What a time for San Francisco film fans to be alive. Matrix 4 has been shooting here all month, granting sightings of Keanu Reeves and stuntmen hurtling off buildings and keeping Financial District residents up nights with the sounds of gunfire and low-flying helicopters. But now that mega-production has been joined by another with Venom 2 rolling into town.
What is ‘Venom’?
You’re forgiven if you don’t remember this 2018 film set in San Francisco. It tracked well, earning more than $850 million in worldwide box office receipts, but the movie wasn’t a critical darling. It wasn’t even a fanboy darling. The film was spun as the origin story to hard-charging and quickly disgraced — San Francisco investigative journalist Eddie Brock who becomes host to a symbiote.
What is ‘Venom 2’?
In a post-credit sequence from the previous film, Brock visits San Quentin Prison to interview serial killer Cletus Kasady, who lives in a literal cage a la Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs. A gleeful Woody Harrelson in a red curly hairpiece plays Cletus, who promises, When I get out of here, and I will, there’s going to be carnage.
Again, let’s consult the comic books. Kasady was a character in the Spider-Man comics who also came in contact with a symbiote. The math on this one was also interesting: serial killer + alien parasite = a villain with no scruples. Kasady took the name Carnage and became a red version of Venom who mostly manipulated the form of the symbiote to turn his hands into axes or swords or whatever else would kill people.
Serkis comes to town
Accompanying Venom 2 is a change in directors. Ruben Fleischer helmed Venom to huge ticket sales but a poor critical reception. Andy Serkis will try to improve upon that with Venom 2. The actor-turned-filmmaker is well-known for his mastery of motion-capture performance, even running his own studio in London. In his own work as a director, he has used the technique in his reworking of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
San Francisco plays itself
Only after shooting at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in Watford, England, did Venom 2 move to the city where it is actually set. Funnily enough, the movie codenamed Fillmore is not shooting either in that neighborhood or that venue. Announced locations include the Tenderloin, North Beach, Nob Hill, Potrero Hill and the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District.
But the most spectacular location is no doubt the Palace of Fine Arts, the Bernard Maybeck-designed relic of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. With its lagoon, rotunda and lighting, it is a dramatic backdrop, particularly at night. Certainly, a behind-the-scenes shot from Hardy’s own Instagram account suggests as much.