Extra, Extra: VENOM

Venom is a big guy, but his Blu-ray certainly isn't oversized.

As sales of physical discs (Blu-ray and DVD) decline, the idea of bonus features becomes less and less essential for new, mainstream films. There will always be a market for library titles with extensive retrospective commentaries and documentaries (see: Criterion, Scream Factory, etc), but for new films it's a dying trend. "Extra, Extra" is an attempt to encourage the studios not to give up on us disc champions, by mostly skipping over the film itself (which you can find reviews for anywhere) and focusing on the bonus features they were kind enough to include. Viva la physical media!

As of this writing, Venom has grossed over $850m worldwide, which is kind of incredible for a movie that was written off as a terrible idea and almost certainly a bomb. "How can you do Venom without Spider-Man?" people asked, but I guess you can, because the movie outgrossed a few of the actual Spider-Man entries. But despite raking in all that dough and being more fun than expected (nearly all of us here at BMD had a good time with it, especially Scott, who just reviewed the film proper), Sony rushed the film to Blu-ray in time for the holidays - I can't think of another $200m domestic grosser hitting disc only eleven weeks after its theatrical release (indeed, the two films released the same weekend - A Star is Born and The Hate U Give - won't hit disc until 2019). As you might expect, this means that the Blu-ray bonus features aren't exactly exhaustive, though it's not barebones either, and will give you another hour or so to spend in this Spidey-free world.

The first thing the disc tells you about in the bonus features is "Venom Mode", which sounds fun but is one the most disappointing and least worthy of its extras (read on for the worst; I'm still kind of stunned about it). You might think it's the sort of thing where a Venom head will pop up and you can hit "enter" to access a little behind the scenes clip or something, but nope! It's just 36 trivia facts that appear throughout the movie, sometimes so intermittently that you might forget you have anything "extra" enabled at all until one finally pops up again. Most of them are repeating info you can learn from the traditional supplements (i.e. the name of the stunt team in charge of the motorcycle chase), or random factoids delivered at even more random times ("Venom first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #300" it tells us, around the movie's halfway point). They're so limited that I might suggest throwing it on for your first viewing because it'll barely be a distraction, but some have spoilers for later parts in the film so that won't work. Luckily, if you're that curious, the chapter marks are redone so you can skip to the next one and see all 36 of them in a few minutes instead of watching the whole movie again.

Then we get a trio of deleted/extended scenes that total five minutes, half of which is spent on the barely different extended mid-credit scene featuring you-know-who. The other two are proper deleted moments: a cab ride where Eddie and Venom argue about the fact that the latter is kind of a dick, and a quick gag where Venom is enraged by a car alarm and proceeds to tear apart the car to try to stop it. They're all fine (the cab scene borders on great), but Tom Hardy has said that there were 45 minutes' worth of character moments he wish had stayed in the film, so I was hoping for something meatier here, if not an outright extended cut considering how (somewhat suspiciously) short the movie is. And without director Ruben Fleischer or anyone else on board to offer optional commentary explaining why they were cut, the section feels like a big missed opportunity.

Things improve immensely with "From Symbiote to Screen", a 20 minute (and spoiler-ish!) piece in which the filmmakers, actors, and a few guests (Kevin Smith, who is wearing a shirt of himself *and* a pin of the same design, which is a choice) talk about the origins of the characters that are recreated in the film (Venom/Eddie, bad guy Carlton Drake, etc.). The things that make Venom different from Spidey are also noted, as well as his gradual transition from traditional villain to antihero, which won't be news to comic fans but might be of interest to those who only know the character from this and Spider-Man 3, as he never gets to be really villainous here and never got to be good at all in the 2007 film. Smith also notes that Tom Hardy shares a last name with Felicia Hardy, another Spider-Man antihero, so there's... something.

The rest of the features are not as extensive, but they're mostly worth your time. "The Anti-Hero" focuses on the character as well as Tom Hardy's portrayal of him. The behind the scenes bits of Hardy arguing with himself are priceless, especially when you get a line or reaction that didn't make it into the final cut. Hardy may not look much like the Eddie Brock from the comics (John Cena would have been the "ideal" choice if they were just trying to get a lookalike), but watching him fully commit to the "Jekyll & Hyde" elements in the set footage proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that they made the right call in casting him - he's easily 75% if not more of the reason the movie works. "The Lethal Protector in Action" continues the Hardy love train, but focusing more on him working with the stunts and wires (as opposed to bringing a specific character to life). At under 10 minutes it's not exhaustive enough to get a really good look at how much training and rehearsal it took to get Hardy's "puppet" movements down, but it gives enough to make sure you know it wasn't easy, and that the actor was putting in 110% instead of just collecting a paycheck.

"Venom Vision" is an all-too-brief (7 minutes) look at Ruben Fleischer and what he brought to the film as director. For the first time in his career, he did not contribute a commentary track (unless it's exclusive to iTunes or some garbage like that - studios, please stop doing this), so it's our only chance to really hear from him, though naturally a lot of it is his cast and collaborators singing his praises. Fleischer says he wanted to make the John Carpenter version of a superhero movie, which is amusing because the San Francisco setting and general '90s-ness of the movie had me thinking of Memoirs of an Invisible Man more than once. Then we move into "Designing Venom", which addresses one of the controversies: the lack of the Spider-logo on his chest (they - perhaps needlessly because it's kind of obvious - explain that they left it out because Spider-Man isn't in it so it didn't make much sense to have a spider logo). They also note that the character's design in the comics has changed a lot over the past thirty years, giving them a lot to pick and choose from to make their own version, and - probably for the hundredth time on a superhero DVD - explain that what works on a comic book page might not translate to the real world of a movie, necessitating changes. It's also brief, but it's one of the better supplements overall.

The shortest of the bunch is "Symbiote Secrets", which shows off a few of the film's Easter eggs, which are mostly limited to naming buildings after artists and writers who were instrumental in Venom's history, such as Eddie's building being named Schueller, after Randy Schueller, who came up with the black suit and sold the idea to Marvel for 200 bucks. That's a deep cut, but some of the others even your mom would know - they even take time to "reveal" that the old man Eddie talks to in the film's final scene is none other than Stan Lee! Wow! This is the sort of thing that should have been noted in the "Venom Mode", but oh well. "Select Scenes Pre-Vis" is exactly what it sounds like: you get to watch side by side comparisons of the finished film and its pre-visualized computer animations for a few scenes. I rarely have much interest in these sort of things, but it's kind of cool to see how many different versions of the idea of "pre-vis" there are - some have animation that's practically as good as a video game cutscene, others are just storyboards with cutouts sliding around to simulate motion (think Poochie leaving to return to his home planet). There's even one of live action footage with stunt guys and a whole bunch of cardboard boxes, which they'd use to show Hardy and the other actors exactly how the stunts would work. You get almost 14 minutes of those; see if you can watch them all without getting bored or fast forwarding! I couldn't!

Finally we come to the most bizarre and obnoxious inclusion: a peek at Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. First of all it's kind of weird to call it a sneak peek when the movie is already out (the Venom Blu-ray streets today), but also, it's the same damn scene that's included in Venom's endless end credit sequence! I thought maybe it'd have some interview snippets with the people who made Spider-Verse, but nope - it's literally just a repeat of something that's already available in the film proper. Then there's a music video for one of that film's songs, as well as Eminem's "Venom" video, for sadists I guess. A few other Sony trailers finish things off. 

Like I said, it'll take over an hour to go through everything, and most of it is worth watching - but the lack of a commentary and pitiful selection of deleted scenes when we know there are more is a bit of a letdown. This isn't a long movie; the film cuts to credits at the 92 minute mark (and its two bonus scenes are available elsewhere on the disc, giving you no reason to sit through the end titles unless you actually read them), so you can get through it all in one sitting, easily. The transfer is terrific (go 4K if you can - the detail on Venom is incredible to inspect with the higher definition afforded you) and the movie is a lot of fun, but if you're not the type to rewatch movies over and over, there's little reason to buy it when you can see everything it has to offer with a Redbox rental and it leaves so much room for an improved double dip down the road. But hey, how often can you buy a ticket for a new blockbuster movie in October and get it under your tree in December?