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Why Hollywood Won't Make A Venom Movie

Venom is a character that has fascinated comics readers for decades. Conceptually, he is quite simple: he is a dark reflection of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The man beneath the suit is disgraced crazypants Eddie Brock, while the suit is an evil alien that once served as Spider-Man's dark new look but was rejected by the webhead. Now, it uses rebound host Eddie Brock to enact their mutual revenge on the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Sounds pretty cool, right? Many people have been clamoring for a solo Venom movie since the very first Spider-Man movie was announced. However, as the Fantastic Four can attest to three times over, the things that work in the funny pages of comic books don't always translate to the silver screen. And when you think about it, there are several solid reasons why Hollywood will never make a solo Venom movie.

The terrible film legacy

One of the biggest problems with introducing the public to Venom via his own movie is that the public has already gotten a Venom introduction ... and it was pretty terrible. Even as the market for superhero movies is greater than it has ever been, Spider-Man 3 remains the reference point for "absolutely terrible superhero film." There are many reasons for this — the bizarre dance moves of Peter Parker being at the top of many lists — but the chief reason is that, under studio pressure, Sam Raimi crammed the movie with too many villains. As you'll recall, Spider-Man had to contend with the Sandman, Harry Osborne as the new Green Goblin, and Eddie Brock as other completely new character Venom. Among these characters, Venom got the least development and came off as "ugly CGI Spider-Man knockoff." A solo Venom movie would require the public to shrug off all of the baggage of Spider-Man 3, and if the public can move something that heavy, then we the people would be the superheroes and we should get our own film.

Poor protagonist

Another problem at the heart of a Venom solo movie is that he is a hard character to root for. He has spent the majority of his comics history as a villain, and he's done some pretty terrible things. Heck, there was a period of time where his primary characteristic was to eat Spider-Man's brains! When he did have his own solo series, it was contingent on Venom being a "lethal protector" — someone who would do things (even extreme things, such as murder) in the name of his own sense of honor. For instance, he might murder some people who got in his way when he was hunting Spider-Man, and he'd hand-wave that away as serving the greater good — after all, if Spider-Man is a terrible menace, as Venom believes, then it's worth anything to stop him. This is highly problematic: the public is primed to root for antiheroes on screen (such as Punisher and Deadpool) because we are shown deserving targets of their wrath, like child porn peddlers, mutant traffickers, and so on. To root for Venom is to root for honest-to-God honor killings, and our culture isn't ready for that.

Glamorizes suicide

Eddie Brock, the man beneath the creepy suit, has an equally creepy origin: the suit turned out to be a living thing that had developed its own hatred of Spider-Man back when it was bonded to him. Brock, meanwhile, is a journalist who exposes someone as a serial killer — only for Spider-Man to catch the real deal. This kills Brock's career and drives him to try to kill himself, which is when he literally bonds with the symbiote over a mutual hatred of Spider-Man.

If Venom has a solo movie, then we are meant to root for him as our protagonist. And this means we are rooting for someone who was essentially rewarded with fantastic powers after he attempted to kill himself. This is highly dangerous territory for a movie. Rival studio Warner Bros removed most of the evidence of domestic violence between Harley Quinn and Joker because they (rightly) didn't want anyone to think of that as normal. Marvel is highly unlikely to greenlight a movie that might code suicidal thoughts as a heroic quality.

The solo movie problem

This is a problem that actually comes straight from the horse's mouth: considering the bizarre state of Spider-Man right now (being co-produced by both Sony and Marvel and being allowed to play in the Avengers sandbox), many were wondering how a Venom movie would play in a world of Thor and Captain America. The short answer: it won't. THR reports that Sony confirmed that the movie — if it's ever made — will be completely separate from Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Wait ... what?! Venom as a character is completely tied to Spider-Man — the symbiotic suit bonded with Spider-Man first, which is where Venom gets his appearance and Spider-Man-like powers. He is driven entirely by his hatred of Spider-Man. A completely separate movie throws all of this out so we can root for a black-clad killer that has nothing to do with the brightly colored comics world he spawned from. Sorry, Sony, that's an easy pass right there!

The origin movie problem

All initial comic book movies suffer from the same problem: the need for an origin story. This means that most comic movie debuts are two narratives thrown together: the story of how the character got his powers and then the actual story of using those powers to stop the antagonist. The problem with Venom is that his own origin is much more complex than average: the symbiote itself has an entire alien origin, Eddie Brock has prior history as a reporter, and both of them have prior experience with Spider-Man. When you get down to it, this movie would be throwing in three origins — the origin of the suit, the origin of Eddie Brock, and the origin of Venom as a synthesis of the two. The film must firmly establish all of these things and tell a complete narrative, and considering the history of Spider-Man movies throwing in too many things and getting too little story (both Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are good examples of this), it is unlikely that this film will get off the ground.

It would really be a Spider-Man movie

Despite what Sony has said, the likeliest scenario for a Venom movie is that they kiss and make up with Marvel once again and put Spider-Man in this movie. As we have established, Venom is completely defined by Spider-Man. So, while putting Spider-Man in the movie may seem like a no-brainer, it will inevitably lead to a surprisingly recurrent superhero movie problem: the movie is no longer about its title character. Examples of this include Batman v Superman, which started as a Man of Steel sequel but ended up being much more about Batman than Superman. Fun fact: Superman only spoke 42 times in his own sequel movie, and no more than five lines in any scene. Captain America: Civil War was so full of Iron Man and other Avengers that it felt like an Avengers movie rather than a solo Cap movie. Here, then, is Venom's paradox: we can't truly have a Venom movie without Spider-Man ... but we can't have him in a Venom movie without it coming across to the public as another Spider-Man movie, so the public loses its faith in Venom as a viable solo property.

Too easy to stop

This is pretty nerdy, but if you're still here, you know we passed "pretty nerdy" a while ago. Superheroes are, in many ways, defined by their weaknesses, and this is what helps define our villains. When Superman can only be stopped by a rare alien mineral, we require someone with the resources of Lex Luthor to find and wield it. When Hulk is an unstoppable mutated human, then he must inevitably fight other mutated humans, rogue gods, etc. In short: we need a good threat to stop these super-strong characters.

What would stop Venom? Well, you've already seen it: the symbiote is vulnerable to both fire and sonic waves. Way back in the second Marvel Studios movie, The Incredible Hulk, we saw Army trucks rigged to fire weaponized sonic waves. These only slowed Hulk down, but the comics have firmly established that this would be enough to rip the symbiote right from Brock's body. Here, there is another Catch-22: either Venom no longer has these vulnerabilities (a major comics deviation sure to upset the most loyal Marvel readers), or he can be stopped by a really loud truck. That's not very impressive — sure, it's annoying when teenagers zoom through your neighborhood playing dubstep, but it's not enough to kill you. Your move, Venom.

Silly alien origin

We keep coming back to the problems related to Venom's origin, and there's a doozy at the center of that: where did the suit come from? The comics provide us with an appropriately convoluted answer. It comes from a planet of symbiotes, and it was eventually given to Spider-Man as an award when he fought off-planet alongside other heroes in the Secret Wars. Later, he found out it was evil. All of this was before we had even seen a panel of Eddie Brock.

So, the Venom moviemakers have a bit of an insurmountable problem here. They can try to cram several years' worth of convoluted backstory into an already crowded origin story. Alternatively, they can go the route of Spider-Man 3 and portray the symbiote as mystery goo from outer space. Both approaches are doomed to failure. We've already discussed having too little room for multiple origins and a narrative. However, if they make the cosmic origin a goofy, 1950s throwback (it came from ... space), the movie will look that much worse when compared to the rich, fun, and outright funny cosmic shenanigans of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The character number conundrum

The dirty secret of Venom is that he is a one-note character. No matter how complex his backstory and how cool his back issues, he can be accurately summed up as "evil Spider-Man in an alien suit." Because he is so one-note, he typically works best in an ensemble cast. For instance, his more memorable comics incarnations have been when he was working alongside others to stop his evil "twin," Carnage, as seen in tales such as "Maximum Carnage." In a solo movie, we either get that one-note character alongside a crunchy and complex Spider-Man or alongside a completely different narrative — requiring, as previously noted, dramatic changes to his character that would not work with audiences. Of course, crowding the movie with other characters and villains has also worked poorly before, so we are ultimately very unlikely to see a silver screen Venom.

Now, all these reasons don't mean that, in the fullness of time, there's no way for Venom to find success as a cool, visually complex garnish that you add to your existing superhero ensemble in order to make everything pop, similar to the Hulk. But the idea of a Venom solo movie was doomed from the very beginning. Venom fans, you can get your Venom fix by watching Spider-Man 3 as often as possible. Good luck!