Sony made news with the announcement that it was full steam ahead with developing a full-length feature film starring frequent Spider-Man antagonist, Venom. Rather than spinning out of "Spider-Man: Homecoming," however, the character will reportedly make his big screen re-debut sans Spidey.
Which leads to the question of whether “Venom” will be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all. As a part of the agreement between Sony and Marvel Studios, Spider-Man is able to star alongside Iron Man, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers. While ties that tight would no doubt bring more eyeballs to a “Venom” project, that will not happen (in the first film, at least) as Sony quickly shot down that possibility. Separating it from its superhero counterparts even more, there is a report that the movie will fall in the “action/horror/sci-fi” genre. It's apparent that Sony obviously has a gameplan when it comes to tackling “Venom” -- but is it the right one? Frankly, we're not sure it is.
Agent Venom Belongs In The MCU
For “Venom” to truly succeed, I believe it should not only be tied to the MCU, but the spotlight should be set squarely on the Agent Venom version of the character that debuted in 2011. There have been numerous hosts to the Venom symbiote over the years, ranging from the original host Eddie Brock to Peter Parker’s high school friend/bully Eugene “Flash” Thompson.
When Peter and Flash graduated high school, the latter enlisted in the army, eventually losing his legs in the Iraq war. Around this time, the U.S. government came in possession of the Venom symbiote and recruited Flash as its newest host for a relaunch of Project: Rebirth -- the same government project that created Captain America. Now connected to the symbiote, Flash can generate new, functional legs and has powers similar to Spider-Man.
Project: Rebirth would be the perfect vehicle to tie “Venom” seamlessly into the MCU. We learned in 2003’s “Incredible Hulk” that Bruce Banner’s transformation into the gamma-powered giant has ties to Captain America; adding an additional hero with ties to the project would provide another layer of potential storylines to be explored further, should Marvel Studios or Sony choose to. And if this ends up being a one-and-done film, it would at least have some fun Easter eggs for eagle eyed viewers.
A Hero With A Disability
Let’s go back to Flash losing both his legs while fighting to protect America. There are thousands of soldiers who put their lives on the line every single day who have suffered the same fate as Flash. Veterans are welcomed home with open arms, but many find themselves forgotten after the initial rush of their return fades away. They deserve to be represented in a positive light, and “Venom” would offer a perfect opportunity to see that happen.
In Flash, audiences would see the story of a disabled veteran returning home and trying to cope with living a civilian life after spending time on the battlefield. Before entering the Project Rebirth program, Flash experienced what many veterans in the real world have, spiraling into depression and eventually becoming an alcoholic. Yes, he's got an 'advantage' in his symbiote-generated legs, but his problems are very real, and very relatable.
Espionage Over Horror
If you're not an avid comic book reader, then seeing Agent Venom on the big screen may be your first introduction to the hero -- and that's not a bad thing. A different take would help erase the bad memory of Venom's appearance in Sony’s “Spider-Man 3,” where Topher Grace played reporter Eddie Brock and his symbiote-powered psychotic counterpart. Instead of the elongated tongue-waving and teeth displaying antihero that’s been seen before, ticket buyers would witness a clad-in-black government operative that uses his spider-powers along with guns to fight for the U.S. of A. Instead of the risky move of dipping its toe in the superhero/horror genre, Sony should make the call to present the character in an espionage film in the vein of the “Bourne Identity.” Yes, it's still a risk, but the upside seems higher, and should the character click, then there's no reason the studio couldn't sequel into the horror genre at some point down the road.
Agent Venom Isn't (Necessarily) An R-Rated Story
Aside from the recent success of “Deadpool” and “Logan,” the majority of R-rated films based on comic books have come from properties that find homes at independent publishers; companies who are generally somewhat more free to push the boundaries when it comes to their stories. Generally speaking, audiences aren’t used to seeing, nor are they looking for heroes from Marvel and DC Comics slashing and killing one another on the big screen. On the comics page, maybe, but the reality is that Wade Wilson and Wolverine's success at the box office doesn’t lie in the fact that they were rated R, but that they were well made movies about complex characters.
If the studios are hellbent on going down a dark path with a Spider-Man supporting character, the best option lies in the serial killing symbiote Carnage. Imagine a version of Venom with no conscious, bonded to a psychopath named Cletus Kasady, and covered from head to toe in a crimson red color palette. There is even a precedent for this happening in the comics with writer Gerry Conway and artist Mike Perkins portraying this exact tale in "Carnage" for 16 issues.
Of course, to get to Carnage you should probably first introduce, well, Venom. From there, it's just a short post-credits Easter egg to get from Agent Venom to the introduction of a failed Project Rebirth experiment bonding with an unstable, murderous host...