Warning: This post contains big plot spoilers for Venom.
Whether he’s munching lobsters or crunching heads, Tom Hardy absolutely chews the scenery in a dual performance as crusading journalist Eddie Brock and musclebound alien symbiote Venom in the Spider-Man villain’s first solo feature. The British actor’s Nicolas Cage-esque performance is already drawing social media raves, and Yahoo Entertainment can confirm that Hardy single-handedly makes the film worth the price of admission. But should there be a Venom 2: Symbiotic Boogaloo, he’ll meet his match in the scene-stealing department. That’s because of a mid-credits sequence in this maiden entry in Sony’s planned Spider-Verse series, which teases the appearance of a character guaranteed to cause maximum carnage.
His name? Carnage. Or at least it will be in time. For now, he’s still Cletus Kasady, and he’s played by Woody Harrelson, who previously provided many of the biggest laughs in Venom director Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 hit Zombieland. (Harrelson is reuniting with Fleischer and his fellow zombie killers, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, in Zombieland 2, due out next year.) Like his comic book counterpart — not to mention another indelible Harrison creation, Mickey Knox — Cletus is a natural born killer, and has been serving a lengthy prison sentence for his numerous crimes. Having survived his inaugural anti-hero adventure and arrived at a truce with the alien being that shares his body, Brock pays Kasady a jailhouse visit in the middle of the credits sequence, intending to bring his story to the masses.
As soon as he enters the killer’s Hannibal Lecter-like lair, though, Brock can see that he’s in the presence of someone even more sinister than the villain he just spent the preceding 100-odd minutes fighting. That would be Riot: Venom’s nemesis from the symbiote-populated world they hail from, and who attempted to conquer Earth by conquering the body of Elon Musk-like biotech tycoon Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake runs the Life Foundation, and his company’s rockets accidentally ferry the symbiotes to our world.
In fact, in one of the film’s cleverest Easter eggs, it’s revealed that one of the astronauts the alien invaders kill onboard is named Jameson — as in John Jameson, spacefaring son of newspaper publisher and notorious Spider-Man hater, J. Jonah Jameson. As comic book fans know, the junior Jameson has a long history of returning to Earth with extraterrestrial enhancements. (There’s another Easter egg buried in this backstory as well; Drake’s foundation, Life, also happens to be the name of a 2017 outer space thriller that many suggested could serve as a Venom prequel. )
As enemies go, Riot was big, but he wasn’t very bright. Kasady, on the other hand, seems crazy smart … emphasis on the word “crazy.” That explains why he’s chosen to write “Welcome Eddie” on the walls of his cell in his own blood. “When I get out of here — and I will,” he warns Brock, just before the credits start rolling again. “There’s gonna be carnage.”
In the comics, Venom is directly responsible for Carnage’s birth, as the symbiote makes its own way to prison looking for its human host, Eddie, who has been sharing a cell with Cletus. While human and alien leave intact, a baby symbiote is left behind, and it instantly bonds with the red-haired Kasady, leading to the creation of the blood-red Carnage. Venom’s “child” proceeds to rack up a body count that even makes his brutal dad uncomfortable.
If Carnage is unleashed in the sequel, at least Venom should have some backup in the looming battle. At one point late in the film, Brock and the symbiote are separated, and Venom attaches itself to his former fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Having spent much of the movie afraid of her ex-lover’s sudden alien-assisted personality change, Anne seems to fully enjoy her time as She-Venom — so much so that she’s visibly disappointed when the symbiote once again takes up residence in Eddie’s body … but not before a lengthy kiss. Brock lamely promises she can join in the action next time, and based on her annoyed reaction, she’s gonna hold him to it.
Don’t leave the theater after the future Carnage’s cameo, because you’ll miss an appearance by Peter Parker in a post-credits sequence. No, not Tom Holland‘s Peter Parker, whose rumored presence on the Venom set didn’t result in a Spider-Man cameo. Instead, you’ll get some early face-time with Jake Johnson’s schlubby Peter and his protégé Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), heroes of the upcoming animated feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In advance of that movie’s Dec. 14 premiere, Sony includes an entire five-minute Spider-Verse action sequence at the end of Venom — a lengthy clip that’s introduced with a “Meanwhile, in another universe” title card, indicating that the events of two movies are unfolding simultaneously in parallel dimensions.
That sequence could also carry enormous significance for the future of Sony’s Spider-Man-adjacent movies. After all, Marvel Studios has pioneered the concept of a shared universe where heroes — like Holland’s wall-crawler — come and go from each other’s individual movies, and also join forces for major events like a Civil War or an Infinity War. While advanced reports have suggested that the studio is pursuing an interconnected Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, the Spider-Verse example could instead lead them to structure the SUMC as a larger web of worlds inhabited by characters like Venom, Morbius, and Silver Sable. That way, crossovers would be possible, but not required.
Not for nothing, but that seems to be the way comic book movie universes might be trending; DC is well into production on a standalone Joker movie that’s not connected to its pre-existing Extended Universe, and Ant-Man and the Wasp teased the idea of “multiple parallel realities” existing inside the MCU. For a film that otherwise feels like a flashback to a vanished era of comic book movies — think 2003’s Daredevil and 2007’s Ghost Rider — Venom might be a harbinger of the future in that regard.
Venom is currently playing in theaters.
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