Last week, Sony Pictures Entertainment finally released a full trailer for Venom, the studio's upcoming superhero (supervillain?) film based on the popular Spider-Man antagonist of the same name. Charitably speaking, the movie doesn't look very good.
Granted, it's hard to judge a 2-hour movie based on a 3-minute trailer, but if the staid action scenes, grating dialogue and asinine premise are anything to go by, the Venom character is not going to make out much better in this film than he did in Sam Raimi's disappointing Spider-Man 3 back in 2007.
Still, given the fraught relationship between Marvel and Sony, Venom raises some interesting doctrinal questions about where Spider-Man's supporting casts exists within the greater Marvel movie spectrum. And, you know, there's always the off chance that the film could turn out to be a transcendent deconstruction of superhero tropes rather than, say, an overblown action film with a predictable plot and a joyless execution. Maybe.
What's Venom all about?
Venom is a superhero film all about its titular antihero. Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) gets enmeshed with a symbiotic alien, transforming into a superpowered criminal/crime fighter. The symbiote enhances Brock's strength, speed and agility, but also his inherent hostility and aggression. In the film, it looks like Venom will fight against some evil scientists who are using the symbiote species to run unethical experiments.
When does it come out?
The film will be out on Oct. 5, 2018. I won't exactly be the first in line when tickets go on sale, but every movie has the potential to exceed its trailer. At least the character looks a lot like his comic-book counterpart.
Who's in the film?
Aside from Tom Hardy (whom you'll probably recognize from Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek: Nemesis, et al.), the film will also feature Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed.
Williams plays Anne Weying, a district attorney and Brock's love interest. Ahmed takes on the role of Carlton Drake, the villainous scientist who opposes them. Jenny Slate and Woody Harrelson will also show up at some point.
What about the director?
The film's director is Ruben Fleischer. Fans fell in love with Fleischer after his ambitious 2009 horror/rom-com Zombieland. However, his two more recent films, 30 Minutes or Less and Gangster Squad, didn't receive the same kind of acclaim. Venom will be Fleischer's fourth feature film.
Does Venom have any connection to the Spider-Man films?
The answer to this question is surprisingly complicated — and at present, we're not actually sure. But here's the background:
Venom is probably not related to the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man films or the two Amazing Spider-Man films that Sony put out over the last 15 years or so. Unless Sony is playing a big trick on us, we can say that much with some confidence. Whether Venom is related to Spider-Man: Homecoming and the recent Avengers films from Marvel Studios is a much harder question to answer.
To simplify a very convoluted story: Before Marvel Studios became the powerhouse it is today, it didn't have the kind of money or clout necessary to make big-budget superhero films. As such, it licensed some of its most popular characters — like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man — to outside studios. The X-Men and the Fantastic Four went to 20th Century Fox, where they still live. (This is why Wolverine has never shown up in an Avengers film.) Spider-Man and his supporting cast went to Sony.
However, fans didn't react that well to Sony's Amazing Spider-Man reboot with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Through some very complex legal voodoo, Sony allowed Spider-Man (now played by Tom Holland) to appear in a limited number of Marvel Studios films, including Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War.
No one is really sure how long this deal will last or what Sony intends to do with Spider-Man in the long term. But Sony still has the rights to produce its own movies based on other Spider-Man characters. Enter Venom, who is a tremendously popular character and has routinely starred in his own comic series that don't involve Spider-Man at all. The logic is simple enough to follow.
What's not simple to follow, though, is whether Venom is connected to Holland's Spider-Man or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel says, "no." Sony says, "maybe." Amy Pascal, a Sony producer, called Venom "adjunct" to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
My best guess for the meaning of this vague term is this: Venom will be a self-contained story that doesn't explicitly contradict anything from the Marvel Studios films. The screenwriters may also work in whatever oblique references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe they think they can get away with. Sony seems more interested in building Venom up as its own franchise — as well as producing other movies about Spider-Man second-stringers like Black Cat and Silver Sable — than trying to cozy up to the MCU.
Will Spider-Man be in the movie?
Probably not? (Although there are some rumors to the contrary.) Based on my explanation above, a Spidey appearance seems unlikely. But who knows? Sony does technically own the character's film license, so if the company wants Spider-Man to come swinging in for a post-credits teaser, it's probably within the studio's rights to do so.
Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment