Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris in Andy Serkis and Kelly Marcel’s ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’
Sony dropped four character posters for Venom: Let There Be Carnage this morning. We aren’t just getting a look at the key hero (Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock) and the main baddie (Woody Harrelson Cletus Kasady). Those are two of the four images, while three and four highlight Michelle Williams’ Anne Weying (who may or may not be getting another turn at getting Venom) and Naomie Harris’ Frances Barrison (Kasady’s main squeeze and eventually the super villain known as Shriek). I’m guessing Reid Scott (Dan Lewis, Anne’s fiancé and strong contender for tragic second-act murder victim) and Stephen Graham (Mulligan, the cop trying to uncover Kasady’s missing victims) aren’t getting posters, but I hope Sony gives Peggy Lu (convenience store owner Mrs. Chen) her own poster.
Press screening invites have gone out, review embargoes have been put in place. We’ll know soon enough if Venom 2 is a good 95-minute movie or a “cut to the bone because it didn’t work” 95-minute movie. Moreover, we’ll also know whether audiences want another go-around with the Sony “not quite MCU but kinda-sorta MCU” franchise three years after Venom shocked us all by earning $214 million domestic, $269 million in China and $854 million worldwide. With Dune playing in China on October 22 and No Time to Die opening on October 29 (two weeks after the film’s October 8 domestic debut), I’m guessing Sony is hoping to squeeze Venom 2 into an early October slot not far off from its October 1 domestic opening day.
One side-effect of the pandemic is that I’m still guestimating about movies that were supposed to open in 2019 (No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick), 2020 (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Minions 2) and 2021 (The Batman, John Wick: Chapter 4). As for Venom 2, the good news is that folks liked the first one (critical barbs aside, it ended well and audiences absolutely showed up even after a boffo $80 million opening weekend) and this sequel is leaning into the camp absurdity of Tom Hardy’s go-for-broke performance. That it has a well-liked, sure-to-be-fun character actor (Harrelson) playing the best possible added-value element villain (Carnage) is, well, there’s a reason it’s not just called Venom 2.
That said, it was possible even in non-Covid times that the sequel would be a “folks were just curious the first time” affair, along with this four-quadrant original spawning a for-kids-only sequel. Do I think either is going to occur? Honestly, not really. With the important caveat that I haven’t seen it yet), we should remember that when a $90 million flick grosses $854 million worldwide, the sequel (costing I’d surmise around $125 million, judging by the recent Jumanji sequels) can gross a lot less but still be profitable. Just because Deadpool 2 earned about as much ($724 million domestic and $787 million worldwide, including $51 million from Once Upon a Deadpool) as Deadpool ($363 million/$782 million) doesn’t mean Venom 2 is guaranteed to play likewise.
And with China currently a wildcard, well, the important thing is that the film is finally opening. I’ve long argue that Venom: Let There Be Carnage was going to be the unofficial post-summer kick-off flick, whereby we’d see a bunch of bigger, safer and somewhat more important franchise offerings compared to the dregs of this summer. The horror franchises stood their ground. There were a few “safe biggies” like Shang-Chi and F9, but most of the tentpoles held out for post-summer in hopes that more of the world would be operating on something approaching normalcy. All due respect, but there’s a reason Paramount pushed Top Gun: Maverick to late 2021 (and eventually summer 2022) while plopping Snake Eyes into mid-July.
Quality notwithstanding, there’s a reason Peter Rabbit 2 opened in June while Ghostbusters: Afterlife was pushed to November. Even Free Guy was arguably a surprise smash. That’s a big reason I didn’t read too much into the overall summer box office, because a summer anchored by Space Jam: A New Legacy (always a coin toss) and Snake Eyes (never a likely winner) was always going to be soft at-best. But now, in just over a week, Venom: Let There Be Carnage will kick off a slew of big-deal movies. Films like No Time to Die, Halloween Kills, Eternals, Matrix: Resurrections and Spider-Man: No Way Home were guaranteed hits in a non-Covid time. Come what may, Dune has certainly been treated as an important release.
We’ve had “as expected” domestic grosses for surefire tentpole hits like A Quiet Place part II (85% of the first film’s $188 million domestic gross), F9 (better post-debut legs than any non-spinoff Fast & Furious flick since 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003), Black Widow ($183 million even while available on Disney+ for $30) and Shang-Chi ($200 million by the end of this week or very early next week). We’ve had frankly better-than-expected runs for Godzilla Vs. Kong ($460 million worldwide) and Free Guy ($300 million worldwide on an over/under $115 million budget). This points to a scenario where the “everybody wants to see this” event films will still pull in healthy theatrical business in markets where Covid conditions will allow as much.
That’s not entirely good news if you’re not one of the must-see event flicks (RIP to most of Warner Bros.’ “What you say you want but then don’t show up” 2021 theatrical slate), but it has made me quite bullish about Venom: Let There Be Carnage, No Time to Die and most of the rest of this year’s final slate of biggies. Simply put, if the likes of Eternals, No Time to Die, Venom 2, Spider-Man 3 and Matrix 4 all (or mostly) genuinely underwhelm, then you can panic about the future of theatrical distribution. But I maintain that this summer was step one of a slow theatrical recovery. Step two will hopefully begin on October 1. No pressure, Eddie. No pressure, Commander Bond. And, no pressure, uh, John Dune?
I’ve studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for nearly 30 years. I have extensively written about all
I’ve studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for nearly 30 years. I have extensively written about all of said subjects for the last 13 years. My outlets for film criticism, box office commentary, and film-skewing scholarship have included The Huffington Post, Salon, and Film Threat. Follow me at @ScottMendelson and “like” The Ticket Booth on Facebook.