If you’ve been anywhere near Facebook or Reddit this morning, then you’ve probably already seen a great wave of dissatisfaction swelling up from the geek community. The source: Sony’s first teaser trailer for the Tom Hardy-fronted superhero movie Venom. In the course of 90 seconds, this would-be hype generator managed to disappoint on multiple fronts, providing a clear illustration of how not to provide a first look at a hotly anticipated new character. It would seem that the curse of non-Marvel Studios films in the Spiderverse may live on.
But first things first: If you haven’t already watched the teaser trailer check it out below.
Alright. So. To immediately clear the air: They made a Venom teaser trailer without any Venom in it. That’s the immediate talking point.
That’s a fairly bold choice, although one that can be rationalized by jumping through enough mental hoops. If you’re a studio exec at Sony, you’re no doubt hoping—desperately hoping—that the initial footage of this film is enough to generate a lot of buzz about Eddie Brock’s (Tom Hardy) eventual first appearance in full-on symbiote mode. You’re hoping that by withholding the eventual look of the character, it’s a bigger deal when you finally give people what they’ve been wanting to see. Delayed gratification and all that.
At the same time, not to be underestimated is the fact that this film’s VFX are nowhere near complete, and in all likelihood are probably just getting started. Incredibly, Venom wrapped and finished shooting less than two weeks ago, according to Hardy himself. Ruben Fleischer’s director’s chair is still warm at this point, which makes one wonder why the studio was apparently so desperate to get a teaser out when the release date isn’t until October. Could the teaser not have waited until a single shot (or at least suggestion) of Eddie Brock as Venom could have been completed? Judging from the immediately vitriolic response from fans, it certainly would have been better to wait.
More concerning than “lack of Venom,” though, is a lack of context and vitality in this trailer. Put simply, there’s nothing unique here, and without the flipping of comics pages in the Marvel logo, you wouldn’t even know this was a film featuring comic book/superhero characters. If the purpose of a teaser trailer is to intrigue and hook additional audience members who aren’t already familiar with the Venom character, then how could this be considered anything other than a massive failure? There’s not even anything in the trailer to vaguely suggest that it has anything to do with the Spider-Man universe, or anything else recognizable as Marvel. You can bet that if Marvel Studios was handling this, and the character was part of the MCU, that they would find a way to thread him into the larger world. It’s as if Sony expected every single person viewing this trailer to already be familiar with exactly who and what Venom is, which certainly isn’t the case.
As is, we’re left with a collage of images that seem as if they could have come from any random action or science fiction movie in the last 10 years. Explosions, motorcycles and wreckage are all well represented. Characters? Not so much. The single shot of Michelle Williams gazing at the camera with a dead expression while Hardy voiceovers about “maybe it’s a break-up” is particularly ham-fisted, and if that’s what we have to look forward to in Venom, Sony could have another Spider-mess on their hands.
If there’s one thing you can cite as a constant in the success of the MCU, it’s that no matter the style of presentation, the films are always ultimately driven by compelling and likable characters. Sony would do well to figure out that if you’re not going to give the audience that kind of substance in a teaser, then you’d better at least be prepared to give them some fan service.