Marvel Entertainment’s Venom gets own spin-off movie

© Artwork by Salim Ljabli / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Venom originally emerged in the Spider-Man comics in 1988 by writer David Michelinie and artists Todd McFarlane and Mike Zeck. An alien symbiote, the creature requires a human host to move around. In exchange for using a human body as its own personal Airbnb, the alien lifeform grants its host a range of incredible powers. The character was initially conceptualised as a supervillain but has since become an antihero in the manner of the notorious Deadpool, who appeared in his own film adaptation in 2016 and first appeared in the New Mutants #98 (published on February 1991) created by artist Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza.

Since then, a Venom movie has long been rumoured. In 2008, it was reported that a spin-off was in development, with Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) rumoured to direct. Still, the project was hindered. Sony Pictures, which now owns the film rights to the Spider-Man franchise, is said to be enthusiastic to expand the Spider-Man universe in the same way that Marvel Entertainment has with The Avengers. Sony Pictures has also shown interest in making a film featuring a collection of Spider-Man villains in the manner of Suicide Squad.

A tantalising aficionado theory conjured up on Reddit toyed with the idea that the latest Sony Pictures release “Life” (a sci-fi thriller about the discovery of a dangerous new alien) may serve as a prequel to the Venom storyline. It may be a bit of a reach however, and the theory has been dismissed as wishful thinking from fans with a thirst for concepts of interlinked universes within movies. 10 Cloverfield Lane got away with its slightly shonky science fiction finale because the climax proved it was actually a sequel to 2008’s “Cloverfield” (a third movie, “God Particle”, is set for release later this year). M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” produced its own twist and connecting plot when Bruce Willis showed up to prove the protagonist exists in the same universe as the film-maker’s 2000 movie “Unbreakable”.

The theory about “Life” was connected to the fact that Sony Pictures holds the franchising rights to Venom, despite their deal with Marvel Entertainment to share Spider-Man, and that “Life’s screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, once wrote a rejected movie about the alien symbiote for the studio. A comparable theoretical link, this time between Venom and the grisly shapeshifting alien lifeform introduced by John Carpenter in 1982’s The Thing, has been explored in the 2003 comic book by Daniel Way, implying – at the very least – an attraction for digging deeper into the creature’s backstory.

Regrettably, Sony Pictures is not known for this kind of complex “connect the plots” story arc, with its own struggles to transform Spider-Man and associated supervillains into a cinematic universe having died a death following the critical failure of 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Furthermore, the last time we saw Venom on the big screen, in 2007’s inebriated Spider-Man 3, there was scarce or no effort on the part of the film-makers to give the symbiote a meaningful origins tale: it simply turned up one day on Earth and decided to try and bond with the wise-cracking wall-crawler.

For this purpose, alone, the report that Sony Pictures is working on a new Venom movie has been viewed with trepidation. The symbiote’s origin story is inexorably linked to that of Peter Parker – Eddie Brock is inspired to become Venom by his hatred and jealousy towards the superhero – so this would be something of a strange movie. In fact, it is arguable that Venom without Spider-Man depicts a rather lukewarm scheme for all but the most hardcore fan of 1993’s Venom: Lethal Protector storyline from the comics.

There is also the fact that Sony Pictures has been striving to get a Venom movie off the ground for the best part of a decade, without any genuine success. The agreement with Marvel Entertainment was thought to put an end to this barrel-scraping approach to the rights to Spider-Man and associated characters while allowing a whole host of classic Spider-Man villains to turn up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, it seems as if Sony Pictures needs to let Marvel Entertainment reinvigorate the character and still aspire to spin off the likes of Venom into dubious solo adventures.

This motility has certainly been inspired by Fox’s success with R-rated solo outings from Deadpool and Wolverine, two anti-heroes who offer an alternate take on the classic superhero template – just like Venom. The alien symbiote even shares a cancer-stricken backstory with Deadpool. But Spider-Man’s nemesis – at least in his classic Eddie Brock form – has never quite had the offbeat attractiveness of Wade Wilson, nor the ill-tempered, silent charisma of Logan.

It is obvious to assume that in the event of a Venom spin-off, which might have to make us loathe Spider-Man to create any compassion for Eddie Brock, Marvel will need to reverse the polarity and reconfigure Venom as a bad fellow in a future Spider-Man flick. The Disney-owned studio managed to pull off a similar trick when it successfully cast Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man as the ostensible villain of Captain America: Civil War, but it was a screenwriting flick of the wrist that took at least half a dozen movies to set up.

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