When my friend dragged me to Venom on opening night, I had no idea what the post-credits scene was about. I was confused when I saw that wig, I was even more confused when I saw that it was Woody Harrelson underneath it, and my confusion reached its peak when I saw that he had supposedly written “Welcome Eddie” in his own blood like an extremely emo Hannibal Lector. In the end, I had to go home and do research to figure out what any of it meant, and in doing so, I realized that all of those things I didn’t understand at are one-hundred percent serious traits of the character known as Carnage.
Luckily, we’ve got an exclusive clip featuring Venom director Ruben Fleischer to save you the effort of doing all that research yourself (if you haven’t already read Brad’s post-credit scene analysis). Fleischer notes that “we’re calling this movie the origin story of Venom, but we’re also calling it the origin story of Carnage.”
Kevin Smith describes Carnage as: “Hey man, you like Venom? Imagine if he was worse and not an anti-hero. Like, this guy’s never gonna go soft, he ain’t gonna join the good guys, ever.” The character was created to take Venom’s place as the symbiote villain, thus freeing up Venom to go on anti-hero adventures. Carnage’s host, Cletus Kasady, is a serial killer and was even based on the Joker.
The plan worked; Venom got to keep his anti-hero status with solo title Venom: Lethal Protector (upon which the movie is partially based), and Carnage took his place as a full-time Spider-Man villain. Perhaps his most defining story arc was Maximum Carnage, a crossover event that saw Spider-Man teaming up with Venom to bring down the titular villain, as well as a bunch of other C-listers from Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery. It didn’t do particularly well, but it’s probably the best illustration of the three-way relationship between these characters; Carnage is the chaotic evil, Spidey is the lawful good, and Venom is the somewhat-angst-ridden anti-hero.
Through his history, Carnage has made a nice, solid lap around the Marvel multiverse. He had a few solo issues, multiplied himself to make some more symbiote characters, died and came back, the works. He also fought Deadpool for four issues, became an anti-hero for just a little bit during the AXIS crossover, and even merged with Norman Osborn to create the Red Goblin, who was immune to the two traditional symbiote weaknesses, fire, and sound. But he has typically stayed a Spider-Man villain and maintained his relative one-dimensionality as a psycho killer.
If Venom is the ultimate 90’s edgy anti-hero, Carnage is the even edgier version of that. He’s Venom’s delinquent son who listens exclusively to Evanescence and also murders people for fun. His original purpose in the comics was literally nothing more than “be more evil than Venom,” and it’s a role he’s eagerly filled over the years. He does such edgy things as writing “Carnage Rules!” in blood on the walls of crime scenes and digging up and stealing his own dead mother’s casket (it was empty). Cletus Kasady is no saint either; before becoming Carnage, he’s serving 11 consecutive life sentences, and that’s just for the murder victims the cops knew about.
Woody Harrelson dons the Carrot Top wig to play Kasady in the Venom credit cookie, and Smith notes his enthusiasm for this.
“Having Woody Harrelson pop up was great. And if that’s the promise, they’re like ‘hey if we do this again Woody is going to play Cletus,’ then you got my money.”
Harrelson is a brilliant actor, and he’s had plenty of success with mainstream Hollywood movies in the last decade. However, the past performance I’m hoping Harrelson channels the most for Carnage is Seven Psychopaths‘ Charlie Costello, one of his more indie roles. The dark and slightly twisted characters of Martin McDonagh fit the Carnage character far better than the aged cynics Harrelson portrays in The Hunger Games and Solo.
But now that we’ve talked about the villain, I’m quite curious as to who’s going to be the protagonist of this film.
While I would be surprised to see a full-on crossover the likes of Maximum Carnage, I would also be shocked if the studio constrains themselves to this being solely a Venom story. Carnage’s relationship with Spider-Man and Venom is, fundamentally, a ménage à trois. While I’m not sure of the exact legal status of Spider-Man right now, what with the mergers and the deals and the Spider-Man: Far From Home, I think it would be a boon to the filmmakers to include him if possible. It would also add complexity to “the Venom-verse” existing character relationships, which are a little threadbare since half the named characters in the last movie got killed, as well as emphasize intentional comedy in the film, something that Venom probably needed a little more of.
Ultimately the biggest difficulty with introducing Carnage into the Venom-verse is probably going to be how to get the audience to take him seriously. His psychopathic killer schtick has been done to death and, depending on context, can be more funny than scary. Furthermore, Carnage’s crimes are very violent in nature, and it’s going to be rough getting that in the movie. I’m not personally opposed to an R-rated Carnage, but the context and sheer bloody spectacle that Carnage demands due to his very nature would make it a tough movie to sell. After all, it’s still a superhero film.
Of course, the other option is to go in the opposite direction and make it a superhero action-comedy, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man, and that’s the direction I think is the smartest. Besides avoiding all the problems inherent in Carnage’s lack of personality and taste for ultraviolence, I want to see Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson channel Travolta and Cage from Face/Off. Just sheer, unbridled, honey-glazed ham. Cletus Kasady is a tough character to work with, with a lot of restrictions and rules built in, and I’m glad to see that Fleischer is willing to embrace the Carnage.