tertiary character in bigger Marvel events, while characters like Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus get way more screen time and narrative importance. He’ll get the occasional storyline, but Marvel has tried on multiple occasions to reinvent the wheel with Venom, and often stumbled, at least in terms of longevity. Venom has changed identity multiple times, and has event been presented as a bit of an anti-hero. At one point he was a black ops government agent (which was actually pretty cool while it lasted). But none of these really stuck, and peoples’ idea of who Venom is has suffered as a result.
Watching that trailer, it’s obvious that’s still the case. Obviously it’s a teaser, but it’s a teaser that doesn’t really tease anything. I’m not miffed that Venom wasn’t onscreen during the trailer like a bunch of other people are (talk about missing the forest for the trees), but I am raising my eyebrow at everything else. It’s mostly grungy shots of Tom Hardy looking uncomfortable, and some little hints and pieces of the various Venom origin mythologies being borrowed from and smashed into one. There’s shades of the 90s cartoon that most fans are familiar with, the Ultimate Comics version, and even potential nods to the Rick Remender black ops gimmick I mentioned earlier. The whole thing feels muddled and unsure of what it wants to be.
That’s not to say the Venom movie will be bad. In fact I’m totally of the mind that comic book movies don’t owe anything to canon. If Sony wants to do a weird, grimy psycho-thriller that happens to have Venom in it, that could be pretty cool. But I’m not down with the more sterile product this could be, in which the film just borrows from various comics to make some homogenized version of the character that vaguely nods to the source material and fans. I’m worried it will be more of that, and hope the next trailer gives us a lot more in the way of a personality.