Venom: The End of a Cult-Favorite Franchise

Tom Hardy's committed performance is what makes the franchise work.

Venom movie

Given the recent announcement of a new Jurassic Park movie in the works, especially when Jurassic World: Dominion established itself as the “epic conclusion of the Jurassic Era”, it’s dubious whether Venom: The Last Dance (set to release this October 25) will actually be the final Venom movie, even if just for the decade. Nobody would be surprised if a fourth Venom movie gets announced sooner rather than later.

If this truly is this specific franchise’s final outing, then it’s been one hell of a ride and I’ll be sad to say goodbye, even if the characters themselves show up in other movies taking place in the same universe.

The Venom movies aren’t good. Most critics agree on that, as proven by the Tomatometer scores of 30% and 57% of the first and second movies, respectively. However, the audience scores tell a different tale. Both received more than 10,000 audience ratings, and Venom achieved an audience score of 80% and Venom: Let There Be Carnage a score of 84%.

With both movies making a combined box office profit of US$1.3 million, too, there’s clearly an enthusiastic audience for this film franchise, filled with people that embrace all the wild, crazy things the movies have to offer, starting with its lead actor: Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy is an actor who’s been in esteemed movies like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Revenant, and Mad Max: Fury Road, and he was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Revenant. Yet despite him arguably being above such material, Hardy absolutely gives it his all in his performance as Venom protagonist Eddie Brock.

The results for both movies are such a delight to watch, especially when you consider how much he’s acting with just himself. Hardy plays both Eddie and Venom, but with Venom being animated and with Hardy’s voice, Eddie is where Hardy gets to truly shine. It’s big actions, reactions, and expressions on his face, all resulting in big laughs with nearly every other scene.

The first film’s most popular scene — in which Eddie jumps into a lobster tank in the middle of a crowded restaurant — was actually Tom Hardy’s own idea. Reportedly, Hardy insisted that if the set was going to have a giant lobster tank, he was absolutely going to get into it. “Tom’s a naturally funny person in his own right and I don’t think that’s ever been showcased,” Venom director Ruben Fleischer said about the film’s lead star. “So I was thrilled that he leaned it.”

It’s not just Hardy we have to thank though — the Venom films have more self-aware screenplays than people give them credit for. Yes, lines like “Rolling down the street like a turd in the wind” are still really awful, but you also have Venom pinning Eddie against the wall and Eddie going, “I am sorry that I called you a parasite. We can discuss this like two men.”

At its heart, Venom is a buddy comedy franchise, and the movies are at their best when they let Eddie and Venom riff off each other like the odd couple they are. “Those two need some serious couples counseling,” a character even comments after seeing the two characters at odds with each other.

Even when the films are bad, they’re so enjoyably bad, that it’s hard not to chuckle at the silliness of it all. In the first film, Jenny Slate’s character, scientist Dora Skirth, sneaks Eddie Brock into the antagonist’s facility for him to investigate his unethical research methods and explains said methods to him while they’re sneaking around the facility.

Why wouldn’t she have told him all of that beforehand, and why would she say all this to Eddie as they’re roaming around the building and someone could possibly hear them? It’s such a forced excuse for exposition that it’s straight-up laughable, especially when you think about how Dora convinced Eddie to go with her in the first place without mentioning any of this beforehand.

Let There Be Carnage’s opening is probably the franchise at its silliest, as the scene establishing the backstory of the sequel’s villain is so dramatic and over-stylized it almost feels like you’re watching 2011’s Sucker Punch for a second.

Alas, all great (and greatly bad) things must eventually come to an end, and if the performances of recent superhero films are any indicator, it’s probably for the best that Venom closes its story now, anyway. Admittedly, Let There Be Carnage’s mid-credits scene (as well as that of Spider-Man: No Way Home) heavily implies the third film prioritizing multiverses and crossing over with other Spider-Man properties, which feels disappointing considering how enjoyable the Venom movies were as their own thing. Regardless of how the third film turns out, the first two Venom movies will always be just straight-up fun.

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