Venom made his cinematic debut in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3, but the film would have been better without him. While the conclusion to Raimi's trilogy has its fair share of supporters, it's widely agreed upon it's the weakest of the series. After soaring to great heights with the first two installments, Raimi struggled to juggle the numerous story threads the third movie introduced, delivering a mixed bag that even he agrees doesn't completely work. For many people, Spider-Man 3's issues can be traced back to the ill-advised decision to make Eddie Brock/Venom a key component of the narrative.
The symbiote and Black Suit Spider-Man do play into the film's theme of Peter Parker battling the villain within himself, but Venom feels like a tacked on addition and is severely shortchanged. Several people were disappointed by the portrayal, seeing it as nothing more than a wasted opportunity and a cheap ploy to get fans (even more) excited for the sequel. Before Tom Hardy hopefully launches a new franchise for Sony, it's time to take a look back to see how the studio derailed one of their flagship properties over a decade ago.
Sam Raimi's Original Spider-Man 3 Plan
Harry Osborn's New Goblin (the culmination of a storyline that ran through the first two movies) and Sandman were always intended to be antagonists in Spider-Man 3. However, Raimi was keen on adding a third foe for Peter to battle against. He initially wanted it to be Vulture, with Ben Kingsley even meeting to discuss the role. Obviously, it didn't pan out, and Vulture would have to wait until 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming to finally make it to the big screen.
Viewers may see this and make the case Spider-Man 3 was destined to fall short regardless of whether it had Venom or not, but there's more to the story. Whereas Venom was woven into the main story and played a key role in the climax, Vulture would have been similar to Paul Giamatti's Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Thomas Hayden Church (who played Sandman in Spider-Man 3) revealed in an interview Vulture would have bookended the film, possibly setting up his return in Raimi's Spider-Man 4. The third film was primarily going to revolve around the core of Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Harry, and Sandman - but that was before Venom entered the equation.
Why Sony Forced Venom In
Making his comics debut in 1988, Venom is one of the most popular characters in Spider-Man lore. He has appeared across various mediums over the years, including TV shows and video games. The character's passionate following spurred Spider-Man 3 producer Avi Arad to pitch Venom to Raimi. The director was initially hesitant, as he wasn't a fan of Venom himself, but Arad persisted and basically guilted Raimi into making Venom the third antagonist. In an interview, Raimi recalled the conversation he had with Arad, where he was told he needed to "listen to the fans" and incorporate one of their favorite characters (not just Raimi's favorite villains) into the movie. This reasoning is also what changed a generic "other girl" into Gwen Stacy.
Early on in development, Eddie Brock was still part of the script - imagined by co-writer Alvin Sergeant as a photojournalistic rival of Peter's competing for J. Jonah Jameson's affections. The idea was to enrich Parker's arc, and it slowly evolved from there. Since Brock already had a small part, that probably gave Arad the extra ammunition he needed to get Venom into the movie. In a way, it's easy to see where the producer was coming from at the time. If viewers learned Eddie Brock was going to be in Spider-Man 3, but he wasn't going to transform into Venom, then there would have been disappointment. Of course, people ended up disappointed anyway and Arad took the blame for how things turned out years later.