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Venom’s new trailer struggles without Spider-Man

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Venom looks like a monster movie with no heroes

The first Venom teaser failed to give people a reason to care about the film, and the latest trailer is another reminder of how bad an idea it is to make a Venom movie without Spider-Man ... or any Marvel hero that we’ve seen so far, for that matter.

The good news is that Venom himself doesn’t look that bad, although it’s clear how badly the studio didn’t want to cover Tom Hardy’s face. That’s not a new problem for this character, though. Remember this literal and figurative monstrosity from Spider-Man 3?

Topher Grace as Venom in Spider-Man 3.
That’s Topher Grace as Venom in Spider-Man 3.
Marvel Entertainment

Yikes.

This latest trailer has a series of issues: The story seems to be about a bad guy who goes up against another bad guy for reasons that have yet to be explained. The characters don’t seem to realize that “symbiote” is an actual, real word with a pretty standard pronunciation. Tom Hardy’s accent suggests he’s from New York by way of Mars.

But the lack of Spider-Man is probably the film’s largest problem of them all. Venom works as a character because of Spider-Man, not in spite of him. His original story in the comics has a definite arc: Peter Parker gets a black Spider-Man suit through a kinda ridiculous series of events, then finds out it has a mind of its own and removes it to save himself.

The suit’s symbiote later bonds with Eddie Brock, a reporter who despises Peter Parker. The symbiote and Brock share that hatred, and thus Venom is born. Spider-Man plays a role in every aspect of the character’s creation, and the battles between the two characters provided the stories for many, many comics.

So who is Venom without Spider-Man? We don’t really know from the trailer and teaser, which means the entire origin story and narrative thrust of the character has been changed without any hooks left to replace it, at least in the marketing material. The emotional stakes of Venom as a villain have been completely removed to leave room for ... a scientist? Who is bad?

Movies can work without a clear villain or hero, but it’s hard to do well. It’s even harder when you’re already dealing with a villain who used to be a part of that hero. This looks like a standalone Lex Luthor movie, in which Luthor is trying to put together a real estate deal, and then we’re told that other billionaires are bad. Does that sound interesting to you?

The Venom trailer feels both goofy and strangely generic without Spider-Man as a narrative foil. The trailer doesn’t give the character a reason to exist — and even worse, it still doesn’t convince anyone to care about Venom in the first place.