Make: Sony Pictures
Model: Anti-hero/Comic book
With the recent news that a Venom sequel is in the works, it’s a good time to reflect on what went wrong with the original and ways it could have been better. In order to do that, we have to distill the movie to its essence, which is a buddy action comedy. In other words, it’s in the same vein as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, and Shanghai Noon. The main problem with Venom, among others, was that it failed to focus on the journey from unlikely allies to inseparable friends, opting instead to emphasize the B plot between Michelle Williams’s Annie and Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock.
The typical course of a buddy comedy starts with the introduction of two unlikely allies, who are initially at odds, but come together because of a common goal. As the relationship develops, the unlikely allies realize they have more in common than originally thought, but there still lurks a central conflict beneath the surface. Eventually, the conflict emerges, driving the buddies apart, allowing each to independently realize that he needs the other. They then reunite, utilizing the source of conflict to overcome their common enemy.
In Venom, the titular symbiote is not even introduced until 20-30 minutes into the movie. That’s the entire first act! This poses a problem primarily because it leaves so little time for the development of friendship in the later parts of the movie. But, it also inhibits the introduction of the common goal. In Venom, the common goal does not become clear until very late in the film. But apart from neat super powers, what does Venom offer Eddie Brock? Revenge against Carlton Drake? No. Reconciliation with Annie? No. Charm and charisma, fame and fortune? No. For Brock, it’s all downside. A life of sweaty hoodies, weird eating habits, and cannibalism (human heads are very hard on the tummy). As for the second phase, our heroes do realize they have more in common than they originally thought: they are both losers, but lurking underneath the surface is the dark truth that Venom is killing Brock. This problem never gets solved, by the way, nor does the fact that symbiotes kill their hosts over time ever get used against Riot/Drake. Then, after Brock leaves Venom behind, there is no heart to heart between Brock and Venom allowing them to reunite and accept their differences to overcome the foe. All we got was an awkward and frankly disturbing kiss from Venomette. No, thanks.
There are other problems too, such as clunky dialogue, messy action scenes, and weird cannibalism that raise as many questions as eyebrows. But, those are minor issues compared to the story fouls. In our rebuild, we’ll focus on bringing out the buddy nature of the story.
First, the opening 20-30 minutes need to be reduced to 5-10 minutes. To do this, we’ll have the crash with the crew collecting symbiotes, and noting that one is missing. Jump to Eddie Brock getting ready for date night and looking at the ring he has to propose. They go out, get engaged, and come back to their house. Eddie finds Carlton Drake’s wrongful death lawsuits on Annie’s computer. Now, when he goes to the LIFE Foundation to interview Carlton Drake, instead of getting thrown out, he takes the opportunity to snoop around, makes his way into the lab and gets spotted by the Venom symbiote. Eddie sees the symbiote as well and decides to take it so it can be analyzed on the hopes that it will provide evidence against Drake. He puts the container in his pocket and is immediately caught by the guards who take him to Drake. Drake has him searched, finds only an empty vial and throws him out.
Annie is fired. She breaks up with Eddie and throws him out of their house. Eddie is also fired for failing to get proof of Drake’s wrongdoing.
That night Eddie goes for drinks, goes to a dumpy apartment he rented, and lies down to sleep it off. His sleep is restless. He awakens to the sound of someone in his apartment. When he investigates, he finds an empty apartment. Overwhelmed, he washes his face, and as he looks in the mirror, Venom’s face appears. Brock is startled and falls back. Venom tries to talk to Eddie, but his language is clumsy and primitive. Eddie thinks he’s going crazy. He calls Annie, but she ignores his phone calls. Venom tires of trying to talk to Eddie and instead takes him to find food. He eats a few stray cats and then takes Eddie to a rooftop. Venom tells Eddie they can work together, if Eddie will feed Venom, Venom will help Eddie get his job back by exposing Drake, hopefully convincing Annie to take him back in the process. Eddie agrees.
Just then, Eddie gets a phone call from a restricted number. He answers and it’s Carlton Drake. “You have something of mine, Eddie,” he says. He sees a green laser sight pointing at his face. Venom pulls Eddie out of the way just as a bullet shoots his phone. Venom takes Eddie from rooftop to rooftop as exploding drones appear and pursue them, driving them to the streets below. Eddie grabs a motorcycle as black SUVs appear and join the pursuit. The pursuit continues and Venom saves Eddie dozens of times, but they eventually crash, breaking Eddie’s leg. The thugs close in. Venom emerges and kills them under a shower of bullets, taking the leader by the neck and biting his head off before escaping.
In a safe location, Eddie asks Venom what happened to the guy’s head he just ate. But before Venom can answer, Eddie blacks out.
When he wakes up, Venom’s fangy face is eating a live rat. Venom confesses that symbiosis has a downside. It requires large quantities of food to support. After exerting himself, if Venom doesn’t eat, it can knock Eddie out.
Eddie goes to the market for a sandwich, but while he’s there, a thug shows up to shake down the store owner. Eddie tells Venom to kill the thug, which he does with gusto. The store owner freaks out, and Venom leaves the store. The store owner calls the cops, but Drake is listening. He sends another team of thugs after Venom.
Eddie heads to Annie’s house to lay low. She comes home and finds Eddie trying to stop Venom eating the dog. He explains to her how Drake was trying to kill him, and he needed her help to stay safe. She reluctantly agrees to let him stay. Eddie apologizes for getting her fired and explains that he did what he did as a matter of conscience, and now they have to stop him before Drake does something worse. “Worse?” Annie asks. Venom emerges and explains there are 3 more symbiotes at the LIFE Foundation, and one more that went missing in the crash, each of them is a trained killer with insane abilities. “Why should you help us? Why should we trust you?” Annie asks. “Truth is, among my kind, I’m a loser. They kick me around and walk all over me. But, now I have a chance to turn things my way.” Venom explains that symbiotes have 2 weaknesses, high pitched sounds and fire. To win, they’ll have to use them both, and anything else they can think of. The plan is to break in and torch the other symbiotes before Drake and turn them loose.
Just as Eddie walks out of Annie’s house, he throws up, gets dizzy and blacks out. Annie freaks out and takes him to the hospital. The doctor tells Annie that Eddie’s organs are eating themselves away. Eddie gets an MRI which causes Venom to separate from him. Annie traps Venom in the scan room and pulls Eddie out. She tells Eddie that Venom is killing him. Eddie doesn’t want to die, but he was starting to like Venom. Eddie gets wheeled away to a hospital room to recover. Annie manages to contain Venom and she takes him away.
Annie walks out of the hospital, just in time to see Drake’s men attack the hospital. She hides with Venom as the thugs take Eddie to the LIFE Foundation.
Eddie gets interrogated about Venom’s whereabouts. Then Drake appears. He talks about how the three symbiotes struggled, killing host after host. Brock somehow managed to survive longer than any other host. Maybe Venom was special. Maybe Brock was. At least that’s what Drake thought until this little girl showed up at his lab. The Riot symbiote erupts and demands to know where Venom is. Eddie doesn’t answer. Riot/Drake storms off.
While Eddie is alone, he wonders about Annie and Venom. Annie and Venom are trying to figure out what to do. Venom tells her he can get her in. She agrees and merges with Venom. They both agree it feels weird. Venom, true to his word, gets her in, and they break Eddie free.
Eddie is still not feeling well, but he feels better once he reunites with Venom. Trying to make their escape, the other symbiotes appear. Annie uses a whistle in her pocket to disrupt them and lights them on fire with a road flare she had in her purse. Only Riot escapes.
Riot appears just as Annie thinks they’re clear. He forms blades and spears and attacks them. Venom does double duty trying to protect Eddie and Annie from Riot, but it’s too much to keep up with. Eddie gets stabbed, and Annie falls into the bay. Venom seems to get absorbed by Riot. Riot walks up on Eddie to finish him off. Just then, Annie reappears, soaking wet and blows her whistle as loud as she can. It’s enough to distract Riot, and Venom emerges and reunites with Eddie. Just as Riot is about to attack Annie, Venom lunges at him. They fight for a couple minutes, and then Riot runs out of steam and blacks out. Riot recedes revealing Drake’s head, now dizzy from exhaustion. Eddie says he should have eaten before battle like Annie did. “These guys sure burn a lot of energy, right?” Venom then cloaks Eddie and eats Drake’s head. Annie helps Eddie escape.
A few days later, Eddie and Annie are talking. Venom tells Eddie they will win her over.
NOW, THE SEQUEL…
Eddie is still trying to figure out how to survive and stay with Venom. Venom decides to divide his life force in order to reduce his consumption rate. He splits himself in half, creating Carnage. Carnage manages to survive the division and unites with Cletus Kasady, escaped serial killer.
The sequel will test the new friendship between Venom and Eddie by forcing them to find a way to be together without killing each other, and then using their new found strength to take on the threat of Carnage. I would love to see the introduction of another character from the Spider-Verse, like Felicia Hardy, Spider-Gwen, or Spider-Woman, a strong female to offer a balance to Venom, as well as push Eddie and Annie closer together.
Venom is essentially a buddy flick. All other elements should accentuate that type of story. Whether there be horror elements or superhero elements, they cannot overshadow the buddy elements. Also, they need to hit all the buddy beats. Please, please, please, keep that in mind as the sequel progresses.