WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Venom, in theaters now.
As a symbiote-powered lethal protector, Eddie Brock is one of the darker, more intense characters existing within the Marvel Universe. With the character’s first solo film, Venom, opening in theaters everywhere this week, the anti-hero’s connection to Marvel Comics and Spider-Man may have younger audiences begging parents to take them to see it, despite the property’s more violent tone than its MCU counterparts.
After months of speculation that the Sony adaptation would potentially receive an R-rating to match the property’s more mature sensibilities and fanbase, the filmmakers (including director Ruben Fleischer) confirmed the film was always intended to receive its ultimate PG-13 rating, though they promised it would remain true to the comic book source material. With this in mind, the question remains: Is Venom appropriate for children to watch, or is the film too scary and brutal for younger viewers?
In a word, no. Despite the titular character’s reputation and darker source material, true to the filmmakers’ word, the film rarely even skirts close to an R-rating, staying firmly within the bounds of typical PG-13 fare. Sure, the film features harder hitting action and more graphic imagery than most MCU movies, and the extraterrestrial symbiote is more threatening both visually and vocally than most comic book movie protagonists, but throughout the movie, its more sinister impulses are largely reined in by its human host, Eddie Brock.
Another major source of tension present in the comics that is largely downplayed in the film is Brock’s relationship with the symbiote. At once an allegory for unhealthy co-dependence and confronting one’s own inner demons, the dynamic in the film introduces a surprising amount of humor and slapstick sensibilities. Brock is portrayed as both a hapless figure dragged along for the ride and a straight man reacting to the symbiote’s looney antics, a relationship intentionally played several times for laughs, albeit with a particularly over-the-top, gross-out sense of humor.
This isn’t to say there isn’t any frightening imagery or intense sequences at all. The sequences involving Carlton Drake’s victims both before and after his own villainous transformation are more insidious than most superhero adaptations. The symbiote constantly fantasizes aloud about devouring its victims and dispatches them with more unflinching violence than Sony’s other Marvel property, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But it certainly isn’t as graphic as some of the action sequences in, say, Marvel Netflix series like Daredevil or The Punisher.
Though it features more intense and violent than may be advisable for early to mid-elementary school aged children, Venom shouldn’t be too unsavory or off-putting for late elementary school to middle school audiences. Like its eponymous character, the film definitely talks tough and packs more of a brutal punch than last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and The Wasp, but in the end is roughly on par, in terms of tone and content, to DCEU films like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad.
Fans coming into the film hoping for graphic, violent content akin to the current comic book series written by Donny Cates and illustrated by Ryan Stegman may walk away disappointed, and young children may find themselves terrified by the leering, voracious alien antihero and its similarly symbiote-powered opponents. But, for all its big screen bark, Venom has relatively little bite.
Debuting in theaters on October 5, Venom is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate,Woody Harrelson, Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio, Michelle Lee, Mac Brandt, Christian Convery, Sam Medina, and Ron Cephas Jones.
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