'Venom': No Spider-Man Let the Comedic Monster Shine Through, Director Says
And how 'Zombieland' influenced the tone of the movie.
Ruben Fleischer knows you were expecting to see Spider-Man in Venom. Despite the deep connection Spidey and Venom have in the comics, the Sony-produced Venom has no ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So it was up to Fleischer to make Venom the wise-cracking web-slinger of this independent dimension.
“We wanted to have this be a stand-alone Venom movie where it existed on its own two feet without mention of Spider-Man,” the director tells Inverse. “We intentionally avoided Spider-Man just so that Eddie and Venom could have their own story to experience.”
Out in theaters on Friday, Venom stars Tom Hardy (Mad Max Fury Road) as Eddie Brock, a disgraced reporter who becomes infected with an inky alien symbiote substance, morphing him into a monstrous being known as Venom. But when a billionaire magnate, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) threatens to destroy the world with a rocket ship, Eddie and Venom join forces to become lethal protectors.
But Eddie and Venom, thanks to some of the weirdest but also boldest character work from Hardy in years, is a total laugh riot. Sometimes intentionally (sometimes not), Venom will have a lot of audiences giggling while a guy gets his head eaten by a toothy monster.
“That was the goal from the onset,” Fleischer says, “to make a really entertaining film that has action, horror and also comedy. Given my experience on Zombieland, that is something I love. You learn from every movie you make, and as a director you build a set of tools you can access to solve problems. Between Zombieland and this movie, both were significant experiences.”
In 2009, Fleischer released Zombieland as his feature film debut. A road trip comedy set in the zombie apocalypse, the movie starred Woody Harrelson (stick around for the mid-credits of Venom) and then-to-be Marvel and DC movie stars Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg as the film’s meet-cute central romance.
Venom and Eddie aren’t in love (although, spoilers, they do kiss), but they do become buds. Thus, Fleischer further tapped into inspirations like ‘80s buddy comedies, which dictated Eddie and Brock’s unlikely friendship.
“The reference points were 48 Hours and Midnight Run where you have these two people, one who is kind of captive, and they go on a journey together,” he explains. “They start out as adversaries, but over the course of the experience they end up becoming bonded in forming a friendship. I definitely took from all the classic ‘80s buddy movies as inspiration. That’s absolutely it.”
Audiences who haven’t read Venom in the comics may be taken aback by Venom’s sense of humor — at one point, Venom calls a hapless bad guy “a turd in the wind” — but Marvel fans know just what kind of snark Venom is actually capable of.
“I was excited about the opportunity to channel Venom’s personality and attitude from the comics,” says Fleischer. “You have this monstrous, alien, super scary looking guy but he’s always got a great one-liner. There’s humor in his personality and identity. I didn’t want to shortchange that with the film. I think audiences will be surprised by, but also pleased by how funny he is.”
But Fleischer won’t take credit for the “turd” line. “That specific scene was there from the beginning, which predated me,” he says. “We honesty just tried to honor the comics in terms of defining the character, so for fans it rang true.”