WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony’s Venom, in theaters now.
Director Sam Raimi saw huge success with 2002's Spider-Man and 2004's Spider-Man 2. However, the franchise took a big hit with Spider-Man 3 three years later, which effectively killed it and paved the way for the Andrew Garfield-led reboot. Many attributed the threequel's failure to a poor script, but one of the main criticisms was Raimi's overcrowded cast, which boasted three villains including Topher Grace's Venom.
His depiction didn't sit well with fans then, and it hasn't aged gracefully since, which is why folks were eager to see how Tom Hardy would handle his take on Eddie Brock and the symbiote. Well, when it comes to which is better, Hardy's Venom is miles ahead for a number of reasons.
Grace's Venom flopped because it didn't feel intimidating -- at all. Apart from a few scenes when it would bare its teeth, there wasn't anything sinister about it, and it never came off as imposing. Grace was unable to deliver the Venom fans saw in the comics, salivating, terrorizing and, well, eating people's brains. In fact, he was only slightly bigger in size than Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, something which co-creator Todd McFarlane was happy to see Sony and director Ruben Fleischer fixed in the solo film.
All of these issues are rectified here, in the kick off of Sony's Spider-Verse, resulting in Hardy's Venom looking and feeling like his own character. Some leniency can be granted to Grace's Venom as it followed the Marvel arc where it was first bonded to Spider-Man, which would influence Grace's look. Hardy's Venom, though, has no Spider-Man to influence its design, and is its own thing. He's bigger, akin to a scary monster, a change that works well when it's time to go into battle-mode, hopping, leaping and moving so quickly and fluid. It's as if the studio took a page out of what Marvel Studios has done with the Hulk.
Grace's Venom, on the other hand, simply web-slung around the place and tried to choke Spidey, resulting in fight sequences that were merely passable, at best. Back then, audiences settled for what we got because comic book movies weren't terribly common, but they've since evolved into epic action films with behemoths such as Hulk and Thanos, setting the bar in terms of cinematic brawls. Hardy's Venom does a commendable job fitting in with these giants, using its tendrils like webs, swimming across the San Francisco bay at an insane pace, and utilizing its gooey symbiote suit to make weapons -- all of which Grace's version failed to display, being a mere psychopathic Spider-Man carbon copy.