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Why The Venom Sequel Needs An R Rating

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake

Sony’s 2018 “Venom” movie has generated wildly different reactions. The first film in Sony’s own Marvel Universe, it was missing Spider-Man, but did have Tom Hardy. Whether you loved it or loathed it, we think we can all agree its PG rating held it back. Here’s why we think a “Venom” sequel should shoot for an R rating.

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Script written by Nick Spake

Why The Venom Sequel Needs An R Rating


Sony’s 2018 “Venom” movie has generated wildly different reactions. While critics panned it as a muddled mess that could never settle on a tone, cinema audiences have largely praised the movie as entertaining escapism with decent action scenes. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, we can all agree on one thing: that the film would’ve benefited from an R rating. Since “Venom” quickly became a financial hit and Tom Hardy is reportedly onboard for two more sequels, there’s little doubt we’ll be seeing more of Venom in the future. With that in mind, we can only hope his follow-up adventures will be given freer rein to explore the character’s dark and morally complicated nature.

After the box office disappointment of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Sony came to their Spidey senses and let the web-slinger join the MCU. They also decided to press on, however, with their own Marvel Universe regardless. After years of toying with a standalone Venom movie, Sony finally revisited the project, which would act as the proposed first entry in their new shared universe. This left many comic book readers skeptical, as skipping over Spider-Man’s black suit story arc and leaping right into Venom’s origin story would mean cutting out a big piece of the picture. Plus, Sony already dropped the ball with Venom once.

Fans grew more optimistic when it was reported that “Venom” would likely be rated R. 20th Century Fox had recently celebrated enormous success with the R-rated “Deadpool” and “Logan.” On top of that, director Ruben Fleischer has specialized in R-rated content, most notably bringing us the gruesomely fun “Zombieland.” Less than a month before “Venom” was set to hit theaters, though, it was somewhat quietly announced that the MPAA had awarded the film a PG-13 rating.

According to a source that spoke with Variety, the studio supposedly played it safe with the rating in case Venom ever gets to feature Spider-Man or other Marvel characters in the future. Another reason might have been the film’s post-credits preview of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” It admittedly would’ve been pretty weird to tease a family-friendly animated feature right after a hard-R action flick. If Sony wanted “Venom” to stand out in an oversaturated superhero market, though, they needed to go all out. Unfortunately, the film often comes off as restrained due to its PG-13 limits.

To be fair, an R rating doesn’t automatically equal a good comic adaptation. For every “Blade” or “Sin City,” there’s a “Punisher: War Zone.” We’re not saying that Venom necessarily demands an R rating either, as he’s even been done well in cartoon form. However, anyone who was hoping to see a live-action Venom really embrace his dark side was sorely disappointed. While the film does touch a upon the addiction aspect of symbiote suit, it’s not exactly “Requiem for a Dream” and Eddie never emerges as a very tortured or disturbing soul.

Rather than exploring Venom’s beginnings as a villain, the filmmakers chose to play up the character’s anti-hero side. Even by anti-hero standards, though, we don’t see Venom do anything that shocking. Sure, he bites the heads off a couple of random henchmen and eats a lowlife robber in the end, but even these deaths come off as meaningless, uninspired, and visually tame. Venom’s body count also feels surprisingly low, especially compared to the comics where Eddie has claimed his fair share of innocent lives.

It’s clear that the filmmakers weren’t aiming to craft an ultra-gritty, complex superhero movie. The dynamic between Eddie and Venom is kept lighthearted and mainly played for laughs. Believe it or not, Tom Hardy actually mentioned in an interview that Ren and Stimpy provided inspiration for his dual performance. Even with a more comedic angle, however, an R rating would’ve suited “Venom” well. While the film has its legitimately humorous moments, imagine how much funnier it might’ve been if Venom was swearing a mile a minute, constantly egging Eddie on with obscene comments. It’d be like something out of an episode of “Big Mouth!”

In the end, we’re left with a film that tries to balance elements of body horror with absurd comedy, akin to “An American Werewolf in London.” That film had the freedom to go totally off the wall, however, with hard-R violence, gore, and profanity. “Venom,” on the other hand, can only go so far into those territories, and thus blends in with the many other superhero movies crowding theaters. Considering that Disney owns Marvel Entertainment, it’s safe to say that the MCU isn’t going to venture into R-rated territory – excluding the Netflix shows. With “Venom,” Sony missed the opportunity to provide a more adult alternative for audiences.

If executed properly, a “Venom” sequel with a more mature rating could follow in the footsteps of the “Wolverine” films. Fox wimped out with the PG-13 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “The Wolverine,” but they finally let the mutant off his leash for “Logan.” The result was one of the darkest and most character-driven superhero movies ever made, earning an Academy Award nomination for its screenplay. Even if the “Venom” sequel doesn’t reach those same heights, the R rating would allow more room for the character to flourish.

Venom isn’t the only one who would benefit from an R rating, as a mid-credits scene teases the arrival of Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage. In the comics, Carnage has gone on mass killing sprees, driven a psychiatrist to cannibalism, and pushed his own grandmother down the stairs. How could any of that possibly fly with a PG-13 rating? Having all of the bloodshed take place off-screen is just one of the reasons why Jared Leto’s Joker fell flat. We want Maximum Carnage, not Minimum Carnage!

Alas, producer Avi Arad suggested in an interview that we shouldn’t hold our breath for an R-rated the “Venom” sequel. Even with Carnage as an antagonist, Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters seems unlikely to venture outside of the PG-13 zone anytime soon. Of course, if Sony wants to have their cake and eat it too, they could always take a page from “Deadpool 2.” Pursue an R rating with “Venom 2,” delivering all of the graphic mayhem and casual swearing fans have been asking for. Then around Christmas, release an edited, PG-13 version featuring Fred Savage!
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