A SHAKY START DOES NOT SHAPE A SE­QUEL

A dis­ap­point­ing ori­gin story doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for­ward to what fol­lows — and that in­cludes Venom, says Em­pire’s Dan Jolin

Empire (UK) - - ON. SCREEN -

ORI­GIN STO­RIES HAVE al­ways been tricky things. With all the re­quired set­ting up and ex­po­si­tion, they all too reg­u­larly drag their pro­tag­o­nists from a slow, pre-pow­ered start to a rushed, con­trived-feel­ing cli­max — more of­ten than not in­volv­ing a bat­tle with a vil­lain who’s no more in­ter­est­ing than a beefier, nas­tier ver­sion of the hero.

And so it proved with Venom. By the time it fi­nally found its tone (sym­bi­otic buddy hor­ror-com­edy), our alien-gooin­vig­o­rated anti-hero was Cg-rasslin’ Riz Ahmed’s ridicu­lous Riot dur­ing an ill-fated rocket launch. After which an

op­ti­mistic mid-cred­its sting cued up fu­ture Venom foe Car­nage, played by a wild-eyed Woody Har­rel­son.

Judg­ing by the re­views — a slew of aghast and in­fu­ri­ated one- and two-star write-ups — you would be for­given for think­ing that, just like Riot’s planned rocket trip, Venom rep­re­sented a re­sound­ing fail­ure to launch. And that its sting would wind up be­ing the only time we’d get to see Woody’s Car­nage. Yet the open­ing week­end box of­fice told a very dif­fer­ent story.

Tak­ing a whop­ping $80 mil­lion State­side, Venom now stands as the big­gest-ever US open­ing dur­ing the month of Oc­to­ber (beat­ing the pre­vi­ous record holder, 2013’s Grav­ity, by $20-odd mil­lion). With that take, it also beat the open­ing week­end of Ant-man And The Wasp, while break­ing Oc­to­ber records in­ter­na­tion­ally, too, with $125 mil­lion world­wide. The bums on seats have spo­ken. So, un­like the “Dark Uni­verse” non-starter that was last year’s The Mummy, it seems we’ll be see­ing Venom 2, whether we like it or not.

But why shouldn’t we like it? There are plenty of other great su­per­hero se­ries which had shaky starts. Bryan Singer’s X-men was by no means as bad as Venom, but it left plenty of room for im­prove­ment, which Singer filled three years later in X2. Cap­tain Amer­ica’s first ad­ven­ture was rel­a­tively medi­ocre, but was fol­lowed by The Win­ter Soldier and Civil War, which re­main two of the Marvel Cinematic Uni­verse’s strong­est en­tries. Along­side Thor: Rag­narok, in fact, which it­self came after two of the MCU’S least-loved films.

A se­quel is an op­por­tu­nity. An op­por­tu­nity in many cases to let a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tor loose on the ma­te­rial and take it in an in­ter­est­ing new di­rec­tion, as Taika Waititi did with Thor and the Rus­sos with Cap­tain Amer­ica. And an op­por­tu­nity in ev­ery

case to hit the ground run­ning with es­tab­lished char­ac­ters, skip­ping all that chewy ex­po­si­tion and dump­ing all the ori­gin-story nar­ra­tive bag­gage. It is also, of course, an op­por­tu­nity to learn from the pre­vi­ous film’s mis­takes.

Imag­ine that with Venom 2. We get straight in there with Tom Hardy’s Ed­die Brock and Tom Hardy’s Venom, bick­er­ing away in one mind as they right wrongs and (lit­er­ally) bite off peo­ple’s heads. That slim sliver of a fun buddy movie we saw in Venom (which was per­haps bet­ter rep­re­sented in the 40 “best” min­utes that Hardy said were cut) could eas­ily fill out the whole of the se­quel to a sat­is­fy­ing de­gree.

And that’s not all. There’s still the prom­ise of the Sony Marvel­verse crossovers. Venom’s strong box of­fice has also no doubt given Sony en­cour­age­ment to push on with vam­pire-vig­i­lante tale Mor­bius (set to star Jared Leto) and sort out its Black Cat and Sil­ver Sable

adap­ta­tions, too. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Brock and his par­a­site buddy will mix it up with these other char­ac­ters. Not to men­tion Peter Parker him­self, whose ap­pear­ance in this cinematic su­per-strand has not, it seems, been ruled out. The bat­tle of the Toms: Hol­land ver­sus Hardy? We’re in.

So let’s not write Venom off as a toxic prop­erty. There are plenty of places to take the slaver­ing space-beast, es­pe­cially with Hardy play­ing him — and Har­rel­son, for that mat­ter, as his next neme­sis. A well-han­dled se­quel could be just the an­ti­dote we need.

Clock­wise from left:Venom scored two stars in re­views but five at the box of­fice; Ori­gin story Cap­tain Amer­ica: The First Avenger paved the way for the ex­cel­lent The Win­ter Soldier and Civil War; The tri­umphant Thor: Rag­narok fol­lowed two of Marvel’s least pop­u­lar films

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