Despite passionate romances, a little bit of body horror, and plenty of scares (Doc Ock’s surgery scene in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, anyone?), Spider-Man has generally been a family-friendly superhero franchise. Peter Parker certainly has an “Aw, shucks” energy to him, and the Spider gang is usually made up of young people trying to make their way in the world (or high school, or college). The games also go to great lengths to show you the goons you fight are ultimately unharmed — throw (or kick) someone off a building, and they will automatically get webbed to a nearby surface on their way down.
That’s why one gory moment in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 stands out. Insomniac Games really, really went for it, and it rules.
[Ed. note: Significant Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 story spoilers to follow.]
The big bad for most of the game is Kraven. In this version of the story, Kraven leads an organization of “Hunters” that can best be described as “half private military company, half cult.” With Insomniac taking some cues from the terrific comic Kraven’s Last Hunt, Kraven has a point to prove, and the way to prove it is murder. Here, he’s dying, and seeking out a worthy combatant to give him an honorable death. After striking out with Scorpion (RIP), Sandman (nothing but respect for my king Flint Marko), and other assorted villains, Kraven turns his attention to the recently Venomized Peter Parker.
That brings in the other big bad for Spider-Man 2: Venom. Venom is introduced to the story as a mysterious cure for Harry Osborn’s illness. When Peter is seriously injured, Harry transfers the Venom “suit” to his friend, who is unable (or unwilling) to give it back. The Venom suit gives Peter extra powers and a really crummy attitude. When Harry finally reclaims the Venom suit, it fully takes over, transforming him into the Venom we recognize from the comics, movies, and other Spider-Man media.
And that’s what brings us to the gore. Venom offers a fantastic opportunity for splashes of gore (just check out the very fun Tom Hardy movies), as everyone’s favorite gooey black symbiote just loves biting heads off. And when Kraven and Venom square off in a climactic fight, Venom’s gnarly jaws and gaping maw appear multiple times, foreshadowing the gory moment to come, in which he does the very thing he loves.
As I was watching the conclusion of the fight, with the possibility of Venom biting Kraven’s head off repeatedly hinted at, I found myself caught between optimism and cynicism: God, I hope they do this, and There’s no WAY they do this. And reader, it happened. Venom bit off Kraven’s head like an impatient child with an ice cream cone. And I clapped like a giddy seal. (If you want to see it, you can search “Venom kills Kraven” on YouTube — there are already a ton of uploads of it.)
It’s a really effective splash of gore in a game that is otherwise pretty devoid of it. And it’s not just cool — it effectively communicates the total control Venom has over Harry at this point, and the threat Venom poses to both Spider-Mans and the city of New York at large. Spider-Man does not need to be a gory franchise, by any means, but one perfectly placed splash of gore in a key story moment? That’s the good stuff.