The upcoming VENOM 2018 movie is, pardon the pun, a very weird beast. It’s an origin movie about one of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains, yet does not feature Spider-Man in its universe. In other words, one of the most fundamental aspects of Venom’s characterization- its relationship with the web-head- is willfully omitted. At first glance, this premise sounds like a corporate franchise building gone haywire.

VENOM 2018
VENOM, Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

After all, with Spider-Man fully indoctrinated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony has partially lost one of its biggest cash grabs. The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN reboot, despite Andrew Garfield’s best efforts, failed to elicit the quirky charm of Sam Raimi original trilogy. It didn’t help that THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 seemed torn between developing Peter Parker and setting up potential spin-off films. Now, the studio seems intent on salvaging non-Spidey characters from that universe and rebranding them as standalone films.

Then again, it’s not like fans don’t have a reason to be concerned about this character in particular. Venom’s SPIDER-MAN 3 appearance was widely criticized for a multitude of reasons, including bad performance and studio interference. Bottom line: VENOM 2018 would have to extensively butcher Venom’s character to surpass the hate for 2007 Venom. Therefore, it’s best to analyze what this upcoming film should do to avoid replicating its predecessor’s failures.

What Went Wrong?

Sam Raimi did NOT want to include Venom in SPIDER-MAN 3, but studio mandate forced him to do so anyway. Sadly, this inclusion further harmed SPIDER-MAN 3’s narrative by overstuffing it with villains. Instead of being the film’s focal point of, Venom felt like an afterthought to justify the Symbiote’s inclusion.

VENOM 2018
Venom from SPIDER-MAN 3, Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

In other words, the film tried to condense the entire Black Suit storyline into less than two hours. This almost never works in comic book movies- see how Warner Bros. handled the live action DEATH OF SUPERMAN. Any trace of nuance in the portrayal of Peter’s emotional decline under the suit’s influence got lost in translation. And what we DID get… the less said about “Emo Parker,” the better.

5 Things We Learn From the VENOM Teaser Trailer

Venom is supposed to be a literal embodiment of the hero’s dark side, embracing power at the expense of allies. Wearing the suit, Spider-Man’s strength and spider-abilities are heightened tenfold, but he becomes more aggressive and unstable. Yet he struggles to reject the suit’s influence because the power it grants him becomes addictive. Likewise, the Symbiote perceives Peter’s eventual rejection of its power as a betrayal, thus developing a hatred for him and Spiderman.

We ARE Venom 2007

This hated is personified in Venom, a creature born from the Symbiote’s bond with disgraced journalist Eddie Brock. He’s a conduit of rage, vengeance and irresponsible power, all while possessing spider-like abilities similar to that of the hero. Furthermore, their shared knowledge of Spidey’s secret identity makes Venom a genuine threat to Peter Parker’s loved ones. Brock could just walk up to them incognito and no one but Peter himself could recognize the danger he poses.

VENOM 2018
Topher Grace in SPIDER-MAN 3, Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

On some level, SPIDER-MAN 3’s Eddie Brock (Topher Gracealmost fit this archetype. Grace played Brock as a sleazeball who constantly distorted truths to rise up the Daily Bugle’s ranks. He even went as far as to digitally alter photos in order to frame Black Suit Spider-Man as a criminal. So embracing the suit’s abilities, rather than take responsibility for his selfish decisions, does provide a foil to Peter’s heroism.

The problem with this change, however, is that Raimi’s Brock lacks any depth when he bonds with the suit. He isn’t a victim of circumstances beyond his control, but rather personally caused these circumstances and then feigned victimhood. It didn’t help that Raimi’s Venom also lacked his 90’s bulk and constantly pulled back his “mask” to reveal Topher Grace’s head. In other words, there’s nothing about this characterization that made Venom feel like a genuine threat.

Fun Times Bro

VENOM
Venom in THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

Ironically, a similar retelling of the Venom origin story would prove far superior than Spider-Man 3’s narrative. This storyline belonged to THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN animated series, often regarded as one of the best Spider-Man adaptations. Much like the 90’s animated show, SPECTACULAR introduced the Symbiote as a stowaway aboard a spaceship hull. It’s relationship with Spider-Man and Eddie Brock (Ben Diskin), however, remained the same.

10 Reasons Why VENOM Could Either Be Really Good or Really Bad

Unlike previous entries, however, one of SPECTACULAR’s central narratives is the gradual deterioration of Peter and Eddie’s friendship. Throughout Season 1, both characters would find their relationship tested by Peter’s choices and actions as Spider-Man. More often than not, Eddie would perceive the consequences of these decisions and even be on their receiving end. Without anyway for Peter to explain his alter ego, Eddie gradually began to resent both him and Spider-Man.

VENOM
Eddie Brock/Venom in THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

This deterioration eventually culminates in the Black Suit storyline, which offers a more nuanced portrayal of Peter’s descent into darkness. He develops a more aggressive personality, alienates himself from friends, and even lets the suit take over in battle. By refusing to return the suit, however, both personas inadvertently cause Eddie to lose his job. This pushes his hatred for both characters to a breaking point, making Eddie an easy target for the Symbiote’s influence.

Thus, Eddie’s transformation into Venom becomes a tragic tale of friends turned enemies. He’s not just a random angry person, but someone with close ties to Peter Parker’s family. Thus, he knows how to harm Peter in ways that neither the Green Goblin nor Sinister Six could understand. This gave Venom’s characterization a deeper level of pathos, something that SPIDER-MAN 3 never really delivered on.

No Spider To Hunt

Unlike both Venom adaptations, however, VENOM 2018 will not have Spider-Man interact with either Brock (Tom Hardy) or the Symbiote. So don’t expect Tom Holland to pop up for a quick cameo. However, this leaves VENOM 2018 with only half of its classic origin story. That’s like trying to imagine Bruce Wayne becoming Batman even if his parents were never murdered.

VENOM 2018
Tom Hardy in VENOM, Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Based on the trailers, the writers have restructured Brock and Venom’s relationship into something reminiscent of the Jekyll/Hyde narrative. Unlike Jekyll and Hyde, both minds exist simultaneously and therefore must learn to co-exist in the same body. Thus, the film will likely make its protagonist’s struggle to resist his darker urges a core part of the narrative.

The Symbiote Goes Wild in VENOM #1

To pull this off, however, VENOM 2018 will have to acknowledge the disturbing bond between man and Symbiote. Venom’s actions must be a dark reflection of Brock’s past sins and current mental state. And these personality changes must be distinct rather than interchangeable, a problem that SPIDER-MAN 3 suffered from.

Finally, as Spider-less storyline, VENOM 2018 must give its character motivation and purpose outside of traditional expectations. This Venom might be monstrous, but outside of Brock, he lacks any previous host connection. This first experience with humanity will likely shape the character’s beliefs and twisted moral code. Hopefully, this exploration of an antihero mentality will showcase the film’s ability to draw inspiration from previous Venom comic storylines.

VENOM 2018: Success Or Failure?

No one really wants a movie, let alone a superhero movie, to fail. Thus, no one wants the VENOM movie to fail this fall. Yet it’s hard to generate excitement VENOM because no one knows why it exists. A standalone Venom movie makes as much sense as a standalone Joker movie (also happening!).

If VENOM 2018 should take one lesson away from SPIDER-MAN 3’s failure, it’s don’t treat your character as an afterthought. Give Venom a compelling arc, and make it feel complete without having to namedrop any other Marvel characters. That way, audiences can judge VENOM on its own terms, rather than as part of another cinematic universe. Hopefully, that will give comic book fans hope for the other standalone movies starring non-Spider-Man Spider-Man characters.

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