The biggest unanswered questions in Venom

Venom is Sony Pictures' newest stab at starting a cinematic universe, and boy is it ever a bewildering ride. Reviews for the superhero/anti-hero picture came in almost uniformly negative, but that's not to say the movie isn't entertaining. The truth is just the opposite. 

Indeed, the positive reviews for the Marvel-adjacent genre story all seem to agree that it's a wild, unhinged, and sometimes hilarious good time, all anchored and held together by a truly gonzo performance from actor Tom Hardy. (We also agree with that assessment.)

Between all the noise and mayhem of the slimy creature feature, the plot of Venom unfolds in relatively well-worn fashion. As a comic book movie and hero's origin story, it's mostly stuff you've seen before — but a lot of details get left dangling between the action bits. You may not have noticed them immediately, but now that we've seen what Venom has to offer, let's break down the world-building and story stuff that the movie leaves hanging, as well as some big important questions that it just plain doesn't bother bringing up. These are the biggest unanswered questions in Venom.

The truth is out there?

Venom is nearly two hours long, but it has a script that moves briskly enough over its story beats that your mind doesn't linger on the finer details. But the movie leaves out some pretty consequential information, too, leaving certain plot aspects a mystery. 

In the beginning of the movie, a private rocket ship staffed by astronauts sent by the Life Foundation is returning to Earth from interstellar parts unknown. On board is a collection of "samples" that we soon come to know as fully-formed symbiotes. 

As we later learn from Jenny Slate's character, Dr. Dora Skirth, the rocket was initially sent out on an interplanetary hunt for "real estate" elsewhere in the galaxy that humanity could potentially expand to. On the way back home, the rocket encountered a comet slick with the alien symbiotes, thereby making first contact with an alien race. Somehow, the expedition crew managed to stop and take samples of the symbiotes, with the crew sending a message home regarding the samples before one of the symbiotes breaks loose and steers the ship into a crash landing. The question is: how does Life Foundation founder Carlton Drake, monitoring the mission, seem to know so much about the symbiotes and their potential value to his research before they've even arrived on Earth? What exactly makes him so confident from the jump that these creatures will be useful to him? The movie doesn't address it. Maybe it was a lucky guess.

A riot going on

When the Life Foundation's rocket strikes down on land, it frees a symbiote we later learn goes by the name of Riot. First, the alien fuses with one astronaut from the mission, flung from the wreckage and barely clinging to life. Then, the creature latches itself inside an EMT, who in turn passes the symbiote to a middle-aged woman. That host then transfers the symbiote to a little girl, who finally sneaks into the Life Foundation to ultimately infest Carlton Drake. That's what happens, but… why? 

Right from the moment that the rocket touches down, the Riot symbiote seems to be driving toward one goal. It certainly doesn't make its way to Drake by random chance — the rocket crashes down in Malaysia, of all places, and the movie shows every deliberate turn the symbiote takes to get to California on the far side of the world. 

But the movie never stops to explain why the symbiote is doing this — why is Drake the target? Did the Riot symbiote glom on to the memories of the first astronaut it inhabited, and through them somehow identify Drake as an ideal host? If so, how did it come to this decision? What makes Riot specifically seek out Drake to bond with? Who knows — they make a fantastic couple, though.

The losers

In the comics, the symbiotes are sometimes referred to as a species called the Klyntar, hailing from a "planet of the symbiotes" that's also known as Klyntar. In the finished Venom movie, we never get a glimpse at or peek into the society of this planet — it's all only implied. But there's some intriguing story stuff we'd love to know a little more about.

One of the movie's earlier laugh lines occurs when Venom, recently bonded to Eddie Brock, rudely identifies the reporter as "a loser." (How the alien possesses the cultural context to know this is a bit of a minor mystery — maybe it has something to do with those schlubby, grimy hoodies that Eddie's always wearing.) 

As Eddie and the Venom symbiote become closer and more trusting of each other, Venom reveals that, on his home world, he is also something of a loser. It's a tantalizing bit of information that is never quite expanded upon. What makes Venom such a loser on his planet? What about him distinguishes him from his peers? He seems strong, perceptive, and capable as anyone. Maybe his Kylntar brethren are just really turned off by his insult comedy. Or maybe it's his inclination to do good — is he helping people cross the street on Klyntar, and getting endlessly dunked on for his small acts of consideration? Are the symbiotes generally evil, save for him? None of this is really established. But hey, whatever — gotta save something for the sequel.

Klyntar Attacks!!!

Once Riot and Drake do meet up, they get along quite swimmingly, with Drake having to face down seemingly little of the getting-to-know-you body horror that Eddie Brock has to deal with. (If Carlton Drake with Riot inside of him also feasts on some room temperature chicken fished out of the trash, it unfortunately all happens offscreen.)

As it turns out, Riot and Drake have a lot more in common than their general antipathy toward others. The movie establishes that Drake is a power-mad sociopath trying to lead the human race out into the stars, sacrificing the poor for the sake of the wealthy in a form of low-key world domination. We also find out that, completely by coincidence, Riot was already on his way to Earth with a swarm of symbiotes for the express purpose of conquering the planet. Naturally, the two villains team up, combining their powers for their mutual benefit. 

The question that never gets explored is "why?" Why are the symbiotes attempting to invade the Earth? What ever gave them that idea? Do they have prior knowledge of the planet? Have they been here before? Do they do this to all the planets? Is this an official symbiote society mission, or is this just a Riot thing? Either way, what do they want Earth for? Riot fails in his plan so spectacularly that we may well never find out.

Incident on the east coast

Early on in Venom, while Eddie and Anne are out in San Francisco on their dinner-and-a-motorcycle-ride date night, a reference is made to a mysterious "Daily Globe incident" in Eddie's professional past. The comment is meant to help establish Eddie's character as someone who's previously faced serious trouble in his journalism career. As the conversation details, whatever the incident was, it ended up with Eddie not just fired, but run out of New York City entirely. But what exactly was this incident?

In all likelihood, the reference is a callout to the comic book origin story of the Eddie Brock version of Venom — one that was substantially altered for the Spider-Man-less Sony movie. 

Originally, Venom was a villain for Spider-Man specifically because Spider-Man ruined Eddie's career. Before meeting the symbiote, the reporter produced a high-profile article on the serial killer called Sin-Eater. The problem was, he had the wrong guy — when Spider-Man captured the real Sin-Eater, Eddie's professional reputation took an immediate nosedive. He lost his prestigious job with the Globe and was left unable to find a new job as a journalist in New York. According to this movie, he had to flee across the country to find work again.

But is this what went down in the movie's backstory? Who knows — it's not addressed. As things stand, this is the closest the movie comes to acknowledging the existence of Spider-Man, but without further details, it's still far from a confirmation that they share the same universe. 

The other symbiotes

While the Life Foundation rocket that crashes down in Malaysia sets Riot loose upon the world, the other symbiotes — including Venom — remain in captivity, eventually arriving at Life Foundation headquarters none the worse for wear. But what happens to these other symbiotes at the end of the movie? 

It's established that the symbiotes are still being used in human trials by the Life Foundation six months after their arrival, and the only one we see escape is Venom. The others, presumably, remain in the lab throughout the rest of the film. 

In the comic series Venom: Lethal Protector, one of the two Marvel Comics arcs that inspired the plot of this movie, Venom is made to face off with a variety of symbiotes — not just Riot. Though the movie never names the other symbiote specimens that the rocket brings back, it's clear at least a few exist — one of them is used to kill Dr. Skirth — but it's completely unclear what happens to them by the time the movie wraps up. Are there still a grip of symbiotes stuck in the Life Foundation lab after Drake's death? Are they set out into the wild? Are they good guys or bad guys? Does Venom intend to go after them? Or did they just die offscreen? Maybe we'll see a few more of these far-flung visitors in an eventual sequel.

First contact

In a refreshing twist, Dan Lewis, the new doctor boyfriend of Eddie's ex-fiancé Anne, turns out to be a pretty good guy. Rather than cold-cocking Eddie at any point during their alarming interactions in the movie's early going, Dan puts his medical skills to use to try and figure out what's making him act like such a basket case. It's a revealing move that characterizes Dan as having deep wells of empathy and understanding, although it must be said that his devotion to doctor-patient confidentiality leaves something to be desired. (Seriously, watch how often Dan flagrantly discusses Eddie's rather private medical details with Anne during the movie.) 

Despite some encouraging early character-building moments, there's not really much of a conclusion for Dan's character — especially once it's made clear that the symbiote relationship isn't a medical problem so much as it is an interpersonal one. After getting confirmation that the cause of Eddie's ills can be traced to a massive alien parasite — one he lays his own eyes on in the hospital — Dan more or less disappears from the movie, and we never really get an understanding of how he takes the news that aliens exist and slither among us. Does he, like Anne, just go back to work after this world-altering encounter? Come to think of it, why doesn't anyone react strongly to the existence of aliens? That should really be a bigger deal. Isn't Eddie supposed to be a reporter? Talk about a story, right?

The death foundation?

Riz Ahmed is a fine actor, but there's only so much he can do with the mustache-twirling Carlton Drake, a man who never shares a kind word when an evil one will do. All throughout the movie, the CEO goes out of his way to prove to everyone what an awful person he is, from his megalomanical thoughts about the poor design of the human species to his constant threats to murder the children of his exceptionally loyal employees. But his most puzzling move takes place at the height of the movie's third act.

After fusing with the Riot symbiote and commencing a beautiful relationship of scenery-chomping, no-holds-barred villainy, Carlton and Riot immediately rush into a shared plan to dominate the world. But instead of using his Life Foundation resources to help usher along this project, and perhaps add the slightest patina of scientific legitimacy to his cloud-cuckoo-land world-conquering scheme, the symbiotic pair decide to just up and murder the staff of the Life Foundation, killing or seriously maiming a room full of researchers at the slightest sign of resistance. 

After going into monster mode and slicing up a room full of people, Riot instantly goes into one-on-one combat with the "traitorous" Venom symbiote — a battle which Drake and Riot then decisively lose. But wait — what about the Life Foundation? Is that really it for the group? Did they disband voluntarily, or are a few researchers still going? Just what is the ultimate fate of Life?

Brock is back

After Eddie and Venom compromise Riot and Drake to a permanent end, the movie ends with the protagonists on an upswing. After being fired by his previous news organization and then effectively blackballed from all media organizations in California, it's revealed by the end of the movie that Eddie has been offered his old job back. But wait — why?

Eddie only loses his job thanks to a contentious one-on-one interview he has with Life Foundation founder and head executive Carlton Drake — an interview which quickly goes south after Eddie embarks on a rapid-fire bit of investigative journalism, hitting Drake with some pretty serious accusations in the process. He loses his job as a result of betraying his editor's trust, turning a puff piece about Drake's company into an inquisition regarding the group's alleged history of immoral, illegal, and downright murderous behavior.

By the end of the movie, Drake is dead, and the Life Foundation likely in tatters. But how exactly does that lead to Eddie getting his job back? Since getting fired, Eddie has only made his reputation worse, showing up to the office as a flop-sweating nutcase. He doesn't just freak out the security guards — he violently breaks into the building, leaving behind a note and some research. Afterwards, he goes downstairs and flat-out kills a dozen police officers. Sure, he may have been right about the Life Foundation, but what about his insane behavior makes this guy look at all worth working with again?

You can't shop here

Venom wraps up with Eddie and the symbiote still happily connected, with the duo pointedly keeping their bond a secret from Eddie's ex Anne. (Why that is, we're not totally sure — by the end of the movie, she seems to be taking her temporary possession remarkably well, reluctant acts of murder and all.)

As the movie comes to a conclusion, Eddie and Venom are finally codifying their unlikely alliance — "only kill bad people," and all that. It all culminates back in the small shop run by Mrs. Chen, which we earlier saw being shaken down for protection money by a brazen, gun-toting enforcer. 

When the thug returns to the store at the movie's end, Eddie unleashes Venom on the bad guy. At first, he only threatens him, but by the end of the interaction, it's heavily implied that Venom has eaten the man whole, leaving behind not a stitch of clothing nor a drop of blood. He does this directly in front of Mrs. Chen, going so far as to transform back from Venom into Eddie without even making an effort to, say, duck into a phone booth or what have you. So what's going on there? How secret is Eddie trying to keep this alter ego? Is he ever going to be able to return to that store again? Is Mrs. Chen really that cool with outright murder? It's kind of a stunning move to end the movie on, even for an anti-hero.

Revenge of the redhead

After a brief Kamikaze strike from Eminem over the end credits, a post-credits sequence picks up with Eddie and Venom at the start of their next adventure. 

After arriving at the dank and dungeon-like San Quentin Prison, Eddie embarks on an exclusive interview with a notorious serial killer — Cletus Kasady, better known to comics readers as the eventual host of the unhinged Carnage symbiote. 

Played in equal part by Woody Harrelson and a $5 curly red wig from Party City, the character serves entirely to set up a probable sequel, which would presumably see Kasady escaping prison to make good on his promise to… unleash the carnage.

But the movie leaves some things ambiguous about this encounter between Eddie and Kasady. As Eddie himself details upon his arrival to the prison, this interview with the killer is a rare shot and a big get for the journalist, with Eddie having been specifically requested by Kasady for a one-on-one. But why? 

The tenor of the conversation seems to imply that Kasady has some kind of master plan for busting out of lockup. We know he eventually gets a symbiote of his own, but at the point that we meet him, does he know that? Does he have knowledge of Eddie's symbiote, and the potential the species holds for getting him out of prison? If so, how? If not, then why did Kasady want to talk to Eddie? Is it just dumb luck again? It could go either way.