Back in March, Sony announced its intentions to move forward with a movie based on Venom, a spinoff character from Marvel’s Spider-Man comic books that became one of the publisher’s most popular characters of the 1990s. The announcement seemingly came out of nowhere, with the studio staking out a release date of Oct. 5, 2018 while providing little other information.
That called into question whether or not Sony was really serious about making a Venom movie. Having fumbled its handling of the Spider-Man movie franchise, Sony went to Marvel Studios for help and the partnership resulted in the character’s appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War and this summer’s reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
With the Spider-Man franchise restored, Sony now seems interested in adding to its value by creating spinoff properties. Or at least taking advantage of properties in its portfolio that might provide new franchises. And Sony does indeed seem serious about making a Venom movie and hopefully creating a franchise. On Friday, news broke that Tom Hardy had been cast in the title role and Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) had signed on to direct the film. With a script already in hand when the project was originally announced, all systems seem to be a go for the project.
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) May 19, 2017
Hardy is a big name to get for Venom, one that brings considerable credibility. For the actor, it’s also a potential blockbuster for him to star in following his lead role in Mad Max: Fury Road. (And in that, he was upstaged by Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.) Hardy has done outstanding work in movies like Locke and Legend, and has established superhero bona fides for playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, but still hasn’t quite hit it big as a marquee movie star. He was slated to play Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad, but had to bow out when shooting for The Revenant went longer than expected. (Considering how Suicide Squad turned out, however, that was probably a fortunate turn of events.)
According to Variety‘s Justin Kroll, Sony pounced on Hardy after he dropped out of the Paraguay-Argentina border zone action thriller Triple Frontier. Though fans and speculative media have touted Hardy to take over iconic roles like James Bond or Wolverine, those roles haven’t yet come open and he has to find work in the meantime. Venom might be a good stepping stone to roles such as that, unless this becomes enough of a success that Hardy already has his franchise gig. (And what kind of voice will Hardy come up with as Venom? Will it be anywhere near as strange as what he created for Bane?)
On the director side, Fleischer is also looking for the boost of a franchise property in a career that may have hit something of a pothole after the disappointment of 2013’s Gangster Squad. Coming off Zombieland in 2009, Fleischer was viewed as an up-and-coming filmmaker and at one point was mentioned as a possible director for Warner Brothers’ Justice League film before Zack Snyder took that on. Since Gangster Squad, Fleischer has largely worked in TV, directing shows like Superstore and Santa Clarita Diet. But he’s been picking up heat again, developing a sequel to Zombieland and an adaptation of the BBC’s Jekyll miniseries starring Chris Evans. Venom is a good score for Fleischer, and if it’s a hit, he could seemingly jump onto anything next.
Venom figures to have more potential to hit big than Sony’s other planned Spider-Man spinoff, involving Silver Sable and Black Cat. Like Venom, those characters that have toggled between adversaries for Spider-Man in Marvel Comics and allies in crime-fighting. While an action film (or franchise) with superhero trimmings headlined by female heroes (or anti-heroes) is certainly notable in a space where women are under-represented, Silver Sable and Black Cat aren’t exactly known names beyond diehard Spider-Man comic book fans.
But Venom is different. Upon being introduced in the comic books, he arguably became Spider-Man’s greatest adversary. Originally, Venom was a tar-like alien symbiote that latched onto Spider-Man when he needed a new costume during the Secret Wars mini-series. He kept that cool black costume upon returning to Earth following Marvel’s big crossover event, but the symbiote slowly began to control Peter Parker’s body and personality with evil intentions. After Parker rejected the symbiote and was able to detach it, it eventually latched onto Eddie Brock, a reporter whose career is ruined with Spider-Man exposes one of his stories as false.
It seems unlikely that this new film will follow those comic book storylines very closely. That’s a lot of set-up for a new movie to establish. Venom may not even be affiliated with Spider-Man at all, though fans may still make that association with the character. If people think Venom is Spider-Man related, they may inevitably wonder where the Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler is. And Marvel Studios already has its own plans for Spider-Man, on loan from Sony Pictures, beginning with this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Venom has previously appeared on the big screen as one of the villains in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Topher Grace played Eddie Brock in that version, a miscasting that fans have never really gotten over. (Director Sam Raimi was clearly going for a character that mirrored Peter Parker in many ways, representing what dark turns the character could take without the positive influences in his life.) Producer Avi Arad strongly urged Raimi to use Venom in the movie, knowing how popular he was with current fans.
The assumption is that Venom will be a superhero-type movie, but perhaps Sony has something more horror-related in mind. The project was announced as a R-rated film, which implies it will be more violent and possibly scarier than typical superhero fare. The success of Deadpool‘s raunchy humor and Logan’s grisly violence has given studios license to push the boundaries further, knowing audiences will still come out for such films. With those creepy tendrils and a sharp-toothed jaw that resembles the xenomorph from the Alien movies, Venom certainly has the elements for a horror/thriller type of story.
Producer Adi Shanker followed that path for his “bootleg” film, Truth in Journalism, that starred Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) as Eddie Brock. Venom was never mentioned, but the representation of the creature’s abilities — albeit in a very low-budget fashion — was clear. Imagine what Fleischer can do with a bigger budget, and how much more compelling it might be with Hardy taking the lead.
Venom is currently scheduled for an Oct. 5, 2018 release.