Spoilers for "Venom" below.
Venom may not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper -- it's intended to be the first outing in a whole new Spider-Man adjacent cinematic universe, Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters -- but it does adopt Marvel's signature move of including two post-credits scenes to tease future installments.
If you stay through the entire credits roll, a colorful title card pops up, announcing: "Meanwhile, in another universe..." What follows is a handful of minutes of footage from Into the Spider-Verse, Lord and Miller's animated Spidey movie opening Dec. 14. There's not much to explain there, but the mid-credits tag proves far more intriguing, setting up a fan favorite villain to appear in a Venom sequel -- a movie that may never come to be if the middling response from critics is indicative of how moviegoers will react this weekend.
In the final minutes of the movie, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) reassures his ex, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), that his career as a journalist is getting back on track. He's even locked down an exclusive interview, and though he doesn't say with whom, we soon find out in the mid-credits scene.
The tag is set at San Quentin State Prison and as Eddie motorcycles towards the front gates, he tells his symbiote half, "I need you to stay quiet. This is a me thing. It is not a we thing." Venom consents and remains silent as Eddie is lead through a particularly portentous prison block. Along the way, he informs a guard that the FBI only approved of the interview in hopes that Eddie would be able to attain information that would identify additional bodies.
"Hey Red, I got a visitor for you," the guard announces.
He opens a cell door and reveals Woody Harrelson in a straightjacket and curly red wig. The biggest shock of the film, after two hours of believing Williams' wig would be the most regrettable hairpiece in the movie, is that it has nothing on Harrelson's local-theater-production-of-Annie mop of curls.
Harrelson, who worked with Venom director, Ruben Fleisher, on Zombieland, had previously been announced as part of the cast, though his role was never disclosed. The actor teased that he would only have a small part in this movie but would take on a larger role in the sequel.
Anyway, Harrelson's character is doing normal prison things -- writing "WELCOME EDDIE" in blood on his cell wall -- and promptly suggests, "Do you mind if we forgo the whole creepy serial killer thing? I mean, I can turn it on if you want. I can talk about the Dadaist patterns of artillery spray."
"When I get out of here -- and I will," Harrelson warns. "There's gonna be carnage."
That's all the confirmation you need that Harrelson is playing red-headed serial killer Cletus Kasady, who is infected with an alien symbiote of his own and becomes the supervillain, Carnage. In the comics, Kasady is actually Eddie's cellmate during our anti-hero's tenure on Ryker's Island and, well... simultaneously, Venom is pregnant and gives birth to a symbiote spawn in the prison which ultimately bonds with Kasady, allowing him to break out and go on a killing spree. How that last bit would be adapted for the big screen is TBD. Though, after some thought, we would be quite curious to see Hardy and Venom do a sort of Junior-esque pregnancy comedy when, and if, an alleged sequel ever gets off the ground.
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