A few weeks ago, Tom Hardy caused a bit of a stir by trying to promote Venom by telling everyone that all of his favorite scenes had been cut out.
Talking to ComicsExplained, Hardy said “there are 30 to 40 minutes’ worth of scenes that aren’t in this movie… Mad puppeteering scenes, dark comedy scenes”. Hardy later had to backtrack a bit when IGN picked him up on it at the premiere, starting off by saying that he’d been misunderstood but going on to make things a whole lot worse.
“What I’m saying is that I had a lot of time improvising and a lot of freedom to play Venom. In honesty, there’s probably about seven hours or more worth of footage of me playing as Venom and enjoying myself.”
From 40 minutes to seven hours, something was clearly cut out of Ruben Fleischer’s film.
But what was missing? Spoilers ahead…
“Mad puppeteering scenes”
Hardy’s hint of “mad puppeteering” seems to suggest that one version of Venom had a lot more Venom in it. Arguably the best bits of the final edit were all the times we got to see Hardy wrestling with himself – squatting in a fish tank, throwing himself across the room and punching his own face with outsized Looney Tunes fists as Venom started taking over his body. The scenes where Eddie found himself being puppeteered by an alien symbiote came right after a very long, very slow, build-up, so the chances are that Fleischer cut something here in order to get to the set-pieces sooner.
When Venom finally does take full control of Eddie’s body in the last act, the puppeteering is over (as is Hardy’s performance) and we’re just left watching a CG character beat up another CG character in some eye-achingly busy action scenes. The Jekyll And Hyde transformation was clearly a big draw for Hardy (who generally seems to love anything where he gets to play two weird characters at once), and his slow, psychological battle with Venom is a huge part of the character in the comics, so it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see him play around with it a bit more.
One of the problems with the film was the uneven tone. Venom got a 15 rating in the UK (for some reason) but it wasn’t particularly violent. Riz Ahmed called it a werewolf movie but it didn’t really feel like a horror. The film starts off straight enough but it quickly turns silly when Venom shows up talking like Animal from the Muppets. Was it supposed to be a comedy? If Hardy’s right about the “dark comedy” being cut, there’s a chance that Fleischer wasn’t really sure either – maybe aiming for something a bit more fun before backtracking and sticking in a dozen different ideas to fill the gaps.
Since one of the more violent bits from the very first trailer becomes the last scene in the film (thanks for that Sony), there are other hints in the final cut that suggest Venom was messed around with in post-production to try and re-balance the tone. Was that bodega scene originally meant to be earlier on in the script? Did Anne and Eddie have more of an emotional backstory? Was known comedian Jenny Slate supposed to have more screen-time as Doctor Skirth? Was the whole thing meant to be funnier?
Of course, cutting out 40 minutes (or seven hours) from any film is always going to have consequences for the ebb and flow of whatever’s left. It’s always slightly baffling that a $100 million film can make it past dozens of script doctors, studio executives and test audiences and still have gaping plot holes, but they pretty much all manage it – so it’s not just Venom’s problem.
Why doesn’t Carlton Drake’s cutting edge laboratory have any security cameras in it? Why doesn’t Eddie seem surprised the first time he wall-runs around a guard? Or the first time he jumps through a wire fence? Why do Eddie and Anne break-up so easily? Why can’t Venom smash a regular glass window in Dr Lewis’ MRI office? How does that scary little girl get through airport security on her own? Does Riot know how to use a passport? What did Riot do for six months in Malaysia at the start of the film? What happened to the other symbiotes? Why are the film’s three main characters the only humans who can bond with them?
So many questions. Whilst it’s entirely possible that none of the answers were in the now forever rumoured longer version of Venom, it’s also possible that at least some of them were – and that whoever made the decision to cut them out just assumed that audiences don’t really care about continuity and emotional realism anyway.
Realistically, there was no way this was ever going to happen. Venom started life as a Sony property back when the studio was still making Tobey Maguire films, but by the time they got around to making it, Spider-Man had been sold to Disney. Several cross-studio partnerships sort of happened, but the version we’ve ended up has one foot sort of in the MCU and one somewhere else entirely.
Producer Amy Pascal originally confirmed that Venom is taking place “in the same world” as the MCU, but she also said that Sony’s films are an “adjunct” to whatever Disney are doing. Clearly, Sony and Disney both want Venom and Spider-Man to meet up at some point in the future, but neither seems to have a clear idea of when or how until all the right deals have been made.
Stan Lee turns up in Venom (which was a bit weird since he didn’t create the character and it wasn’t an MCU film) and conversations were obviously had about how far the film should lean towards what’s bound to happen in the future. Since the film was made and edited during the landmark Disney/Fox deal, did the producers decide to give Venom a bit more breathing room on his own before starting to bring him into line with the MCU? Was there ever a version of the film where Eddie glances up at an Avengers tower, picks up a newspaper about Stark industries, or even acknowledges that he’s not the only oddball swinging around a major US city? Again, probably not, but this is all going to feel a bit weird if (or when) the two characters finally do meet up.