Sony’s anti-superhero film, Venom, is gaining momentum and trending toward a huge box office opening, but it still needs Spider-Man to seal the deal. The wall crawler is absolutely key to Venom’s origins and ongoing storylines, but all reports to-date indicate that Spidey’s a no-show in this film. So how does Sony plan to introduce Venom in a meaningful or plausible way without Spider-Man?
Superhero origin stories are tricky things to pull off in the best of cases. Filmmakers must establish the character’s voice, conflicts, and settings while also demonstrating a whole lotta respect for the source material. Fans won’t tolerate hackery when it comes to their treasured heroes, and Venom is no exception.
The last time we saw Venom was in Sam Raimi’s ill-fated Spider-Man 3, played by Topher Grace. The character was shoehorned into the script by meddling executives, which reportedly infuriated Raimi. Fans and critics hated Grace’s portrayal — he failed to resonate on any level. Spider-Man 3 tanked and ended Raimi’s run. Venom was essentially buried within the footnotes of Hollywood, until Sony resurrected him last year.
Oddly, Sony’s initial announcement made clear that new Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, would not appear in Venom — causing the Internet to sigh in unison. More recently, Venom director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) told a huge crowd in Brazil that his film would merge two fan-favorite comic-book storylines: Lethal Protector and Planet of the Symbiotes — both of which heavily included Spider-Man. Fans were overjoyed, but it was a baffling announcement, which seemed to conflict with Sony’s previous remarks.
In Lethal Protector, Venom and Spider-Man fought to a standstill and agreed to stand-down, with Venom relocating to San Francisco — the latter is replicated in Fleisher’s film. So, absent an appearance by Spider-Man, how does this work? Why does Venom go west if Spider-Man doesn’t coerce him? Does he drive or fly?
The Planet of the Symbiotes storyline is also problematic. The tale involved an alien-symbiote invasion, and a Venom-Spidey team-up to beat them down. How can Sony possibly reconcile this one without Spider-Man’s participation? Still waiting. Sigh.
Hollywood is no stranger to manipulating or altering comic-book source material to fit the needs of corresponding movie scripts. Sure, Sony can just invent a new origin or replace Spider-Man with another character (such as the rumored Carnage)… but that breaks with the source material in a pretty significant manner.
The other big issue with a Spider-Man cameo in Venom is tone and graphic violence. Venom is an R-rated sci-fi-horror hybrid. Spider-Man is not only PG-13, but so is the MCU. It would be weird, though not impossible, for Spider-Man to serve both audiences (and would Disney or Marvel be cool with that?).
Sony is smarter than this, right? Particularly after the successes of Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, which perfectly melded the character into Marvel’s cinematic universe (MCU). After working so hard to return Spider-Man to greatness, it makes no sense to deliver a half-baked Venom origin that’s sure to upset fans.
The most likely scenario is that Spider-Man shows up during Venom’s cold opening, much like Ben Affleck’s Batman brief cameos in Suicide Squad. How would it work? Spider-Man and Venom tangle, resulting in Venom’s banishment to the City by the Bay. That makes sense, and could be done using a PG-13 tone; when Venom hits the Pacific coast the R-rated atmosphere bleeds over. Thereafter, Carnage stands-in for Spider-Man — fans would probably be OK with this, since Carnage is also a fan-favorite. Nice and clean, everybody wins.
Sure, a successful Venom can be achieved sans Spider-Man, but that’s not going to please fans. A few minutes of Spider-Man popping-up in the prologue (and possibly again post-credits too) makes all the sense in the world. Venom cannot realistically exist without Spider-Man, and this is the safest way to pull it off while also meeting the fanbase’s unyielding expectations. Your move Sony!