Seeing Red, by Tyler Smith
It was recently announced that Woody Harrelson’s role in the upcoming Venom film will be that of Cletus Kasady, known more commonly as Carnage. In some ways, this is exciting. In others, however, I am concerned. I was already narrowing my eyes at the idea of a Venom movie in the first place. Perhaps even more than most villains, Venom has always had a direct connection to Spider-Man, both as a function of his secret identity and the alien Symbiote that was rejected by the webslinger. Two entities with separate reasons to hate Spider-Man coming together into one supercharged ball of hatred.
It’s one of the reasons that Venom has always been one of Spider-Man’s more effective villains. But, despite Tom Hardy playing a character named Eddie Brock, it doesn’t seem like the story is going to hinge so much on Spider-Man himself, thus robbing Venom of a lot of his motivation. The inclusion of Carnage, however, concerns me even further. With Carnage present, Venom – an intensely horrifying character – begins to look tame by comparison, watering him down even more. It’s curious whether or not Venom will even be presented as a villain at all, now that we know that Carnage will be running around.
It remains to be seen how all of this is going to play out, but at least the casting of Woody Harrelson is inspired. I feel like it’s been a while since we got Harrelson at his most uninhibited. While he has played a number of unstable characters over the years, there was often a quiet world-weariness to them. Carnage is not merely psychotic, but gleefully so. To watch Harrelson in that mode could recall his role in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, which was so over-the-top and committed that it was deeply unsettling. In a film that already promises to be one of the more intense entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Harrelson’s Carnage promises to be one of its most memorable and contemptible villains.
Possible mythos issues aside, I’m actually pretty excited to see Venom. If nothing else, it could bring to the genre what most comic book movies lack: chaos. Building a movie around a number of characters that are varying degrees of insane could keep the audience on its toes, alternately surprising and terrifying us. And even if it winds up being much more conventional than I expect – which it very likely could – we can at least count on Harrelson to shake things up in what could very well be one of his more memorable roles.