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Spider-Man Theory: The MCU Already Has The Perfect Venom Candidate

KONTAK PERKASA FUTURES - The question of if Venom is or isn’t part of the MCU still lingers, but it may be better for it to be separate – if only because Marvel’s already got the perfect Symbiote analog. The morally-complicated alien “Symbiote” who typically originates as part of the Spider-Man mythos will arrive in 2018 theaters for a solo feature from Sony starring Tom Hardy as an investigative journalist who becomes the “host” for the alien creature of the title.

KONTAK PERKASA FUTURES - The film, which has been in development in some form or another as far back as Spider-Man 3 in 2007, had been planned (along with Gina Prince-Blythewood’s Silver & Black) as part of Sony’s spin-off universe of features based on tertiary Spider-Man characters before the deal was struck to reconnect Peter Parker’s relaunched adventures to the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It remains unclear (and unconfirmed) whether or not Venom or any of these spin-off features will be officially connected to either Spider-Man or the MCU-proper, and rumors persist that the decision may rest both on how the films are received and yet-to-be-formed opinions of Marvel heavy-hitters like Kevin Feige.

What makes that unusual is that, while Venom remains a somewhat divisive figure in the Spider-Man fandom, there’s no denying that he remains one of Marvel’s most recognizable and popular characters in terms of merchandise sales. So it’s somewhat surprising that the studio would let its first MCU-era (if not necessarily MCU-connected) film appearance be in a mid-budget early-October release controlled by another company. But is it possible (whether it’s the plan or not) that Marvel already has a more interesting take on Venom – one that would both be a unique 21st Century reinvention of the core concept but also closer to the original Symbiote storyline than the Sony film seems to be – already waiting in Spider-Man: Homecoming?

Venom Is More Than Just A Symbiote

Nightwatch and Venom from comics Spider Man Theory: The MCU Already Has The Perfect Venom CandidateEven among Spider-Man villains, Venom’s origin story is convoluted and absurd. As part of the hype for the original 1980s Secret Wars crossover, some of the Marvel heroes who were zapped off to outer space for the event series returned to their main series sporting radically-changed costumes and team-compositions in subsequent issues in order to encourage readers to go back and learn what happened. For Spidey, the big change was a slick new black and white “alien” suit with an unlimited webbing supply, shape-shifting costume-change powers and other cool gimmicks.
However, in what turned into one of the most memorable long-term storylines in the character’s history, the “costume” turned out to be a living, sentient organism (discovered in what was essentially a cosmic vending machine during Secret Wars) with parasitic tendencies called a Symbiote, which developed a jealous obsession with Peter Parker that led to him having violent episodes as Spider-Man and deciding to separate himself from the creature permanently. Eventually, the Symbiote found a new host in Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist who blamed Peter Parker for his career ending, and they bonded to become Venom – who hates Spider-Man but has been otherwise known to see itself as a “lethal protector” superhero in its own right.

The plot of Sony’s Venom movie has been kept under wraps for the most part, but looks to diverge fairly radically from both the original comics or previous incarnations of the character, with Hardy’s version of Eddie Brock being a good guy journalist who becomes bonded to Venom while investigating the nefarious doings of the Life Foundation. While the origin story appears wholly changed (seemingly removing Spider-Man himself from equation entirely, though it’s possible some tangential connection could end up being a surprise twist) it seems likely that the change has an understandable aim: getting Venom more quickly into the “anti-hero” version of the character many younger fans are more familiar with.

But while that’s all well and good for Venom, it seems a shame that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would potentially be robbed of not only a classic Spidey storyline but one uniquely well-suited to his “kid figuring things out” take on Peter Parker. The brilliance of the Symbiote suit story, even before Venom shows up, is that it literalizes the core thematic struggle of the main character’s life: Peter always feels like his duties in the Spidey-suit are symbolically pulling him away from his family, friends, love-life, etc – what if the suit started actually physically dragging him off against his will for real? It’s a brilliantly creepy idea, loaded with extra metaphoric layers about addiction and identity that one can see Holland making great use of – too bad it’s already been claimed by someone else’s movie.

Or is it?

Karen Has All The Makings Of The MCU Venom

If Spider-Man: Homecoming can be said to have a prime directive outside of storytelling (and “add more Iron Man“) it’s racking up fanboy-points hitting details that fans have complained for years were missing from previous incarnations of the character. Perhaps most notably among such complaints is the tendency of Peter to constantly tell jokes and talk to himself via interior-monologue, a famous fixture of the comics that previous live-action incarnations dialed back significantly – mostly because monologuing out loud in such circumstances can look awkward in live-action (as can omniscient voiceover narration). Homecoming opts to solve this problem via Spider-Man’s newly-reestablished linked to the MCU, gifting the new Tony Stark-designed high-tech Spider-suit with its own J.A.R.V.I.S-like A.I. that Peter names “Karen.”

Much like J.A.R.V.I.S. was even before he was the Vision (the voice is provided by actress Jennifer Connelly, Vision-actor Paul Bettany’s real-life wife), Karen appears to be not simply artificially-intelligent but also quasi-sentient, making jokes and showing apparent concern for Peter’s emotional state – excitedly asking “Is that Liz?” (whom Peter had been asking for advice about) and encouraging him to kiss her. She’s also capable of taking control of the suit and acting independently of Peter (or at the command of others, like Tony or Happy Hogan).

In other words, from a certain perspective, Karen could be said to already be something very much like the original pre-Venom Symbiote entity: a manifestation of Peter’s Spider-Man side incarnated within his suit that helps him do his crimefighting and, in a very real sense, serves as a kind of co-pilot for the Spider-Man identity (unlike J.A.R.V.IS., which inhabited the entirety of Tony Stark’s personal data network even before he constructed the Iron Man armor, Karen appears to be native to the Spider-Man suit).
If her programming were to “go bad” in some way – something Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already established precedence for in the MCU – activating his more lethal weaponry without being asked to, withholding information, acting possessive of his time/attention, etc, she’d effectively be on her way to becoming a high-tech reimagining of the classic comics’ Venom… especially if she were to be spurned and take up with a new “host” to get back at Peter. Also notable, the “nanobot armors” currently employed by both Iron Man and Black Panther function in a manner not terribly different from the Symbiote suit’s traditional living liquid form.

How A “Karen As Venom” Story Could Work

Venom Tom Hardy Costume Banner Spider Man Theory: The MCU Already Has The Perfect Venom CandidateThe practical pieces necessary to tell a version of the Symbiote/Venom storyline which (save for the lack of a Secret Wars to return from) closer in tone, spirit and detail to the original comics version effectively popped into being the moment Ned disabled the “Training Wheels Protocols” in Homecoming. But how might it actually work, should anyone at Marvel Studios somehow have considered it?

Surely the most different thing about a Venom that starts out as Karen is Connelly’s distinctly feminine-identified voice, which can only add an unavoidable layer of creepiness to the “spurned jealous partner” aspect of Venom’s characterization. Is the evil suit now some more explicit variant of a jealous ex? A stalker? Given the relentless focus on the MCU Spidey’s teenage-ness, will Peter be scolded for not being upfront with his armor about the friend-zone? Or maybe Karen-Venom is, at first, more like an overprotective maternal figure.

In any context, the most pressing question would likely end up being whether the “final” version of Venom (i.e. someone else wearing the presumably now-scary-monster-faced version of the suit) is played by a male or female actor in this scenario. On the one hand, Connelly herself stepping in front of the camera as a female take on Eddie (Edith? Edie?) Brock could be a welcome shakeup, on the other hand, the traditional “tough guy” Eddie playing out the “We are Venom” double-act with a female-voiced living-suit has fascinating dramatic implications.
None of this, of course, is a terribly likely scenario. For all the talk of Sony’s relative autonomy with the Spider-Man properties outside of the crossover material, few genuinely believe that the fiscally-troubled studio would be permitted to shoot a whole Tom Hardy vehicle featuring a character Disney/Marvel-proper had actual plans for in the near future. But, should the spectacle of Hardy morphing into a toothy CGI prune-juice monster to flip motorcycle-henchmen in industrial parks somehow not morph into the billion-dollar multi-feature franchise someone at Sony appears to think it will, it’s possible the Marvel Cinematic Universe could end up tasked with breathing new life into Venom – and if so, Karen might be as good a place to start as any.

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