WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony’s Venom, in theaters now.
When Sony announced it was making a Venom solo film for its Spider-Verse, the studio assured fans it had a solid direction for the character. In essence, it would tackle Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock as an anti-hero, similar to the Venom we've read about in numerous Marvel Comics over the years.
But while Venom did place an anti-hero as the focus of its story, it help back in the process, diluting what makes the character so popular. In short, it wasn't; nearly as violent as people wanted it t be. In fact, if Sony really wanted Venom to make an impact, it should have looked to a character and a film that had a similar dark essence: Fox's Logan.
You can tell Venom wanted to be super-dark but had to be watered down, leading to its PG-13 rating. Sure, it may make more money at the box office in this iteration, but director Ruben Fleischer was forced to sell the character short in the process. Some characters simply work better by taking a violent, gritty approach to them. James Mangold understood this when he painted the X-Universe as a wasteland where Hugh Jackman's Logan had nothing to live for anymore. He retired his Wolverine persona, drank, cursed and maimed anyone who got in his way. Similarly, Hardy's Eddie lost his job, the woman he wanted to marry and hit rock bottom, so when he dropped a couple F-bombs as Venom, it felt cathartic and natural.
Fleischer sculpted a grimy world, and whenever Venom was unleashed, from the way the movie was edited, it seems obvious the director cut around the gore. Just as soon as Venom bites a head off, or Riot impales someone, Fleischer cuts away, which makes you wonder what the 40 minutes of footage Hardy said was axed contained. A director's cut that doesn't play it safe may well reveal the true nature of what Ruben truly envisioned, a Venom basking in being aggressive and nasty -- aka, all the things Spider-Man is not. And that makes sense, because the character was designed to be Spidey's polar opposite.
When Venom goes into horror mode, as per the symbiotes forcibly bonding with hosts, or gets crude, seen in Venom calling Eddie a "pussy" for being afraid to leap out of a building, it feels organic and not forced. These scenes throw back to the jarring feeling we got watching Logan's clone stab Professor Xavier to death, the multiple sequences of Logan exacting bloody revenge, and how real it was hearing Mangold's "heroic" cast cursing each other out. Mangold knew the essence of the characters, and he let that bleed into the story, while Fleischer feels like he's throttling the valve and restricting the flow of what could have been. Basically, he restrained Venom from its true potential.
Sure, Sony might be happy that audiences are buying into Venom despite harsh reviews from critics), but the studio left the chance of having an acclaimed hit on its hands, winning over even the most strict of fanboys, on the shelf. All it needed to do was follow the Logan map and focus on a character-driven study about a reluctant hero in Eddie fighting his inner-demons, and slowly unleashing his anger onto the world. You can see how both characters -- men who wanted no part of a war, who had no interest in saving a world on fire -- have parallels to them, and how Sony had the chance to create its own monster of both substance and style to resonate with us emotionally. As it currently stands, Venom's nothing more than a slimy shadow of what could have been.
In theaters now, director Ruben Fleischer’s Venom stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate,Woody Harrelson, Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio and Michelle Lee.