After originally releasing a vague and rather underwhelming first trailer, Sony Pictures now brings us our first proper look at Spider-Man’s most popular villain. Although this Venom doesn’t seem to be such a bad dude, the studio certainly doesn’t want any audience confusion regarding the morality of their title character. We can’t root for a serial killer, but we can cheer on a creature dispatching devious scientists and their experiments running wild through the streets of San Francisco.
Climaxing the monster showcase with “Embrace your inner antihero” aligns Tom Hardy‘s struggle with cinematic folk heroes like Leon: The Professional or even Zach Snyder’s Batman. What’s wrong with a little branding when the bad guys are so gosh-darn despicable? The antihero doesn’t want to kill, but circumstances make it a necessity. Plus, our protagonist here is desperately fighting off an alien infection hungry for human meat.
Take a look:
What do you think? Better than the last trailer? Certainly. What immediately struck me after the 2 minutes and 44 seconds wrapped up is that we never see the white spider symbol on Venom’s chest. Maybe we will get absolutely zero recognition of our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. We’re not privy to how that partnership with Marvel Studios is spelled out in the contracts. As the logo states in front of this trailer, Venom is only associated with Marvel and not actually a part of the MCU.
There is still no Woody Harrelson. While his character has not yet been officially named, rumors have him pegged as Carnage. To seal the deal on his antihero status, Venom needs an extremely heinous and vile beast to slay. Carnage is traditionally that opponent. We’re still months out from the film. I fully expect to see him donning his own symbiote suit soon enough.
Now let’s dig in. Don’t worry, while Carnage doesn’t pop up, we do meet a few similar atrocities to fear.
The trailer opens on the same crash site that we saw in the previous trailer. Members of the Life Foundation pull a canister from the wreckage, and we can barely see a squirming alien lifeform inside. We hear Riz Ahmed‘s Dr. Carlton Drake addressing an unseen group of people: “Thank you for bringing us collectively to this moment…History starts today.”
Drake appears to have a deep understanding of what makes these symbiotes tick. In the comic books, his character was the first to surmise that the alien suit has the potential for birthing other variations. More on that later.
Here’s our first look at Hardy’s Eddie Brock. He appears to be having a friendly disagreement with his girlfriend, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). “The guy you work for is an evil person,” he tells her. She responds that she doesn’t work for Drake, but her law firm is tied to him. Rationalization and compartmentalization are a helluva thing.
Williams asks Hardy if he’s going to behave himself tomorrow. His response, “I’m going to do my job.” We’ll see in a few moments how that works out for him.
The Eddie Brock of Venom is a righteous reporter, not just the jealous photographer we first met in the comic books. He follows people who do not want to be followed.
And he’s got a hot scoop that Drake is performing deadly experiments inside his San Fransisco laboratory. “You recruit the most vulnerable for tests that end up killing people.” Drake does not appreciate the ambush and has his security see the pest out.
But he’s caught the eye of Jenny Slate, who sucks at hiding in plain sight. We don’t get a name for her character, but we do learn that she works for the Life Foundation. She reaches out to Brock because she’s afraid of the experiments surrounding the symbiote.
Slate is the first to call the creature a symbiote. And she can’t stop saying it just like I can’t stop typing it. Symbiote. It’s silly and fun, ok? We see the creature crawling out of its canister and attacking this poor dude above. Will they bond, or is this just snack time?
Drake lets loose a pretty big grin. He’s happy in work. Director Ruben Fleischer has stated that this film is loosely adapting the “Lethal Protector” comic book series. In that story, Venom leaves Spider-Man alone in New York City to start a new life in San Fransisco. Instead of experiencing a relaxing West Coast holiday, however, Brock is attacked by five other symbiote monstrosities with the utterly ’90s names of Scream, Phage, Riot, Lasher, and Agony.
As we hear Slate say that Drake “Believes that the union between human and symbiote is key to our evolution” we see a series of humans undergoing experimentation. Will this imprisoned test-subject transform into Riot, Lasher, or Phage?
This woman curled up into a ball looks innocent enough until she lunges for the nosy Tom Hardy on the other side of the glass. She could be Scream or Agony from the books.
Hardy frees himself from the woman’s grasp and charges out of the lab. We can see him holding his neck. A piece of the symbiote looks to have entered his bloodstream, and the birth of Venom is upon us.
Blurry Tom Hardy is feeling sick. The symbiote is crawling around inside his head, making a new home within his flesh.
We hear Venom for the first time. He’s a more grumbly version of Tom Hardy’s voice — the Tom Hardy voice we’re more acquainted with. Eddie can’t handle what he’s hearing, though. “You’re not real, you’re just inside my head.” Sir, this is not an acid flashback. You’ve got a creature in your body.
Thankfully. Because the Life Foundation goons have come looking for Eddie Brock with orders to kill on sight, the Venom symbiote lashes out for the first time and makes quick work of the mercenaries. Tom Hardy is now talking for two people, “Why would we do that?”
The Life Foundation is pretty serious about silencing this leak. While Eddie flees on his motorcycle, we see three drone rockets chasing him down the streets of San Fransisco. The symbiote will make quick work of them, but I feel for the collateral damage.
Eddie needs to strike a deal with Venom. “If you’re going to stay, you will only hurt bad people.” Hence the antihero vibe. The symbiote doesn’t seem to really care. “The way I see it, we can do whatever we want.” For the alien, it’s a waiting game. His nature will overpower Eddie’s given enough time.
Until then, Eddie might as well have a little fun with his newfound powers. As soldiers chase after him in dune buggies, our antihero blasts his way through the forest, reducing trees to powder.
As more images of pursuit flash in front of us, we hear Carlton Drake ask Eddie Brock, “Are you willing to sacrifice the one thing you hold most dear?” Cut to Michelle Williams playing damsel in distress.
With a little extra bit of Venom boost, Eddie propels his motorbike into the air and nearly crashes and burns. Symbiote tentacles extend from his chest, bringing him and the bike back into contact. I love the expression on Tom Hardy’s face. It goes from badass stare to WTF confusion.
Back on the ground, a Life Foundation henchman has Eddie pinned to the street, the symbiote oozing from his body. In a mirror scene to the classic criminal screaming in terror at the face of Batman, the goon asks Eddie, “What the hell are you?” Oh boy. He’s going to need a new set of drawers after he gets the response.
There he is. About as good a version of the character as I could imagine. He’s a mixture of two comic book artist designs. He has the eyes of Todd McFarlane’s interpretation, but the mouth and tongue belong to Erik Larsen. Rows and rows of shark teeth fighting for supremacy over each other, and that beautifully grotesque tongue with a mind of its own. We can see some white veins pumping across his body, but again, no spider symbol.
I can’t say that I’m blown away by the trailer, but at least we have a better understanding of what to expect going into the movie theater. Actually, we may have seen the whole film in this trailer. Unless Woody Harrelson’s Carnage amounts to more than just a cameo leading into a sequel.
Yes, I wish Venom was more integrated into the Spider-Man mythology. They have to namecheck Peter Parker at some point, right? I dunno. Maybe not. Maybe the antihero is as good as we’ll get.
Venom hits theaters on October 5th.