Venom movie: Release date, trailers, cast, plot, theories and rumors

The gooey Symbiote is getting his own movie, but will Spider-Man or Peter Parker make an appearance?

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
6 min read
Sony Pictures

Movie universes can be as confusing as our real universe. There's the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course, and now the upcoming film Venom is launching Sony's Marvel Universe. Though the films will be produced in association with Marvel, they'll be distributed by Sony Pictures and will exist in a separate world than the MCU. So don't expect to see your favorite MCU stars playing their same roles in Sony's world.

To make it even more confusing, Sony is starting off with Venom, a Spider-Man villain. Sony owns the film rights to Spider-Man, but it cut a special licensing deal that allows the character of Spidey to appear in the MCU, where he's played by Tom Holland. (No word yet on whether Spidey will make an appearance in Venom -- this isn't supposed to be a Spider-Man movie, so he may not appear at all.)

So who -- or what -- is Venom?  He's an alien symbiotic life form who bonds with a human host, has a mouth of teeth only an orthodontist could love, and when he's not attached to a host, his regular form is a kind of black goo. In the film, he bonds with journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) but in the comics, he's had other hosts, including Spider-Man. When he's Venom, Brock (or whoever the host is) has incredible strength and power. 

Release date, production info, rating

Talk of a Venom film goes back to 2007, when Topher Grace played Eddie Brock in a small role in Spider-Man 3. This specific film's been in the works in some form or another since 2016, with Tom Hardy cast in May 2017. Filming began in October 2017, with Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) directing and a script by Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel and Will Beall. Filming took place in Atlanta, New York City and San Francisco.

Venom will be released Oct. 4 in Australia and Oct. 5 in the US and UK. 

Reviews started to come out just before the film's release. Here's a sampling:

Venom may very well be the dumbest film of the year
"Tom Hardy's demented double act is a blast. If only it had more time to eat up the screen." -- Richard Trenholm, CNET

'Venom,' with Tom Hardy, is a manic muddle
"It's an incoherent mess of tones, acting styles and visual effects. And yet it's kind of a hoot." -- Jake Coyle, AP

Not even Tom Hardy has the antidote for Venom
"At some future gala event where Tom Hardy is being feted for his incredible acting career, the clip from Venom will be the one that gets the audience laughing." -- Peter Howell, Toronto Star

Do you like to stick around for post-credits scenes? Venom has two, and they feature some well-known names. Click here for an explanation of both, but warning, spoilers aplenty.

Hardy released a new poster for the Imax version of the film, and it has now officially been rated PG-13 with a purported runtime of just under 2 hours. Some fans are worried the lack of a hard R rating could hinder the complexities of the character (but we all watched a dark, PG-13 Batman movie, so who knows). 

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Plot news, rumors and theories

Will Woody Harrelson play Carnage? Woody Harrelson plays an undisclosed role, but he told Collider he's not in the movie much. "I'm in a little fraction of this movie, but I'll be in the next one, you know?" he said. However, Bleeding Cool reports that Harrelson is playing Venom's archenemy, Carnage, aka serial killer Cletus Kasady.

Who's the villain in Venom?: Based on Harrelson's quote and the reveals in the trailers, it looks like Sony is saving Carnage/Harrelson for a sequel, which means the big baddie in Venom is Ahmed as mad scientist Dr. Carlton Drake. Expect Carnage to show up late in the proceedings then, to set the scene for the next film.

Tom Hardy;Riz Ahmed
Enlarge Image
Tom Hardy;Riz Ahmed

Ahmed (left) stars as Dr. Carlton Drake, anti-hero to Hardy's Brock.

Frank Masi

What's the plot of Venom?: Fans of Venom's comic-book form may see some familiar storylines unfold. In December 2017, director Fleischer revealed that the film will combine and adapt two comic book stories, Lethal Protector and Planet of the Symbiotes, noting that Planet of the Symbiotes features Carnage prominently.

What's up with Venom's Life Foundation?: The trailer reveals that Drake and the character played by Jenny Slate work at the creepy Life Foundation, a disturbing survivalist group from the comics that used Venom to create additional symbiotes. MCU Exchange says Slate is playing a scientist named Dora Skirth, an original character created for the film, though there were rumors she would play Dr. Ashley Kafka, the founder of the asylum where Cletus Kasady was once kept. The site also reports Scott Haze is playing a Life Foundation board member.

Is Venom a villain? Venom is perhaps best known as a Spider-Man villain, but it's not that simple. He's also been portrayed as an antihero, and the trailer makes him seem like an innocent journalist trying to reveal scary truths who gets taken over by a force he can't control. Is he good? Is he bad? Maybe both.

Will Spider-Man appear in Venom? Though the Sony universe is technically separate from the MCU, plenty of fans are hoping Tom Holland will make a cameo as Spider-Man (or perhaps simply Peter Parker) in Venom. (Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been quoted as saying this won't happen.) Whatever the case, it's a tangled web for sure.

Fight for your right: Star Tom Hardy told Ireland's RTE Entertainment that he took inspiration for Eddie Brock from an unusual source: Irish mixed-martial arts champion Conor McGregor. "Conor obviously wants to have a scrap with everybody, so that's useful," he said.

To protect and to sever: In late September, Sony released a brutal 36-second clip in which an unwilling-to-fight Brock tries to warn police off, but then is taken over by Venom and ends up battling the officers in a ferocious fight.

Avengers, assemble! Hardy says that while he has no say in the matter, he'd love to see Venom's Sony Marvel Universe cross over into the more famous Marvel Cinematic Universe. "I'd like go through all the Avengers with him, but that's above my pay grade," he told MTV International in September 2018. But if that doesn't happen, that's also fine with Hardy. "If not, we're more than happy to stand alone," he said. "We have a Venom-verse and 900 characters to play with."

Pretty scary poster: The creepiest look at Venom comes from the Japanese movie site and associated poster, which features a roller-coaster of a tongue, a close look at his milky eyes, and another glimpse at his orthodontic nightmare of a smile.

Get used to Venom: Star Tom Hardy confirmed to Total Film in September that he's all in on a Venom trilogy. "We've signed up for three of them," he said. "I think it's an awesome character. I love playing both of them."

Hardcore character: Director Ruben Fleischer told SFX Magazine that Venom is an especially violent creation, calling him "a unique character within the Marvel canon -- he's always been more horrific and violent than all the others." Fleischer also said that the Venom half of the character is totally computer-created, which posed a challenge. "He's an entirely CG character," he said. "It's about achieving a photo-real Venom that looked like it could exist in our world. As far as his look, his bearing, his size, his scale, we really wanted to make sure that he was as true to the comics as he could possibly be."

Cast: Who's who?

Editors' note: This article was first published June 12, 2018, and is frequently updated as new information is released.

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