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Ten years in the making, Venom is finally ready to make his big-screen solo debut. As one of Marvel’s most notorious (and beloved) anti-heroes crawls his way onto the big screen, there are also many questions surrounding the project. Like, where’s Spider-Man?

As Tom Holland’s teenage superhero made his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, Sony was left clutching the rights to some 9,000 other characters from the Spider-Man universe, and Venom is how the production house plans to test the waters for their own shared cinematic universe, woefully dubbed Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters.

This doesn’t mean that Spider-Man couldn’t jump back into Sony’s universe, but the chances of it happening are slim. More on that later. For now, here are five things you should know about director Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, out in the UAE on October 4.

Who is Eddie Brock/Venom?

Eddie Brock (played by English actor Tom Hardy), the man who makes one half of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis Venom, was first seen in comic books in 1988, created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane. In the comics, Brock is a disgraced journalist who is fired after accusing the wrong man of being a serial killer (the real killer is later caught by Spider-Man).

Angry, depressed and suicidal, he happens to be at the same church where Peter Parker used a bell to repel his alien symbiote costume. Sensing Brock’s emotions and destructive nature, the symbiote bonds with Brock, gifting him Spider-Man like powers, and turning him into the villain called Venom.

In the film, Brock is still a journalist but the circumstances of his bonding with the Venom symbiote has been largely changed to adapt for Spidey’s absence.

Who is the villain?

Since Brock/Venom play an anti-hero role here and Spidey is nowhere to be seen, these boys need someone to fight, and like any good Marvel story, there’s a shady organisation lurking in the corner waiting for just the opportunity.

Not unlike the Hand or the Hydra, but on a relatively smaller scale, exists the Life Foundation, a shadowy organisation comprised of millionaire survivalists who foresee a doomed Earth and want to outlive the impending Apocalypse, imagined or real. The organisation is headed by Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed, an excellent choice to bring some much-needed diversity into the world of superheroes and villains). Technologically advanced and morally unscrupulous, the Life Foundation have gotten their hands on an alien symbiote and are using it to do illegal experiments on humans, in a bid to try and increase life and its potential.

In the comic books, the Life Foundation kidnaps Venom to extract five of his seeds to make new symbiotes: Agony, Phage, Lasher, Scream and Riot. While in the comics, these new symbiotes don’t get the luxury of any fleshed-out personalities or even any speaking lines, it has been reported that they have been given a much bigger role to play in the film, and will be Venom’s primary antagonists.

Who are Michelle Williams and Woody Harrelson playing?

Art house darling Michelle Williams broke the internet way back in 2017 when she announced she signed on to Venom, which even for a super(anti)hero film, at the time, seemed like a misfire. Over the last few months, the actress has gone on to defend her decision to join the movie.

Williams will play the role of Anne Weying, a lawyer and Brock’s ex-wife in the comics. The four-time Oscar nominee has, however, updated her role for current times, she insists. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she is quoted as saying, “When we started making Venom, I said to the director, Ruben [Fleischer], that I know I can’t exactly wear a #MeToo T-shirt, but that’s the feeling that I want in this movie. There’s a scene where I came up with the line, ‘I love you, but I love myself more.’”

The film makes changes to her story as well. Instead of playing Brock’s ex-wife, Williams has been upgraded to girlfriend status. For how long it will stay that way, only time will tell.

IMDb says Woody Harrelson has been cast to play one Cletus Kasady, whom we all know is Brock’s one-time demented jailmate who accidentally fuses with one of Venom’s seeds to form Carnage, who is to Venom what Venom is to Spider-Man. Mortal enemies, a Venom versus Carnage fight is what geek dreams are made of. But if reports are to be believed, Carnage will have a much smaller role to play in the current film, setting the character up to be the main antagonist in the sequel, if and when that happens.

Which comic book arc is the movie based on?

From the footage so far and director Fleischer’s comments, it has been established that the movie largely takes inspiration from Venom: Lethal Protector, a six-issue limited series published in 1993, written by David Michelinie and illustrated by Mark Bagley, coincidentally also the first arc to have shed light on Brock’s back story. The comic book series itself features Spider-Man heavily, and while it seems like an uphill task to even attempt a Venom story without Spidey, Lethal Protector points to a large presence of the Life Foundation, headed by the aforementioned Ahmed’s character, and the five symbiotes the shadowy organisation spawns. The series also makes for an excellent quick read if you want to get a taste of Venom’s deranged psyche.

Will Spider-Man make an appearance?

This one’s a solid MAYBE. In January this year, Collider’s Jon Schnepp spoke on their Heroes podcast reporting that Holland was seen shooting for Venom for at least two days. While this does not confirm Spidey’s presence in the film, we can at least hope that Peter Parker (in civilian clothing) might do a cameo.

Another fan theory doing the rounds comes straight from one of the more recent TV spots for the film, in which something resembling a white spider symbol is seen forming on Venom’s suit, while he looks like he’s stuck in some electrical force field. For those in the know, this clearly points to the Venom symbiote merging with Spider-Man himself, which is how Venom originally adopts the symbol onto his suit. So, fingers crossed?