The marketing for the upcoming Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer, has made one thing very clear: this will not be your typical superhero film. Venom is not a heroic character. The trailers have indicated that Venom will eat his victims -- which he does fairly often in the comics -- and that he won't exactly be driven by a desire to do good.
As you'd expect from an antihero, Venom is an extremely violent creature and far from your typical virtue-driven hero. Fleischer said as much in interviews and added that his film "feels distinctive from a lot of the other superhero movies, in part because there's no real hero in it." That's what we'll be exploring here. Will Venom bring something new to the genre as Fleischer says it will, or is this somewhat of an exaggeration to get fans excited?
Unsurprisingly, there are a multitude of similar characters from comic books or classic literature to ancient folklore. At his core, Venom is a creature comprised of two conflicting beings: Eddie Brock and the symbiote. One represents the flawed and reserved human, while the other embodies the more primitive and unrestrained aspects of humanity, such as desire and rage.
Comparisons have been made between Venom and werewolves, for example, which stem from ancient European folklore and heavily influenced gothic literature, which gave us classic characters of dual nature such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, another character that shares undeniable similarities to Venom. But we're talking about superheroes, here, and Fleischer said that he was bringing something new to the genre, presumably referring to comic book films. Which raises the question, can Venom truly offer something we haven't already seen?
Venom will be far from the first mainstream antihero to grace cinema screens, even if we limit ourselves to looking at Marvel characters. In 2004, we had The Punisher and the character was adapted in 2008 with Punisher: War Zone. Frank Castle as a character is quite similar to Venom and not just because they seem to share the same sense of style when it comes to mixing colors. For example, more often than not, neither of them differentiate between the severity of the crime when it comes to punishing criminals. So let's take a look at how the Punisher fared as a film character.
Both films were poorly received by critics due to similar reasons. They focused on violence and gore as opposed to any true exploration of the character, making the films somewhat difficult to sit through. The difference is The Punisher was almost devoid of any humor and Punisher: War Zone learned its lesson, in a way, by being completely absurd about its violence. Ask almost any fan, and they'll tell you that those films were enjoyable regardless. Whether Venom will be as dark as either of the Punisher films remains to be seen, but if it's to compete with the current quality of mainstream superhero films, it has to offer something more than humor and violence.