Sure, superheroes like Batman are engaging vigilante justice, but they're typically on the same side as the law. Venom, though, isn't like normal superheroes. The symbiote first appeared as a Spider-Man villain, though he's more recently been a sort of anti-hero who won't hesitate to eat or dismember his enemies. In Venom, starring Tom Hardy, the symbiote and his host Eddie Brock end up saving the day, but not before causing quite a stir in San Francisco, breaking more than a few bones — and laws — in the process.
How many crimes, exactly, did Eddie and Venom commit during the course of the movie? SYFY WIRE reached out to the San Francisco District Attorney's office, and prosecutor Alex Bastian agreed to lay down the law for us. We've put all of the definite and potential crimes in bold, to really drive home the extent of his crime spree.
"It starts out with him breaking into the facility," Bastian tells SYFY WIRE, explaining that it doesn't matter that Jenny Slate's character, Dora Skirth, let him into the Life Foundation's lab. "That's definitely trespassing, potentially commercial burglary as well if you can establish a felonious intent," he continues. "Perhaps it was trade secrets."
When Eddie makes his escape from the lab, he might be looking at two counts of assault and battery because of the guards he attacks, plus vandalism charges for destroying a door and a gate.
During the scene where Eddie climbs into a lobster tank at a fancy restaurant, Bastian says he might have committed some additional assaults, though they would probably be misdemeanors. "I guess you could say something about him eating the food, that would be theft," he adds.
But, it's not all bad news for Eddie and Venom. Sometimes, the law is on the pair's side.
"Everything that happens in his house, that's all self-defense," Bastian says of Venom's beat-down of the Life Foundation's hired goons that try to attack Eddie his apartment. "There's a Castle Doctrine that's applicable. When they went into his apartment, he would have a presumption in his favor."
When he jumps through a window and crashes through a neighboring apartment window, disrupting their game night, Eddie might have committed additional counts of trespass and vandalism, but that's debatable.
"There's also this concept, and a lot of things are going to be shrouded in this, called necessity," Bastian says, explaining that in some cases, it's possible to argue that some crimes can be defended if they were needed in order to avoid a worse outcome. If Eddie needed to jump through their window to escape his attackers, that's taken into consideration.
Same goes for the subsequent chase scene, where Eddie's motorcycle theft (unlawful taking of a vehicle), breaking off a car door to use as a shield (vandalism), and reckless driving could all feasibly fall under this necessity defense.
Bastian says Eddie and Venom go on to commit another act of trespass when they break into Eddie's old office, followed by "assault on a cop times however many SWAT officers there were there, and resisting arrest."
In the notes he took while watching Venom, Bastian says he then wrote "'murder , with a question mark,'" because "Venom probably bit someone's head off again."
Venom's habit of decapitating and eating his foes is complicated, legally speaking.
"It's never defensible when you eat someone's head, but during a robbery someone has a gun pointed at you, there are going to be some self-defense issues," Bastian says.
What crimes did Eddie and Venom commit during the climactic battle against the Riot symbiote?
"With the exploding spaceship? You mean when the guy was trying to protect the world from destruction?" Bastian says. "I think that no prosecutor in their right mind would ever charge that, in any context. Quite frankly, if you're saving the world, I think there should be a defense. I think that should be taken into consideration."
"When you're saving the world, I think you should get a pass," he adds.
So, as a prosecutor with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, what would Bastian charge Eddie with? Perhaps the better question is what could he charge him with.
"The initial part of the movie was a lot easier to make the determination on whether or not he was doing something wrong. For example, trespassing onto the laboratory premises. That was somewhat easy," he says. "But, after that, because of the extraterrestrial activity and all these other parts of the story, it becomes harder and harder to prosecute anyone in this context."
"It's one of those things where we would have to see if this incident ever occurs in real life," he says with a laugh.