The decidedly Spider-Man-adjacent Venom looks likely to rule the weekend, as the highly anticipated Marvel antihero makes his way to the big screen for the first time since Tobey Maguire went jazz goth in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. And while Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote frenemy are indeed ripped from the comics, this is another would-be superhero who’s not exactly kid-friendly, even if the film isn’t rated R like many hoped it would be. With that in mind, Christy Lemire offers up a closer look at the film and its potential to frighten the youngest viewers.
Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language.
Venom fans might have hoped – or at least expected – that a big-screen telling of the Marvel villain’s origins would come with an R rating. After all, he is a fearsome alien life force: a gooey symbiote who bonds with a hospitable host and uses it to wreak havoc. With his strength, speed and shape-shifting abilities, he causes particular trouble as a nemesis of Spider-Man. And he’s just plain terrifying to look at: a dark, hulking behemoth with menacing, white eyes and razor-sharp teeth.
But Venom, in theaters this weekend, ended up being PG-13. Granted, with its massive violence, it’s right there on the edge of what you can get away with and still earn that rating. But director Ruben Fleischer said it was always his intention to make his comic-book blockbuster accessible to the largest audience possible. In a recent interview with the website Polygon, Fleischer said: “We didn’t want to make a movie that excluded any fans… Venom fans actually are of all ages, and so we wanted to be inclusive to all the fans that were excited about the movie.” He added that we shouldn’t expect an R-rated director’s cut anytime in the future either. This is it: “I said throughout that I wanted to push the violence to the hilt.” That stands in contrast to the depiction of another Marvel antihero, the Deadpool movies, which wallow in their R rating in terms of violence, language, and raunchy humor.
Still, Venom isn’t exactly a movie for viewers of all ages, as Fleischer puts it. It’s graphic and intense, featuring a dizzying amount of carnage – but no bloodshed. Hence, the PG-13. One character is beheaded, while others get their heads eaten off entirely. The film features several punishing fight sequences as investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) finds that his limbs can stretch and transform into various sharp, shiny weapons once Venom takes over his body. His back throws off piercing spikes as if he were a giant, muscular porcupine. But Venom also features the usual kind of large-scale destruction you see in comic book extravaganzas: chase scenes resulting in car crashes, the fiery evisceration of a rocket ship, and countless rounds of gunfire from authorities struggling in vain to take down this powerful creature. There’s also quite a bit of language scattered throughout, including the one F-bomb allowed in a PG-13 movie. And we see a bit of kissing between Hardy and Michelle Williams as his ex-fiancée, as well as the suggestion that they’ve had sex.
I took my son to a critics screening of Venom and he wasn’t afraid of anything, but he’s also seen a lot more movies (including a lot more movies of this type) than the average 9-year-old. I’d say Venom is really more appropriate for viewers around 12 and older.