With the announcement that Venom 2 will add the talents of Andy Serkis as the director, many questions are forming about the plans for the anticipated sequel. Tom Hardy, on a now deleted Instagram post, gave his support while social media had a mixed response altogether. With this film, Andy Serkis’ resume as a director will increase to three and hopefully the third time is the charm. This is because both Breathe and Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle received mixed reviews. However, these films along with his previous work as an actor and producer provide the ingredients for a good sequel to Venom (2018). In my opinion, these experiences will provide a vision for the characters of Venom and Carnage that can appeal to general audiences, hardcore fans, and Sony executives.
Experience With CGI & Motion Capture
When people look back on Andy Serkis’ work in 100 years, they will likely remember him as the man who revolutionized motion capture and CGI performances. His performances as Gollum and Caesar, among others, have created major discussions about the gate-keeping in Hollywood regarding performances in a live-action setting which lacks the actor’s physical body. There’s no better manifestation of his mastery than the founding and subsequent work executed by The Imaginarium.
This production company specializes in performance capture and has assisted with productions such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Planet of the Apes Reboot Trilogy. This familiarity with motion capture and CGI will be critical to bringing characters such as Venom and Carnage to live in a more dynamic way. As shown by his work with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Serkis can direct others to get the most out of their CGI performances and guide post-production to further polish said performances.
A more polished performance from the actors playing symbiote-powered characters would be a welcomed change, as certain parts of Venom had good visual effects but no pulse when it comes to Venom feeling like a character with emotions. This is especially frustrating if you’ve read the Venom comics as the symbiote itself is extremely emotional yet didn’t bring much to the table outside of a glorified voice-over. Serkis’ work as Caesar alone should provide guidance to Tom Hardy if he seeks to make his performance as Venom more gripping emotionally, whether it’s experiencing sadness in an emotional moment or striking terror towards a criminal.
Connection With Tom Hardy & Woody Harrelson
An important part of a film’s production is chemistry between the lead actors and the director. Many stories have leaked over the years of disastrous productions leading to critical and box office disasters. Actors in various interviews have talked about how easy it is to perform, or the benefits of collaboration, with a director they have history and/or familiarity with. In a way, this isn’t too different from an athlete performing better with a coach they’ve had before. The coach, or director in this instance, already understands the strengths and weaknesses with a certain actor and can (usually) direct more effectively as a result. With Venom 2, potentially a similar benefit can occur with Andy Serkis and the main cast. Tom Hardy, on a now deleted Instagram post, teased his pleasure by captioning a photo of Serkis with a spade and flame emoji. While they haven’t worked on movies together previously they both reside in neighboring areas in London.
With Woody Harrelson, who’s playing Cletus Kasady/Carnage, they last worked together in War for the Planet of the Apes. Both of their performances were stellar and their on-screen chemistry was evident. The chemistry appears to continue off-screen as well based upon their shared interviews and captured moments together during the War for the Planet of the Apes press tour. Hopefully, they can work together to build on that chemistry so the first live-action incarnation of Carnage doesn’t suffer the same problems Riz Ahmed had once Carlton Drake became Riot. A version of Carnage with the insanity of Gollum mixed with the blood-thirsty and outright evil personality of Shere Khan in Mowgli would be perfect for Harrelson.
Outside of his connections with the lead actors, I’m not concerned about the remaining cast because the film’s story will likely be carried by the dynamic between Hardy and Harrelson. Just like Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, people will go to theaters to see the battle between Venom and Carnage before a plot. Both actors presumably will utilize motion capture for Venom and Carnage respectively, so it’s good Serkis can assist with those scenes in a way most directors can’t, which will be a huge factor of the film’s success to audiences.
Venom’s Tone & Rating
A big question for Venom 2 is the rating of the film. With the success of LOGAN and Deadpool many fans want their anti-hero characters to go as far as possible on screen. With a character such as Venom this could translate towards visibly eating body parts drenched in blood or Carnage brutally murdering people on screen. For better or for worse, Sony will likely keep the film PG-13 to maximize ticket sales and audience numbers. When looking at Serkis’ filmography, it’s noticeable that he has much experience with films that balance a PG-13 rating yet carry mature themes or dark moments.
A good example, outside of the Planet of the Apes Reboot Trilogy would be Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. In this movie, Serkis directed a darker adaptation of Jungle Book than people are used to. This tone was executed well, as the film didn’t suffer from direction or performances but instead lacked polished pacing which created an uneven tone throughout the film’s second and third act.
While many people have doubts about Serkis after his previous films, I’m hoping the third time is the charm. His unique creative and technical expertise can help make Venom 2 an entirely different quality of film than the first installment. With a greater grasp on darker themes and characters within a PG-13 rating and experience bringing CGI characters to life, the only thing holding Serkis back is the writer(s) behind the story and dialogue. He has the tools for everything else.
What do you hope to see when Venom and Carnage battle in Venom 2? Let us know your thoughts for the future of Venom and Sony’s Marvel films in the comments!