What the Shocking 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' Twist Means For the Franchise

Venom and Eddie seem like they're about to make some new friends.

tom hardy in venom: let there be carnage
Sony Pictures

When it debuted in 2018, Venom, the delightfully bizarre Tom Hardy starring comic book film based on the inky-goo-covered alien antihero, was presented as a love story between man and symbiote, but the behind-the-scenes story was one of corporate acrimony. Though the character springs from the pages of Marvel's Spider-Man comics, and was prominently featured as one of the villains in Sam Raimi's underrated three-quel Spider-Man 3 in 2007, the first Venom movie had no connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe because the rights to the character are still controlled by Sony, the studio that produced Venom. Instead of paling around with the Avengers or waving at the Guardians of the Galaxy from space, Hardy's mumbling Eddie Brock occupied his own singular Venom-verse, a place to enjoy munching on chicken and chocolate in peace.

Judging from the promotional rollout, you would think Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the new Andy Serkis-directed sequel to the first film, was more of the same. And, for most of its runtime, the movie is exactly what it looks like: The story is centered around Venom's battle with Cletus Kasady, otherwise known as Carnage, a disturbed serial killer played with scenery-chomping excess by Woody Harrelson, channeling some of his old Natural Born Killers sleaziness into a CG-slathered blockbuster. There's no reason to think that the film, again produced by Sony, would connect to the Tom Holland starring Spider-Man films, which are co-produced by Sony and the Disney-owned Marvel Studios.

But Venom is always up to something, and the movie saves its most most outlandish bit of IP-related mischief for the mid-credits scene, which suggests that some corporate compromise has been worked out behind the scenes and that Hardy might drop into the Marvel-verse at some point in the future. How exactly could that work? And do we even really want that? Pull up some Venom-prepared waffles and read on. 

tom hardy in venom: let there be carnage
Sony Pictures

What happens in the Venom: Let There Be Carnage mid-credits scene?

Having defeated the menacing Carnage and resolved their own lingering commitment issues, Eddie and Venom retreat to a beach for some much needed rest and relaxation. It's a pleasant rom-com ending to the story, a way to show our bickering odd couple falling back into their old rhythms with a newfound appreciation for one another. But the mid-credits scene disrupts that stasis with a scene of the two lying in bed and watching what appears to be a telenovela together. The onscreen melodrama spurs Venom to confess that he has his own secrets he keeps from Eddie, including some "80 billion light-year" bits of alien knowledge that have the capacity to really blow his mind.

Newsboy Eddie, always looking for a scoop, is intrigued. At first, it looks like Venom is about to do some sort of mental data-dump, but then the walls start to shake and the duo gets transported to a fancier hotel. It's clear this is not exactly what Venom meant to happen. There's an older man in the bathroom, surprised to find Eddie in his room, but, more significantly, there's something else playing on the TV: The secret identity-revealing broadcast featuring J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson from the credits scene of 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home. We even see Holland's Spider-Man on the screen and Venom, perhaps eager to make a new friend, licks the screen.

The reality-altering, brain-scrambling physics of this scene aren't exactly clear. Is this a different universe? A mental trick? Another dimension? An offshoot of the Dr. Strange spell-gone-wrong teased in the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home? We already know that the movie will feature Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, the beloved villain from Raimi's Spider-Man 2, along with a number of other cast members from previous Spider-Man films, so one imagines Hardy's Venom could get slotted right into the chaos. Are they bringing back Topher Grace's Venom, too? That's the real burning question. 

zendaya and tom holland in spiderman far from home
'Spider-Man: Far From Home' | Marvel Studios

Is this actually a good thing for the Venom series?

For many Marvel fans, the mid-credits scene will be the reason to see Venom: Let There Be Carnage. At last, a string of connective alien goo connects to the mothership! But, for those of us who admired the absurdity of 2018's Venom and its larger resistance to the prevailing Marvel house tone, this shift can't help but feel a little bit disappointing. Hardy's goofy yet committed performance, with all its mumbling and mugging, is still the main attraction of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Could that potentially change in the future if the series gets folded into the larger Marvel narrative? (For what it's worth, Venom: Let There Be Carnage writer Kelly Marcel told Vulture she got notes from many people on the scene but that, "the scene and the writing came from the Venom-verse.")

Obviously, I don't want to get maudlin about this. In all likelihood, Venom's appearance in the next Spider-Man movie will be short and the Venom films will continue exploring its hybrid of slimy horror, slapstick comedy, and Eminem songs playing over the credits. It's unlikely that Sony is super eager to mess with the formula too much. But, on some level, it was fun to think of Venom as its own oddball entity adrift from the larger narrative mechanics of the superhero industrial complex. In the current moment, no superhero movie is an island. (Venom: Let There Be Synergy could be the next sequel title.) One can only hope a trip into the multiverse won't disrupt the delicate balance of Eddie and Venom's relationship.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.