Venom is on his way to the big screen... again. Sony reportedly has a movie starring the Spidey villian scheduled for an October 2018 release, even though the studio currently shares custody of Spider-Man with Marvel. We don’t know much about what’s planned, but we do know that a script is already in the works.
I’m a huge Spider-Man fan, so I know a little bit about the character and what he represents. Since he has the same abilities but lacks a moral compass, he’s essentially the wall-crawler’s Bizarro. As such, it’s hard to imagine a standalone movie that doesn’t have Spider-Man show up in some way.
There are a few obvious hurdles: since Marvel has just rebooted Spider-Man, Venom’s movie will need to be introduced. And since Venom is a villain, he can’t really be paired against just another Spider-Man. Then there’s the question of Spider-Man. How does Marvel include the web-slinger without making this just another Spider-Man movie?
Here’s one option: turn Spider-Man into the villain.
That’s not easy to pull off. Fans familiar with the character know that Venom is a bloodthirsty, deranged super-criminal with a personal vendetta against Spider-Man. In the comics, he exists because Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist, joined forces with Spider-Man’s rejected alien costume. That costume, a member of the interstellar warrior race of symbiotes known as the Klyntar (don’t ask), gave Brock Spidey’s powers, and the pair, as the very first Venom, set out to make their shared nemesis’ life a living hell. None of that is a clear recipe for a blockbuster hero — or even a trendy brooding anti-hero.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man’s entire modus operandi is throwing himself into any and all situations for the sake of helping others. He’s not exactly a saint, but he’s about as good as they come, as far as superheroes are concerned.
But there’s a way to thread this needle, and it’s by focusing on each character’s flawed humanity. One of the most important aspects of Peter Parker’s identity is that, as well-meaning as he is, he’s just a regular person who happens to have superpowers. As such, he can be selfish, inconsiderate, and since he makes mistakes constantly, his behavior can be downright harmful to the people around him. That keys into Venom’s origin perfectly. Despite his flaws, Brock hardly deserved to have his life ruined, and his wanting revenge is understandable.
We'd get a different spin on Spider-Man through the eyes of Venom. Good guy Peter Parker becomes a self-righteous, hyper-talkative teenager who’s in it for the glory. And Venom's mission suddenly is Falling Down, but the target is annoying millennials. (Yes, I’m a millennial.)
Of course, a good movie from the perspective of a supervillain taking on an iconic superhero is almost unheard of in today’s movie landscape. Warner Bros. has tried. Last year, WB and DC released the crummy Suicide Squad. And the studio is now in production with Black Adam. Clearly producers are willing to try new things to keep audiences interested in superhero movies. Swapping heroes and superheroes — protagonists and antagonists — could be gamble that pays out big.
Imagine a Venom franchise that starts with an evil but compelling protagonist that sees him become an anti-hero worth rooting for. Imagine learning what makes villain tick beyond the latest McGuffin. Imagine having a reason to cheer against Spider-Man.
Or, you know, you could do a Venom movie in space. But maybe that’s a little too weird.