Venom (2018 film)

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Venom
Venom (2018 flim poster).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRuben Fleischer
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Jeff Pinkner
  • Scott Rosenberg
Based on
Starring
Music byLudwig Göransson
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
Running time
112 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$851.3 million[3]

Venom is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Marvel[4] and Tencent Pictures. Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, it is the first film in Sony's Marvel Universe, adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).[a] Directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, and Kelly Marcel, it stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom, alongside Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott. In Venom, journalist Brock gains superpowers after being bound to an alien symbiote whose species plans to invade Earth.

Sony began developing a Venom film after the character made his cinematic debut in Spider-Man 3 (2007). After various iterations, work on a new version began in March 2016, with the intention of starting a new shared universe featuring those Marvel characters to which Sony possessed film rights; Sony also intended for the film to share the world of the MCU's Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), but ultimately distanced Venom from the Spider-Man character. Rosenberg and Pinkner were set to write, with Fleischer and Hardy added in May 2017. Principal photography began that October in Atlanta, before moving to New York City and San Francisco. The film was primarily inspired by the comic miniseries Venom: Lethal Protector (1993) and story arc "Planet of the Symbiotes" (1995).

Venom was released in the United States on October 5, 2018, to generally negative reviews from critics for its script and inconsistent tone. However, some praised Hardy's performance and the chemistry between Brock and Venom, and the film went on to be an unexpected box office success, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of 2018 with over $851 million worldwide and setting several box office records for the month of October. A sequel to Venom is expected.

Plot[edit]

While exploring space for new habitable worlds, a probe belonging to the bio-engineering corporation Life Foundation discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms. The probe return to Earth with four samples, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash in Malaysia. The Life Foundation recovers the other three and transports them to their research facility in San Francisco, where they discover that the symbiotes cannot survive without oxygen-breathing hosts, which often fatally reject the symbiosis. Investigative journalist Eddie Brock reads about these human trials in a classified document in the possession of his fiancée Anne Weying, an attorney preparing a lawsuit defense for the Life Foundation. Brock confronts Life Foundation CEO Carlton Drake about the trials, leading to both Brock and Weying losing their jobs. Consequently, Weying ends their relationship.

Six months later, Drake's symbiosis trials are closer to success, though one of his symbiotes dies due to carelessness. Brock is approached by Dora Skirth, one of Drake's scientists who disagrees with his methods and wants to expose him. She helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, and he learns that an acquaintance of his, a homeless woman named Maria, is one of the test subjects. Brock attempts to rescue Maria, but the symbiote possessing her transfers to his body without him realizing, leaving her dead. Brock escapes and soon begins displaying strange symptoms. He reaches out to Weying for help, and her new boyfriend, Dr. Dan Lewis, discovers the symbiote on examining Brock. Drake exposes Skirth to the remaining captive symbiote, which ultimately dies. This leaves the symbiote inside Brock as the only known surviving specimen.

Drake sends mercenaries to retrieve the symbiote from Brock, but it manifests around his body as a monstrous creature that fights off the attackers. It later introduces itself to Brock as Venom, and explains that the comet is searching for planets where the symbiotes can possess and devour the inhabitants. Venom offers to spare Brock if he helps the symbiotes achieve their goal, and Brock comes to enjoy the superhuman attributes that the symbiote imbues him with. Brock breaks into his old workplace to turn in evidence of Drake's crimes, but is surrounded by SWAT officers and is forced to transform to escape. Weying witnesses this transformation and takes Brock back to Lewis's office, where they explain that the symbiote is slowly rotting Brock's internal organs. Brock notes that the symbiote has two weaknesses: high-pitched noises and fire. Although Venom claims that the organ damage can be prevented, Weying uses an MRI machine to help Brock separate from the symbiote. Brock is then captured by Drake's men.

Meanwhile, the fourth symbiote, Riot, makes its way from Malaysia to San Francisco by hopping from body to body. It bonds with Drake, who agrees to take Riot in a Life Foundation space probe to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth. Weying reluctantly bonds with Venom so they can free Brock. When Brock and Venom are bonded again, the latter states that he has been convinced to help protect the Earth from his kind through his interactions with Brock, and the pair attempt to stop Riot and Drake with Weying's help. Venom damages the probe as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill both Riot and Drake. Weying believes Brock is no longer bonded to Venom after this, and that Venom also died in the explosion. However, the pair remain secretly bonded and set out to protect San Francisco by killing criminals.

Brock also returns to journalism, and in a mid-credits scene he is invited to interview incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady, who promises "carnage" when he escapes.

Cast[edit]

  • Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom:
    An investigative journalist who becomes the host of an alien symbiote, Venom, that imbues him with super-human abilities.[7][8][9] Director Ruben Fleischer said that unlike a werewolf or Jekyll and Hyde, the relationship between Brock and the symbiote is a "hybrid", with the two characters sharing a body and working together. Hardy was drawn to this duality, and compared the two characters to Ren and Stimpy. He gave each a distinctive voice: an "aw-shucks American accent" for Brock; and a "James Brown lounge lizard"-like voice for Venom,[10] that was "modulated to sound more sinister".[11] Hardy called Brock an antihero who would "do whatever he has to" to accomplish a goal.[9]
  • Michelle Williams as Anne Weying:
    A district attorney and Eddie's ex-fiancée.[12][13] Williams was excited at the prospect of her character becoming She-Venom in the future, and Fleischer felt that it would be fun to give fans an Easter egg of this by briefly showing the character host the symbiote during a scene in the film. This was kept a secret until the release of the film, and Flesicher hoped that the positive response to the appearance would lead to more She-Venom in future Venom films or even a standalone She-Venom film.[14]
  • Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake / Riot:
    A genius inventor and leader of the Life Foundation experimenting on the symbiotes.[8][9] Ahmed explained that Drake is trying to save the future of humanity when he discovers the symbiote,[9] with Fleischer adding that Drake has a positive goal but a "moral ambiguity" that leads to him testing his science on other people.[14] Drake is eventually bonded to another symbiote known as Riot, which Fleischer described as "a body-hopper".[9]
  • Scott Haze as Roland Treece: Drake's head of security.[15]
  • Reid Scott as Dan Lewis: Anne's new boyfriend, a doctor who tries to help Eddie.[16]

The cast also includes Jenny Slate as Life Foundation scientist Dora Skirth,[17] Melora Walters as homeless woman Maria,[18] Chris O'Hara in the brief role of astronaut John Jameson,[19] along with Sope Aluko,[15] Scott Deckert,[20] Marcella Bragio, Michelle Lee, Mac Brandt, Christian Convery, Sam Medina,[21] and Ron Cephas Jones.[22] Woody Harrelson is introduced in the film's mid-credits scene as Cletus Kasady,[23] while Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance as a dog-walker who talks to Brock.[24]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Early attempts and cancellation[edit]

By 1997, David S. Goyer had written a script for a film featuring the Marvel Comics character Venom, which was to be produced by New Line Cinema.[25] Dolph Lundgren was in talks to star in the film,[25] which would feature the character Carnage as the main antagonist.[26] The project ultimately did not move forward, and the rights to the character moved to Sony Pictures along with those for the character Spider-Man, of whom Venom is an antagonist in the comics.[26][25] Eddie Brock, the alter-ego of Venom, was introduced to film in Sony's Spider-Man 3 (2007), with Topher Grace in the role.[27] Grace was intended to only briefly appear as Brock,[28] but became a major villain as both Brock and Venom because producer Avi Arad felt the series had relied too much on director Sam Raimi's personal favorite Spider-Man villains, and not characters that modern fans were actually interested in.[29] Raimi had been hesitant to explore the character due to his "lack of humanity".[27] Arad revealed plans for a spin-off film focused on Venom in July 2007.[30]

Sony was actively developing Venom alongside direct sequels to Spider-Man 3 by July 2008, hoping the character could "add longevity" to the franchise in a similar fashion to Wolverine in 20th Century Fox's X-Men films. Jacob Estes had written a script for the film, but the studio was considering taking it in a different direction from that draft and was seeking new writers. Sony was also not yet convinced that Grace could "carry" the film.[31] That September, Sony hired Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese to write a new script, while industry insiders suggested that Grace should return for the spin-off "because the likeable actor could be a sympathetic evildoer", in response to Venom co-creator Todd McFarlane suggesting that a Venom film could not do well with a villain as the central character.[32][33] Wernick and Reese had pitched an original story idea for the film to Sony, which Reese described as a "realistic, grounded, a little more dark take on the character".[34] The pair then worked on an outline with Sony and Marvel, who "had specific rules about the villain and the backstory and stuff like that". They had completed a draft by April 2009,[35] which included a role written specifically for Stan Lee,[36] and featured a sequence where the Venom symbiote jumps "from body to body [through a city], and each person that it inhabits ends up becoming really violent and striking someone else and then it jumps to [them]."[34]

He was a journalist [who] got in trouble for it ... the whole essence to us for the Marvel characters: stay close to the bible, stay close to the emotional story, and the rest is fun.

—Producer Matt Tolmach, on staying true to the character's comic-book origins when developing Venom[37]

Wernick and Reese had turned in a second draft by September 2009, and Reese said that Sony was "pushing forward in whatever ways they push forward".[38][39] A month later, Gary Ross, who was rewriting the script for Spider-Man 4 at the time, was hired to also rewrite the Venom script, as well as direct, and produce alongside Arad. Grace was "not considered likely" to return to the role then, with the film starting "from the drawing board" and looking to make the villain "an antihero who becomes a defender of the innocent."[40] In January 2010, Sony announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be rebooted after Raimi decided to no longer pursue direct sequels to Spider-Man 3.[41] By March 2012, Sony was still interested in a Venom film and wanted to use it to capitalize on the release of the first reboot film, The Amazing Spider-Man. The studio was in negotiations with Josh Trank to direct after Ross had left the project to direct The Hunger Games (2012).[42] That June, Arad and fellow producer Matt Tolmach discussed Venom connecting to The Amazing Spider-Man, after comparisons to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films crossing over in The Avengers (2012). Arad called it "an Eddie Brock story" only, but Tolmach added, "Hopefully all these worlds will live together in peace someday."[37]

In December 2013, Sony revealed plans to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) to establish their own expanded universe based on the Marvel properties the studio had the film rights to, including Venom. Arad and Tolmach would produce the films as part of a franchise brain trust, with Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Ed Solomon set to write the screenplay for Venom, and Kurtzman set to direct.[43] In April 2014, Arad and Tolmach said Venom would be released after The Amazing Spider-Man 3—which was set for release on May 27, 2016—but before The Amazing Spider-Man 4.[44] However, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed, and, with Sony "under tremendous pressure to perform [that had them taking] a hard look at their most important franchise", the direction of the shared universe was rethought. The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was pushed back to 2018, and the Venom film, now known as Venom Carnage, was moved up to 2017. Kurtzman was still attached to direct, and write alongside Solomon.[45] In February 2015, Sony and Marvel Studios announced a new partnership that would see Marvel produce the next Spider-Man film for Sony, and integrate the character into their MCU.[46] Sony still planned to produce the spin-off films without Marvel's involvement,[47][45] but by November they were believed to have been canceled so Sony could focus on its new reboot with Marvel.[48]

Revival[edit]

Venom was revived by Sony in March 2016, with Arad and Tolmach producing, and Dante Harper writing a new screenplay. The project was envisioned as a standalone film launching its own franchise, unrelated to Sony and Marvel's new Spider-Man films.[49] A year later, Sony gave the film an October 5, 2018, release date, and explained that Kurtzman was not involved with the new project. No new director had been signed, and Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner were now writing the screenplay.[50] Venom was expected to begin both a new franchise and a new shared universe independent of the MCU, and was initially aiming for an R-rating on a smaller budget, inspired by 20th Century Fox's success doing so with the X-Men films Deadpool (2016) and Logan (2017).[51] Sony's director shortlist for the film was believed to include Adi Shankar, known for his dark, R-rated takes "on the properties he grew up on",[52] and Adam Wingard.[53] In May, Sony announced that Tom Hardy would star as Eddie Brock / Venom in Venom, to be directed by Ruben Fleischer and officially begin "Sony's Marvel Universe". Venom is not considered a spinoff of any other film.[54] Fleischer was chosen after a long search by Sony, while the casting of Hardy, a "huge fan" of Venom, happened very quickly after he left director J. C. Chandor's Triple Frontier in April and Sony "saw an opportunity to court an in-demand talent."[7]

Pre-production[edit]

Riz Ahmed was in talks to join the film in August,[55] with Matt Smith, Pedro Pascal, and Matthias Schoenaerts all having been considered for the same role.[56] In September, Michelle Williams entered talks to join the film as a district attorney and Brock's love interest.[57] By October, Jenny Slate,[58] Reid Scott,[59] and Scott Haze were in negotiations to join as well,[60] with Slate up for a role as a scientist.[58] Kelly Marcel was writing the latest draft of the film's script.[61] The final budget that Sony allocated for the film's production was $100 million, though Chinese production company Tencent Pictures ultimately covered a third of these costs for the studio.[62]

Writing and Spider-Man connection[edit]

In June 2017, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that Venom was solely a Sony project and Marvel had no plans to connect it with the MCU.[5] However, producer Amy Pascal soon clarified that Sony intended to have their MU films take place in "the same world" as the new MCU films starting with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), describing them as "adjunct" to that world. She said that Venom would connect to the next planned film in Sony's MU, Silver & Black, and that there was potential for Tom Holland's Spider-Man to appear in either.[6] Carnage was also expected to appear in Venom at that point.[63] In July, Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch explained that Sony was not interested in producing "conventional comic-book movies" and was looking to give each film in their MU a distinct style. Venom was considered "a spin on a horror film", inspired by the works of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, but with "more pop and fun". Fleischer said he has "always been drawn to the more antihero superheroes. There's a dark element to [Venom] and a wit that has always appealed to me." He said the film would explore Venom's origins and the "Jekyll and Hyde" relationship that Brock has with the symbiote.[64]

You're Eddie Brock. I'm the symbiote. Together we are Venom.

—Director Ruben Fleischer was inspired by this comic quote for the film's depiction of the title character[10]

The film is primarily based on the Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries (1993) and the "Planet of the Symbiotes" story arc (1995),[65] borrowing the San Francisco setting of the former.[65] Spider-Man ultimately could not be included in the film because of the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios, challenging the writers to "make a movie with a character that's defined by Spider-Man without Spider-Man." For this reason, they looked to the Ultimate Marvel version of Venom—whose origin is not tied to Spider-Man—for inspiration.[66] Fleischer noted that Lethal Protector aided in this goal since it, as the first solo Venom comic book series, had "broke [the character] free from Spider-Man." It also gave the writers a "solid foundation" to explore the more heroic side of Venom, rather than his more traditional villainous side from the Spider-Man comics,[67] though Fleischer ultimately described the film as having "no heroes".[9] One of Venom's lines in the film, "Eyes, lungs, pancreas ... so many snacks, so little time," was lifted unaltered from The Amazing Spider-Man #374.[68]

Fleischer stated that they were planning a "huge world" with many characters while developing the film, including other symbiotes such as the villain Riot.[9] Fleischer wanted Venom to stand out compared to other comic book-based films, and felt tonally that it would not remind viewers of the lighter MCU or the somber DC Extended Universe.[11] It was important for him to honor the violence of Venom from the comics, where "he bites people's heads off and eats brains. It would be weird to make a movie with Venom if he wasn't doing that."[69] Sony executives were reluctant to push this element so far that the film would earn an R-rating, which they believed would cause problems for crossovers with the family-friendly Spider-Man, as well as other MCU characters, in future films.[70] Venom was ultimately rated PG-13, with the violence toned down.[2]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on October 23, 2017,[71] with filming taking place in Atlanta and New York City.[72] Marvel's Iron Man (2008) cinematographer Matthew Libatique returned in that role for the film,[73] while Oliver Scholl served as production designer after also doing so for Spider-Man: Homecoming.[74] Williams was confirmed to have joined the film in November, with Sony organizing her filming schedule to ensure her availability for concurrent, unexpected reshoots on All the Money in the World (2017).[12] By December, Woody Harrelson was in talks to appear in the film,[75] and Williams was revealed to be portraying Anne Weying.[13]

Hardy recorded his lines for the symbiote at the beginning of each day,[76] and these were played back to the actor through an earpiece on set during scenes where Brock and the symbiote talk to each other.[11] Hardy had previously used this process when he played twins in Legend (2015).[76] Fleischer allowed Hardy to improvise on set, and take the scenes where he felt they needed to go. For instance, Hardy noticed that a restaurant set for one scene had a lobster tank in it and decided that his character would get into the tank in the scene; the production design team had to work overnight to reinforce the tank and fill it with fake lobsters so Hardy could get in it the next day.[14] Additional filming took place in San Francisco from January 16 to 26, 2018. Locations included Russian Hill, North Beach, Chinatown, and the Financial District.[77][78] Hardy wrapped filming on January 27.[79]

Post-production[edit]

Hardy promoting the film at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2018

Ahmed and Scott were confirmed to appear in the film in February 2018, and Will Beall was revealed to have done additional writing on the script.[16] In the following months, Sope Aluko and Scott Deckert were revealed to be cast in the film,[15][20] Haze and Harrelson were also confirmed to appear,[15][80] and Ahmed was revealed to be playing Carlton Drake.[8] Harrelson, who previously worked with Fleischer on Zombieland (2009), signed on to the film for a small role—he described himself as being "in a little fraction of this movie"—knowing that he would have a bigger part in a potential sequel.[81] The role was revealed to be that of Cletus Kasady, the alter-ego of Carnage.[23]

The film underwent reshoots in Los Angeles in June 2018,[70] which were reportedly overseen by Hardy.[82] Venom was one of the first films to take advantage of the new post-production facilities at Sony Pictures' Stage 6 building in Culver City, California, with two new theaters equipped for sound design using the immersive Dolby Atmos technology, two new stages for sound mixing with Avid Technology's Pro Tools workstations, and a theater set-up for remote visual effects and color grading review.[83] Maryann Brandon and Alan Baumgarten served as editors for the film.[84] Fleischer's focus during the editing process was to "cultivate" the relationship between Brock and Venom, which he felt was the core of the film. The opening of the film went through several iterations, but Fleischer always wanted it to "start with a bang" which led to a spaceship crash in the opening scene. The Venom symbiote is shown shortly after as an introduction of the film's "hero", before the villain's plot begins and becomes the focus of the scene.[14]

Visual effects and design[edit]

DNEG provided the visual effects for the film, with Paul Franklin serving as visual effects supervisor on the project,[85] and Paolo Giandoso drawing concept art for the DNEG design team. Giandoso helped design Venom and Riot, and provided a sequence of 158 drawings for the film's final battle between the two characters.[86]

The visual effects team's first step was to define the look of the different symbiotes in the film, which do not have a defined body shape. Franklin explained that they wanted the creatures to be "predatory and threatening", and looked at slime molds, jellyfish, and time-lapse photography of amoeba for inspiration. The final models were blobs that could move and change shape, with soft tissue simulated on top to give the creatures an "interesting abstract quality". The symbiote is combined with Brock by adding "tentacles" to Hardy, which was done through a hybrid of practical and visual effects.[85] The tentacles were inspired by the movement of sea creatures and scientific demonstrations of non-Newtonian fluid. Additional cameras on set accurately captured Hardy's movements so the tentacles could be integrated with his performance. A detailed digital double of Hardy was also used for the integration.[86] Other partial Venom forms include the "freak-out" form for when he is being vibrated out of Brock, for which a "ghostly" effect was created by adding an animated version of the character on top of Hardy's performance with a vibration effect; and the "wraith" Venom, where Venom's head emerges from Brock's body to talk to him—this form was closer to the raw symbiote than the final Venom design, with added tendrils and veins to an overall snake-like shape, and an emaciated take on Venom's face.[87]

The humanoid Venom character was created with a digital model that included rigs and simulation for the face and muscles. Venom is portrayed as being 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) tall and weighing 500 pounds (230 kg), with a "smooth, oily, black" appearance. Due to the differences in the character's facial design from comic-to-comic, and even panel-to-panel, the designers "distilled the essential elements" into a design that could be photorealistic. These included the character's eyes, which Franklin compared to those of a killer whale and explained had to be animated in a more exaggerated way to indicate where the character was looking since he does not have pupils. The character's long tongue is also adapted from the comics, with another complex rig required so the tongue could be specifically animated, and then retract to allow the character to talk without having to speak around it, which Franklin said was "too comical".[85] When he does speak, Venom often talks through clenched teeth which was inspired by actors Jack Palance and Clint Eastwood.[86] Since Venom's origin is not tied to Spider-Man in the film, it did not make sense for the filmmakers to add a version of Spider-Man's symbol to Venom's chest as he has in the comics. However, they still wanted to be as accurate to the comic designs as possible, and an all-black character would have been difficult to see in night scenes, so Venom has a unique symbol on his chest instead which is formed from the white veins of the symbiote.[88] To further help the audience see the character, the visual effects team lit him like they would a car in a commercial, using reflections to help define his body.[89] The character model was flexible, allowing animators to scale Venom's head, adjust the length of his teeth, or even unhinge his jaw "like a trap door", depending on the specific pose required.[85] Hardy initially planned to use performance capture to portray Venom,[90] but this idea was abandoned due to the difference between his face and the character's.[91] A 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) stand-in wearing a helmet for added height was sometimes used on-set for reference.[89]

Because Riot is a minor character from the comics, the designers had more freedom to develop his film appearance.[89] He is a foot taller than Venom, and almost twice as heavy, with a "brutal metallic look" that Franklin described as "almost reptilian". The character model for Riot was similar to the one for Venom, but had less effects layers due to Riot not having the same "rippling goo" texture. The villain also had a custom set of effects for the different weapons that he can manifest, including blades and a large wrecking ball with spikes. The final fight between the two characters was constantly changing, with Franklin, DNEG, and the previsualization team at The Third Floor working with Fleischer to develop the fight. One element that was suggested by the visual effects teams was to take advantage of the characters' liquid-like designs by having the two appear to merge and create "a swirling mass of symbiotic flesh, with the two humans revealed through the whirlpool". This was inspired by the early tests made while developing the basic symbiote look.[85] When designing the launch pad where the fight is set, Franklin said that it needed to be "broad, colorful and exciting" to represent the more comedic and comic book-like style of the film, which he contrasted to his work on Interstellar (2014) and the concurrent work being done for First Man (2018). Additional environment work that DNEG completed included the removal of Coca-Cola signs and CNN logos from the Atlanta-shot sequences, since San Francisco does not have those.[92] For Weying's brief time as She-Venom, Franklin said that the various depictions of the character in the comics ranged from "demonic creatures with elongated teeth through to the extreme hypertrophied female form", with the film's version trying to balance being disgusting and "a little bit sexy", particular for when she kisses Brock.[87] In total, DNEG completed around 1,100 visual effects shots for the film.[89]

Music[edit]

Ludwig Göransson signed on to compose the score for Venom in March 2018, reuniting with Fleischer after the pair worked together on the 2011 film 30 Minutes or Less.[93] Having composed the music for Marvel Studios' Black Panther (2018), Göransson said that he was interested in continuing to explore music for superhero films because "as a young film composer that is one of the things you dream of ... superhero themes really resonate with audiences."[94] In August, rapper Eminem teased that he had contributed a new song to the soundtrack for Venom.[95] His album Kamikaze—released on August 31—features a bonus song called "Venom (Music from the Motion Picture)" that includes references to the film.[96][97] The song was subsequently released by Aftermath Records as a digital single on September 23.[97]

Marketing[edit]

For the Sony Pictures panel at Comic Con Experience 2017, Fleischer and Hardy appeared in a video from the film's set to promote it.[65] A teaser for the film was released in February 2018,[16] which Dani Di Placido of Forbes called "comically underwhelming." He felt this was a major misstep by Sony given the teaser was meant to win over uninterested Spider-Man fans, particularly after the character's portrayal in Spider-Man 3.[98] The fact that the teaser did not include the title character was a common criticism by commentators.[98][99][100] Sony chairman Tom Rothman later acknowledged this, explaining that the intention had been to "heighten anticipation" for the film.[8] In August, Fleischer revealed the trailer did not showcase Venom because the visual effects for the character were incomplete at the time.[101]

Rothman presented new footage of the film at CinemaCon 2018, and acknowledged that it revealed the film's version of Venom by saying, "See, we didn't forget to put Venom in the movie!"[8] Placido was more positive of this trailer, praising the appearance of and visuals for Venom, but being concerned about the dialogue.[102] During the trailer, actress Jenny Slate pronounces the word symbiote as SIM-bye-oht rather than SIM-bee-oht, as many commentators believed it should be pronounced. This led to widespread criticism and a 35,700 percent increase in searches for "symbiote pronunciation," according to dictionary Merriam-Webster, which noted both pronunciations are technically considered acceptable.[17] Following the controversy, Slate's lines were altered in the completed film, either through reshoots or overdubbing, to use the expected SIM-bee-oht pronunciation.[103] Hannah Shaw-Williams of Screen Rant noted that the trailer reused music from a major, recently-released trailer for the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War (2018), questioning whether this was a coincidence or if Sony was "deliberately trying to tie Venom to the MCU in the minds of audiences. Whatever the reason, Venom will need more than just a familiar piece of trailer music in order to win over audiences".[104] According to Fizziology, an analytics company that takes different social media platforms into account, the second trailer was watched 64.3 million times within 24 hours, a 72 percent increase over the first trailer. Fizziology said it was rare for a second trailer to get more views than the first and noted that general positive responses were up 46 percent. The majority of positive responses were directed towards the appearance and design of Venom.[105]

Fleischer, Hardy, and Ahmed promoted the film at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, where the audience was given Venom masks and chanted "We are Venom". New footage from the film was debuted at the panel, including the reveal of the villainous symbiote Riot.[9] A third trailer was subsequently released online. It was criticized by Scott Mendelson (also of Forbes), who said the film was looking comparable to Catwoman (2004)—"the shining example of how not to do this kind of movie". He also felt that Fleischer's decision to make a sequel to his successful film Zombieland before Venom's release was an indication that the film was not going to be good.[106] Richard Newby, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, felt that the film was being marketed as if it was in an "earlier era", saying it "looks pre-Iron Man cool" and more like a cross between An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Blade (1998) than a modern superhero film. He noted that despite early fears, the latest trailer showed that Venom would be featured throughout the film, and believed that the film's lack of shared universe connections, and distinct tone, could help Sony prove it has "a handle on these characters after all".[107] A tie-in comic book, serving as both a prequel and a teaser for the film and simply titled Venom, was released digitally by Marvel on September 14, with a physical version available to those who purchased tickets for the film from AMC Theatres. Written by Sean Ryan and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, the comic establishes the film's backstory for the symbiote. SKAN provided the cover art for the comic.[108]

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

Venom had its world premiere at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles on October 1, 2018,[109] and was theatrically released in the United States and Canada on October 5.[54] This followed a release in several other countries on October 3.[110] The film was released in China on November 9, a date that was approved by the country's film board following an unexpected drop in box office sales there earlier in 2018.[111] China granted the film a rare extended theatrical release in December, with the film's box office success and Tencent's large investment in the film considered contributing factors in the decision.[112] The extension added 30 days to the film's initial 30 day run.[113]

Home media[edit]

A digital version of the film is set for release on December 11, 2018, with 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, and DVD versions set for release on December 18. The physical releases come with bonus features that include deleted and extended scenes, making-of featurettes, and a way of watching the film called "Venom Mode" in which informative pop-ups appear on screen. For these home media releases, the film was framed as a romantic comedy by Sony with a focus on the relationship between Brock and Venom.[114]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

As of December 9, 2018, Venom has grossed $212.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $638.6 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $851.3 million.[3] With a production budget of $100–116 million, Deadline Hollywood reported that the film needed to gross around $450 million to break even.[115]

In the United States and Canada, Venom was initially projected to gross $60–70 million from 4,250 theaters in its opening weekend.[62] It made $10 million from Thursday night previews, the highest-ever for an October release (beating Paranormal Activity 3's $8 million). After making $32.7 million on its first day, weekend estimates were raised to $80 million. It went on to gross $80.3 million, marking the best October opening weekend of all-time (beating Gravity's $55.9 million in 2013), as well as the seventh best opening for a Sony film. 68% of the opening audience was male and 36% were over 25, while 36% was Caucasian, 27% Hispanic and 19% African American. The film made $9.6 million on Columbus Day to set the record for best Monday gross in October, again topping Gravity.[115] The film remained in first the following weekend, dropping 55% to $35.7 million.[116] It finished in third place in its third and fourth weekends following the successful release of Halloween and strong holdover performances by A Star Is Born.[117][118] With the release of more films in its fifth and sixth weekends, Venom fell further in the rankings to, respectively, sixth and eighth place, with the latter carrying the film over $200 million.[119][120]

Worldwide, the film was expected to debut to $160–175 million, including $100–110 million from 58 territories outside of the U.S. and Canada.[121] Much like domestically, it ended up over-performing, making $125.2 million from foreign territories for a global opening weekend of $205.5 million, the highest-ever in October. It finished first in all countries but one, including South Korea ($16.4 million over its five-day debut), Russia ($13.6 million), the United Kingdom ($10.5 million) and Mexico ($10.2 million, the best-ever start for a Sony film in the country). The opening included $15.4 million from 726 IMAX screens in 60 markets, the largest opening for that format in October; of that, $7 million was from overseas IMAX screens, both the largest overseas IMAX debut and the largest opening for Sony in the format (besting Spider-Man: Homecoming).[122] Venom remained the top film worldwide for its second and third weekends.[123][124] In its second, the film opened at number one in France ($6.7 million), Vietnam ($3 million), and Thailand ($2.2 million), and of its 62 other markets remained at number one in 51 of them, including Brazil which dropped only 6% from the first weekend.[123] It was number one in 30 markets for the third weekend.[124] The film opened in Japan at number one during its fifth weekend, making $5.2 million there and taking the worldwide total to $541.6 million. It's top overseas markets at that point, ahead of its release in China, were Russia ($31.6 million), South Korea ($30.1 million), the UK ($25.5 million), Mexico ($23.8 million) and France/Brazil (tied at $18.3 million).[125]

The film passed $600 million and became number one worldwide again after opening in China with $111 million. It was Sony's biggest opening in China, the second largest for a superhero film behind Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and the fifth largest for any imported film to the country. $34.9 million came on the Friday, which was the biggest opening day for a solo Marvel film. The 553 IMAX screens in the country made $10 million, the largest November opening for the format in China, and the eight largest for any month.[126] The film held off new release Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in its second weekend, which became number one overall, to remain top in China with the best second weekend for a superhero film in the country at $51.2 million.[127] Following this "phenomenal" performance in China, the film crossed $800 million the next weekend with another $21.3 million from 63 markets, reaching $822.5 million to become the second biggest superhero origin film ever behind Black Panther (2018).[128] At the start of December and following the film receiving an extension for its China release, Scott Mendelson wrote for Forbes that the film had made an "insane" $262 million in China, and felt that it had outperformed other films such as Crazy Rich Asians in the market due to being more "quirky/weird" with some "camp classic 'so bad it's good' stylings" that those other films did not have.[129]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 28% based on 287 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Venom's first standalone movie turns out to be like the comics character in all the wrong ways—chaotic, noisy, and in desperate need of a stronger attachment to Spider-Man."[130] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 35 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[131]

Reviewing the film for Variety, Oweb Gleiberman called it "a textbook case of a comic-book film that's unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura". He criticized Hardy's performance as acting like "a stumblebum Method goof", and felt the film spent too long on Venom's origin story when it should have been what a sequel likely will be. He added that the film may not be as bad a start to a new shared universe as The Mummy (2017), but it "could turn out to be a similar case of a franchise kickoff that doesn't fully attain franchise liftoff".[132] Ty Burr of the Boston Globe scored the film one-and-a-half stars and said it "saps the life force of almost everyone in it" including Hardy, Williams, and Ahmed whose performances he all criticized. He also cricitized Fleischer's direction as "unfocused" and Libatique's cinematography as some of the "dingiest" of 2018, but did feel that the scenes where Hardy and Venom talk while sharing a body were "reasonably amusing".[133] Mark Daniell at the Toronto Sun criticized the film's tone, effects, and characters, compared it to a rejected superhero film treatment from the 1990s, and said it was the worst Marvel film released since Elektra (2005).[134]

Like Burr, Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times also gave the film one-and-a-half stars, calling it "perhaps the worst Marvel-derived origin story ever", and criticizing the "close to an hour of tedium" before Venom appears in the film. Anderson also said that Hardy was "usually excellent (but not this time)", and called the action sequences "generic".[135] At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell gave Venom two-out-of-four stars and said that Hardy's performance prevented it from being "an unwatchable disaster", but he still thought the film was a mess with an inconsistent tone, "bog-level computer effects and washed-out colours resembling those of a 1998 sci-fi movie on a VHS tape that's been left out in the sun".[136] Jake Coyle for the Associated Press found the film to be "kind of a hoot" despite it being "an incoherent mess of tones, acting styles and visual effects". He was particular positive of the film's differences from other Marvel films, and of how Hardy pushed it to be more comedic seemingly against Fleischer's intentions. On Hardy's performance, Coyle was not sure whether it "adds up to anything in Venom. But it's something to behold. Train wrecks like these aren't supposed to be this entertaining."[137]

David Edelstein at Vulture said Hardy was the only reason to watch the film, and felt having Brock and Venom share a body was "a good gimmick" that was executed better by Steve Martin in All of Me (1984). He also thought that Williams and Slate were wasted in their respective roles in the film, and that Fleischer's direction was "competent and unmemorable".[138] Writing for Salon, Matthew Rozsa said that he actually liked the film, and may have loved it if not for the "sloppy and formulaic script". He felt the depiction of Venom was more worthy to be seen in a film than the version in Spider-Man 3, and praised Hardy's performance as "wicked fun". Rozsa was especially positive that the film did not take itself too seriously and did not attempt to set-up an entire shared universe on its own, positively comparing it to the sort of superhero film that would have been made before the release of the MCU's Iron Man (2008).[139] Time's Stephanie Zacharek described the film as "neither the most super-awesome Marvel movie nor the worst", criticizing the action and small roles of Williams and Slate, but praising the design of the symbiotes as "kind of neat to look at" and Hardy's performance as "fun to watch".[140]

Audience response[edit]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an 80% positive score; social media monitor RelishMix noted online responses to the film were "mixed ... leaning positive". During the film's opening week, most audience members surveyed by Fandango wanted to see the film either because it featured a Marvel antihero, because it had the potential to crossover with Spider-Man, or because they were fans of Hardy.[115]

"Symbrock" shipping[edit]

After seeing the film, Kate Gardner of The Mary Sue wondered whether it had been "queer coded",[141] a term referring to characters appearing queer without their sexuality being a part of the story.[142] Gardner soon noticed fan art depicting Brock and Venom as a couple appearing across social media sites, and acknowledged that there were several moments throughout the film that implied such a relationship such as Venom deciding to turn against his species because of his time spent with Brock and deciding to French kiss Brock when it is transferring from Weying's body to Brock's. Gardner felt that these elements made it more logical for fans to "ship" the two characters than some similar pairings that had become popular on the internet.[141] Many of the fans posting the art and discussing the characters' relationship online began using the name "Symbrock" to refer to them.[143]

Tumblr's Fandometrics analysis team, led by Senior Content Insights Manager Amanda Brennan, looked at "original posts, likes, reblogs, and comments" across the website's 440 million blogs, and reported that Symbrock was the most used ship name during the week ending October 15. It was also the eighth most popular topic overall, while Venom itself was the most popular topic. Brennan said that fans of Symbrock existed before the film due to the nature of the comics, but the increase in popularity was undoubtedly due to the film's portrayal of the characters which she said made Venom's dialogue more "casual ... compared to how he speaks in comics, which kind of makes it more approachable and easier to turn the symbiote into something cute". Brennan added that dialogue such as "I am Venom and you are mine" was deemed to be particularly romantic by these fans, as was the idea that Venom be seen not as a parasite but as someone who "chose Eddie Brock and has a connection to Eddie Brock".[144] According to Fandometrics, Symbrock remained the most popular shipping name on Tumblr for the weeks ending October 22,[145] October 29,[146] November 5,[147] and November 12,[148] before falling to third place during the week ending November 19.[149] In its list of the top 100 shipping names of 2018, released on November 28, Fandometrics listed Symbrock in fourteenth place.[150]

When Sony began advertising the home media release of the film by presenting it as a romantic comedy focused on Brock and Venom's relationship,[114] io9's Charles Pulliam-Moore said it was the treatment that the film deserved, and attributed the change in strategy from the studio to the audience's response to the relationship. He added that it was rare for a film studio to "get on top of a so-so ad campaign" by adjusting towards "the public's reaction to a movie", and that he believed it to have been successful.[151] Michael Walsh at Nerdist concurred with Pulliam-Moore, describing the move as "fully embrac[ing] 'Symbrock'" and calling it "brilliant". Walsh said that though the advertisement was clearly a parody, it also "feels like a far more accurate portrayal of what the movie was really like than the initial [marketing] hinted at", and further highlighted the kissing scene.[152]

Accolades[edit]

Hardy was nominated in the Best Visual Effects or Animated Performance at the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Awards for his portrayal of Venom.[153]

Future[edit]

When Sony first revived plans for Venom in March 2016, the studio planned for the film to launch its own franchise.[49] In July 2017, Panitch indicated that future Venom films could crossover with the Spider-Man films.[64] Harrelson revealed in May 2018 that he was expected to have a larger role in a Venom sequel, describing this move as a roll of the dice since he was unable to read a script for the sequel before signing on to the first film.[81] That July, Fleischer and Hardy both expressed interest in a crossover with Spider-Man, and indicated that Sony was interested in the idea as well;[9] in August, the studio confirmed that it planned to crossover Spider-Man and Venom by saying they "are already in the same universe—so without giving too much away, we are looking forward to the two of them eventually facing off in the future".[154] The same month, Hardy revealed he is signed on for two more Venom films.[155] By November, box office analysts believed that Venom had been successful enough to guarantee that a sequel would be made.[156]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Marvel Studios is not involved with this film, and does not plan to integrate it with the MCU,[5] but Sony does consider it to be set in "the same world" as MCU films such as Spider-Man: Homecoming; producer Amy Pascal described Venom as being "adjunct" to that world.[6]

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