Venom 2 couldn't be in better hands, visually, than Robert Richardson's. The Oscar-winning DP and frequent Tarantino and Martin Scorsese collaborator made Film Twitter clutch its collective pearls (and sigh some relief) when it was announced that the Once Upon a Time In Hollywood shooter was taking on camera duties on this Sony/Marvel sequel directed by Andy Serkis. Richardson's decision to shoot his first comic book movie, especially one featuring a Marvel character, was a head-scratcher. So why did he do it?
“I was looking forward to entering into that arena with [The] Batman years ago with [director and star] Ben [Affleck]," Richardson explained to Collider. "I thought, ‘Well this is something I haven’t done that I would love to try to do.' And then Andy Serkis, who I worked with on Breathe, gave me a call a month ago and said that he was up for [Venom 2] and would I be willing. I’d seen the first film. I watched it again, then they sent me a script [for the sequel] and I felt like, yeah, I would say 'yes' anyway to Andy just because I would say yes to Andy."
Richardson also believes the sequel to the 2018 box office hit (but critical failure) will give audiences and fans of Venom something new that the genre hasn't explored before -- especially with Woody Harrelson coming onboard the sequel to play Venom's nemesis, Carnage.
"I also think it’s a great… I think it’s unexplored -- yet, and it’s going to explode, and this film, I think, will help it explode, because you have a remarkable central character with Venom, but now you’ve got Woody Harrelson, who’s going to obviously make his own little entrance here, and we’ll see what else comes in with the Sony Marvel collaboration. I look forward to it. It’s a massive change for me, but I’m excited. I think Hardy is one of our best. He never misses. I so look forward to sitting with him and watching him perform."
Who knew Richardson was a bug Tom Hardy fan?
What's exciting here is Richardson lending his pedigree to a genre whose visual palette of late tends to be very pedestrian. But Richardson intends to maintain some visual continuity between his sequel and the first film, which was shot by Iron Man and A Star Is Born DP Matthew Libatique.
“That actually hasn’t been determined in a lot of ways, but I do think that you have to honor what Matty did – you can’t not. We’re going to use locations that are already established. They’re going to be lit in what I hope is exactly the same way, so that you don’t feel that there’s a disconnect from that film to this film ... that’s yet to be discussed because I haven’t yet sat with Andy in London. He’s over there now. I don’t go until the beginning of September. I’m in the process of getting my visa, and then when I go over that will become my life — with VFX, with storyboards, with, we get more into, 'Well, how do we think we’re going to make this look?'
Venom's visual aesthetic was met with negative reactions from critics, so we hope Richardson doesn't give too much (if any) fidelity to it. We want to see what a comic book movie shot by Robert Richardson looks like, not a comic book movie shot by Robert Richardson in the style of someone else. Especially what that style was problematic and meh at best.
What You Can Learn
Outside from going outside your comfort zone, like Richardson is doing here, it's vital to make key outside-the-box choices when you are in a place in your career when you can afford to. Especially on a tentpole like this, it is easier to get a name guy like Richardson to take over the visuals of your film. But what if you're not at that level of studio filmmaking yet? A similar principle can be applied to your indie production.
If you're shooting an action movie, maybe find someone who usually only shoots chamber pieces or dramas to give the project a visual flare that may be refreshing. You'll also likely find, like in Richardson's case, you're helping a fellow filmmaker scratch a long-standing itch by giving them a chance to tackle something they haven't done before.
Venom 2 hits theaters October 2, 2020.