Major spoilers for Venom below.
Sony wasn’t great at keeping secrets when it came to Venom. If you’ve been avidly following the development of this would-be franchise-starter, you know that a certain famous actor has revealed that he appears in the film. You probably even know who he’s playing, as it’s been heavily rumored for months. So when you don’t see him appear by the time the credits roll, you have a pretty solid sense that his presence is going to be a big reveal in a mid- or post-credits scene. And guess what: you’re right! When he appears as the character you’re expecting, there’s very little surprise for a certain type of geek. But if you haven’t been parsing through your Venom Google News alerts for the past year, you’ll likely be baffled as to why members of the audience are going nuts when the scene occurs. If you fall into the latter category (or you’re in the former and just want to be spoilered), read on and we’ll explain what happens.
After Eddie Brock Venom (Tom Hardy) defeats rival alien-human hybrid Carlton Drake/Riot (Riz Ahmed) in a CGI mega-brawl atop a launching space shuttle and then reconciles with his estranged ladyfriend Anne (Michelle Williams), he goes on a little reporting trip. Arriving at California’s notorious San Quentin penitentiary, he and a guard chat about the fact that he’s scored a rare interview opportunity with a serial killer. Apparently, he requested to speak with Eddie, who’s trying to reestablish his journalism career, and the FBI gave him the go-ahead because they want to know where some bodies are. Eddie is ushered into a cavernous room with a barred jail cell inside it. Within the cell is none other than … Woody Harrelson. Clad in a garishly fake red wig (seriously, Hollywood, what is the deal with this bad red hair thing lately?), the criminal verbally toys with Eddie, not quite revealing why he decided to speak to him. He concludes his dialogue with the line, “When I get out — and I will — it’s gonna be … carnage.” Cut to the rest of the credits.
This extremely overdone line is a reference to the fact that Harrelson is playing a character called, well, Carnage. Created in 1992 by writer David Michelinie and artists Erik Larsen and Mark Bagley, Carnage is a top-tier Spider-Man villain — and one deeply tied to Venom. His alter ego is serial killer Cletus Kasady, and in the comics, he and Eddie were cellmates during a stint when Eddie was imprisoned. There, the sentient extraterrestrial goo that turns Eddie into Venom gave birth to an offspring that bonded with Kasady. The resulting union was even more lethal and amoral than Venom and came to be known as Carnage. In his 26 years of existence, Kasady/Carnage has popped up time and time again to slaughter, maim, and brutalize his way through Spidey’s and Eddie’s lives. Although the cinematic Venom-verse doesn’t appear to have access to Spider-Man, they’re clearly setting Carnage up to be the primary antagonist for anti-hero Eddie in the planned sequel. It remains to be seen how he’ll get access to his own goo, but once he does, it’s gonna be … carnage.
Far more effective than the mid-credits scene is the post-credits one, which is actually a sneak preview of Sony’s next super-flick, the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, out this December. The movie’s completely unrelated to Venom, so don’t expect a Tom Hardy cameo. Anyway, a comic-book-esque text box appears onscreen, reading, “Meanwhile, in another universe …” and we cut to a CGI world in which a kid in a cheap Spider-Man costume is running from a shadowy figure. He escapes and makes his way to a cemetery to stand at the grave of none other than Peter Parker, the alter ego of Spider-Man. The kid apologizes to Peter for not being able to live up to some kind of promise he made to him while he was still alive, but is then interrupted from behind by … Peter Parker.
This kid, for the uninitiated, is Miles Morales, the replacement Spider-Man from Marvel’s “Ultimate Marvel” publishing line. He’s a lad who was also infected with sci-fi mishegoss from a spider and got spider-powers. In the scene, he accidentally knocks this somehow-still-alive Peter unconscious with his super-ability to shock people with his touch, then sees the NYPD coming after him and carries Peter’s limp body on a chase through the streets of New York City. After some webbed high jinks, the screen cuts out before we can see the further adventures of Miles and this mysterious Peter. For that, you’ll have to wait for the Christmas season and Sony’s next attempt at milking what little Marvel Comics intellectual property they’re legally allowed to use.