Warning: Spoilers for Venom!
Venom may have received some brutal reviews from critics but it still does something much better than the Marvel Cinematic Universe: call characters by their superhero/supervillain codenames without being embarassed.
In Venom, the titular antihero bonds with reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). What's more, he introduces himself to his unwilling human host as "Venom." The toothy, carnivorous alien also explains that they have to stop the symbiote team leader named "Riot", who ends up bonding with billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). They plot to bring more alien parasites to conquer the Earth, but regardless of how it's strange that they both have names in English that sound just like comic book codenames, the symbiotes are very comfortable just being called "Riot" and "Venom."
Related: Venom's Biggest Unanswered Questions
Many fans wish the superheroes of the MCU would be as proud of their names as Venom is. The Avengers actively shy away from using their codenames and they rarely refer to each other by their "made-up names", as Spider-Man (Tom Holland) calls them. After all, in Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man introduced himself to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as "Peter" first. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) may revel in being Iron Man, but he's actually more famous as his billionaire-genius-playboy civilian identity. The moment at the end of Iron Man when Stark impulsively told the press "I am Iron Man!" likely opened the door for the MCU to play very fast and loose with the comic book staple of codenames.
In the MCU, characters tend to tiptoe around using their codenames, which can be annoying. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) shies away from calling himself Captain America, leaving it to others to refer to him by that moniker. Others called out even having a codename: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) bristled at being called Ant-Man and he even apologetically told Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) that the codename "wasn't my idea". Meanwhile, the MCU's Spider-Man apparently didn't even name himself; he became known as "the Spider-Man of YouTube" thanks to the videos of his heroic deeds people uploaded onto the Internet. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) was called Iron Patriot in Iron Man 3, but he hasn't been referred to as War Machine properly since.
Still, there are Avengers who have not been referred to by their codenames at all. Fans know Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) as Scarlet Witch and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) as the Black Widow, but those codenames haven't been uttered on screen. Natasha being referred to as "Agent Romanoff" when she was part of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the closest she has come to using a codename, but maybe the Black Widow solo film will finally remedy this. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is similarly never called Hawkeye, though he was winkingly referred to as "the Hawk" in Thor. And as for Sam Wilson, his winged flight pack had the designation EXO-7 Falcon, but the hero himself doesn't seem to be called the Falcon. Overall, the MCU heroes who have headlined their own movies use their codenames more, which could be part of the reason by Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon have dodged being called by their comic book monikers.
Instead of fully embracing superhero names, the MCU tends to use them indirectly - like a drunken Stark challenging Rhodey by saying "You wanna be a War Machine?" in Iron Man 2 - or make offhand jokes about them. However, perhaps the biggest cause of codename rejection is that most MCU heroes avoid the secret identity trope, so they are much more free with just referring to each other by their real names. Even Spider-Man, who protects his real identity from the general public, has been more open about other superheroes knowing who he is, which is a big break from the comics.
Simply embracing the absurdity of the comics, right down the unexplained comic book names, is just another example of what makes Venom refreshing for fans. However, in the post-credits scene Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) drops a coy wink to his red symbiote's name, saying "There's gonna be carnage!" So maybe Venom does belong in the MCU after all.
- Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019