Venom trailer

Venom! He’s got a big tongue! And he showed up at Comic-Con 2018 in Hall H. Or at least, his movie did. The actual Venom didn’t show because he is a fictional character from the funny pages. And yet, he has his own feature film now! Here’s what went down during the Venom Comic-Con 2018 panel.

The films in Ruben Fleischer‘s filmography – Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less, and Gangster Squad – fluctuate wildly in terms of quality, so until we’re actually seated in a theater to see it, Venom remains something of a mystery. Tom Hardy is clearly passionate about the project, and it has a killer cast that consists of Michelle WilliamsRiz AhmedScott HazeReid Scott, and Jenny Slate, but are all the pieces in place for this to be the Venom solo film fans have wanted for years? Or will Sony need to reboot this franchise in another couple of years and give it another shot?

The panel did not get off to a good start. The audience was apparently supposed to be handed Venom masks, and then were instructed to chant “WE ARE VENOM!” over and over again. Here’s the thing – 90% of the audience didn’t have these masks, which caused chaos. And when I say “chaos,” I mean hundreds and hundreds of people moaning and whining, “But we don’t have masks!”

Eventually, someone realized that delaying an entire panel because of lack of masks was ridiculous, and Ruben Fleischer, Tom Hardy, and Riz Ahmed took the stage. Fleischer proceeded to tell the audience that what set Venom apart from other movies within the world of Marvel was darkness. He then threw around everyone’s favorite superhero trigger words: “dark and gritty.” To hear Fleischer tell it, Venom is going to be a big, dark, and violent movie. Fleischer also added that there are no heroes in the movie. I suppose that makes sense for a character like Venom, but I can’t help but feel like this is a form of regression. Superhero cinema has finally just crawled its way out of the dark and gritty days, and to go back to them is a bit foolhardy.

When pressed as to why he would want to play a character like Venom, Tom Hardy was blunt: he said he likes the way the character looks. He also added that his son is a big fan of the character, so that played a part in convincing him to take the role. As a side-note: Tom Hardy’s real voice is jarring. Hardy has spent his entire career putting on voices for his characters, and to hear his soft-spoken, kind-of-shy voice in person is a bit of a shock.

Hardy didn’t really want to talk much, though. The actor wasn’t being rude – it was just clear he felt uncomfortable in the big Hall H setting. He’s an actor’s actor, and he cares about his craft. But he doesn’t want to get up on a stage and sell himself, and that’s really what Comic-Con is all about.

Speaking of which, a new trailer was shown in another attempt to sell the film. Does the footage wow and impress? Not really. There’s a real Dark Knight vibe – lots of shots of skylines at night. There’s also a distinct horror-movie vibe, with a body-horror element to boot. This is somewhat promising, but based on this new trailer, tone is going to be a problem for Venom. Some of the footage makes it look like a super-serious dark film, while others border on downright goofy.

There wasn’t much plot here, but there were lots of shots of Hardy wrapped-up in CGI black goo and transforming into Venom. Remember how everyone complained about Hardy’s voice being hard to understand as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises? Well, just wait until you hear his Venom voice – heavily modulated by a computer, the Venom voice on display here was pretty much indecipherable. Venom said several things in this trailer, and I didn’t understand a single one. At one point it sounded to me like he said, “You’re just a turd floating down the street!”…but that can’t be right….can it? The trailer ends with Venom biting a guy’s head off (off-screen), only to transform back into Hardy’s Brock, who then comically tells a stunned onlooker, “Sorry, I’ve got a parasite.”

The biggest reveal in the trailer came close to the end, where we witnessed another symbiote other than Venom. This is the villain of the film: Riot. When pressed if even more symbiote bad guys would be in the film – like Carnage, for instance – Fleischer played coy while also making it clear we’ll probably see Carnage at some point. As for other things that we may or may not see at some point: the inevitable Spider-Man question came up: would Hardy’s Venom ever battle Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man? We all know the answer, at least for Venom: no. Fleischer tried to appease fans by saying that he’d love for such a showdown to happen, but it’s really in the studios hands. In short, don’t hold your breath.

Venom opens October 5, 2018.

Here’s the film’s official synopsis, which hints at the comic book storylines that inspired it:

One of Marvel’s most enigmatic, complex and badass characters comes to the big screen, starring Academy Award® nominated actor Tom Hardy as the lethal protector Venom.

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