Since Venom takes place in a universe where Spider-Man doesn’t really exist, the idea that the movie’s meant to be the beginning of a symbiote-centric franchise is a little odd – Venom doesn’t exactly have the largest rogues gallery to incorporate into subsequent sequels.
Sandboxed though the movie is, Venom’s mid and post-credit scenes do lay the groundwork for at least one follow-up movie that’ll introduce a character from Spider-Man’s larger mythos. What’s more, the last of the two stingers is yet another hint that Sony might be building a very, very fascinating and different kind of cinematic universe from what we’re used to.
When Woody Harrelson let it slip that his character only appears for the briefest of moments in Venom, but that he’ll factor largely in the the film’s sequel, many people immediately assumed that his unannounced character would be a version of Cletus Kasady, the sociopathic murderer who becomes the symbiote villain Carnage.
The circumstances of Eddie Brock meeting Kasady are somewhat different from Marvel Comics’ pages where the pair are cell mates with an antagonistic relationship. In Venom, Kasady is the subject of Eddie’s latest big investigative piece – his first after having lost his job over the course of the movie. Harrelson’s Kasady is unhinged in that way that movie serial killers tend to be and while his scrawling Eddie’s name on the wall in his own blood is kind of creepy, what truly jumps out about him is the astonishingly unconvincing red wig he’s wearing. It’s meant to evoke the character’s classic comics look, but on Harrelson, it’s ridiculous to the point of almost being chuckle-worthy. “Little Orphan Annie grew up to be a murderous lunatic” you’ll think to yourself as the scene plays out.
Kasady’s promise that there “will be carnage” when he escapes prison lands a little heavily, but it makes clear that the evil symbiote is due to make his debut sooner than later, but what’ll be interesting to see is what the shape of his origin will be.
Speaking to IGN, director Ruben Fleischer explained that while he at one point considered keeping Carnage’s origins true to the comics, it took the movie in a direction that didn’t feel appropriate:
It’ll be interesting to see how Carnage comes to life in the films. In the comics, he’s a spawn of Venom’s and basically he and Eddie in the comics are cell mates and so that’s why we put him in a jail cell and even though Eddie’s not arrested at the movie – because we talked about that. Maybe Eddie’s like arrested and he’s in jail and who should be next to him but Cletus Kasady.
That probably would’ve been the truest to the comic version but I don’t think we wanted Eddie to go to jail at the end of our movie. That would’ve been a bit of a bummer. But we did want to have them in jail cell proximity and so we left the door open for how Venom can spawn Carnage and how Cletus might someday become that character.
As fun as the Carnage reveal is, it isn’t actually all that much of a surprise, especially not compared to Venom’s final stinger which opens with an explanation that it’s set in another universe.
Miles Morales and Peter Parker meet each other for the first time in a lengthy Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse clip that begins rolling after the last of Venom’s credits are through. After accidentally knocking Peter out with his venom blasts in a cemetery and getting stuck to him after a web shooting misfire, Miles takes off when the police assume Peter is a corpse Miles is trying to steal. The chase takes the web-slinging pair downtown where they get stuck to an above-ground subway car that zips them around the city, nearly killing them both in the process.
When I spoke with Fleischer recently, he explained that while the idea to pivot into Spider-Verse wasn’t his, he was immediately on board.
It was an idea that [the studio proposed] that I loved because I’m friends with Phil Lord and Chris Miller. It just seemed like a really cool way to conceptually have Spider-Man in our movie without actually having him in our movie.
The two films couldn’t be more tonally different and Sony’s decision to juxtapose them is...curious to say the last. One the one hand, it makes perfect sense that a film studio would use one of its movies to hype up an upcoming project that has a similar target audience. But the phrase “meanwhile, in another universe...” that introduces the clip plays into the idea that Into the Spider-Verse might actually connect every single one of Sony’s Spider-Man films and Venom, even if only in the most subtle of ways.
It might not be quite the kind of crossover hardcore Venom fans were expecting, but at the very least, it makes sitting through Venom that much more worth it.