Tom Hardy, everyone’s favorite brooding British actor, is stepping back into the world of superhero movies. After mumbling menacingly as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, Hardy is going to be the star this time, and will have ample opportunity to brood and menace: Sony announced Friday he’ll play the Spider-Man villain Venom in a spinoff film set to release next fall.
There are at least two distinct sets of reasons why this is a terrible, no good, very bad idea.
First, the industry caveats: Superhero movies are growing staler by the day. The phrase "Venom is to usher in a host of movies from Sony’s Marvel and Spider-Man-based universe of characters" is exhausting. And surely Tom Hardy — Tom Hardy! One of our burliest, most "authentic" leading men! — has better things to do than to cover his face with a spider mask with a lot of teeth in it. No one needs a Venom movie. No one was asking for one, either. Additionally, the news that Sony, rushing to get this film out into the world, has set an October 2018 release date, is … discouraging. It’ll take that long just to do the CGI needed to transform Hardy into a drooling extraterrestrial, let alone make a decent film. So when October 2018 comes and goes without Venom: The Venoming (or when October 2018 sees the release of a half-finished movie with Hardy’s Venom suit half-CGI’d), don’t be surprised.
Second, the Spider-Man caveats: Venom is … kind of lame? To start, "Venom" isn’t really a character at all — it’s a weird black alien goo that bonds with a host (usually on earth), which then gets Spider-Man-style superpowers and uses them to try to eat Spider-Man, or something. In traditional Spidey comics, Venom’s human host is a guy named Eddie Brock, an improbably beefy journalist who’s got a rivalry with Peter Parker. (Seriously: Do you know any reporters who look like this?) Venom appeared once in a Spider-Man movie before. He was played by Topher Grace. It went about as well as you think it did:
Then again, there’s something about the idea of Hardy-as-Venom that’s got my Spidey Sense tingling. Start with Hardy’s own enthusiasm for the character: He "has been a huge fan of Venom," Deadline reports. Which, sure, that’s what actors say when they sign up for superhero movies. But! Tom Hardy might actually really like Venom:
Tom Hardy looks extremely excited, in a "I’m in character as an evil alien symbiote" kind of way. He usually only looks like this when Dubsmashing.
While we’re still staring at that photo, a couple notes:
- Hardy looks like a combo of two of his previous characters: bare-knuckle prison brawler Charlie Bronson and pseudo-revolutionary terrorist Bane. That’s a good sign: A bald Hardy is a serious Hardy.
- When did Tom Hardy get a scar on his cheek? Is that part of the character? Are we building to a frustrating origin story about a childhood facial injury?
- I really hope you didn’t spend your own money on that T-shirt, Tom.
Beyond Hardy’s own enthusiasm, there are a couple more reasons to be geeked. Taboo taught us that Hardy is tier-one elite at wearing black, and he’s even better at playing dark, brooding men given to dark moods and fistfights. In that sense alone, he’ll be a better Venom than Topher Grace. (You, dear reader, would be a better Venom than Topher Grace.) Industry-wise, the success of Deadpool and Logan suggest that Sony might be willing to let this film tilt into darker, Hardy-fighting-dudes territory than the Technicolor Spider-Man fare we’ve been given this century. And Ruben Fleischer, the film’s announced director, has experience with films that are dark and angry (Gangster Squad) and stingingly comic (Zombieland). It’s nearly impossible to get excited about superhero movies anymore, but along with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (just kidding), Venom is part of a small crop worth being hyped about.
Until October 2018, though, I’ll be over here, practicing my best Venom face in the mirror.