SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR COLUMBIA PICTURES’ NEW FILM, VENOM
I can’t say that I was all that excited about Venom, but that lack of interest wasn’t so much about the circumstances surrounding Sony’s new movie as it was that the character just isn’t one of my guys.
I think the symbiote idea is very cool and I’ve read plenty of Venom comics – though almost nothing featuring the seemingly endless number of other symbiotes – but aside from the cool aesthetics I never latched on. My favorite iteration is probably the Flash Thompson version as written by Rick Remender and later, Cullen Bunn.
All of that might actually make me the best kind of audience member for Sony’s film, for which you have to accept the idea that Venom’s origin has absolutely nothing to do with Spider-Man. Since I don’t have the same affection for Venom that I do for say, Forge, I was ready to accept variations on how the character came to be and evolved. As long as I got some good, old-fashioned symbiote tendril, creepy-crawly action.
Did the film deliver? Read on.
1 – 99 Problems – If I wanted to, I could write a review that pointed out everything that was wrong with this movie. And I’ll note a few things. But it delivered enough fun and razzle-dazzle that it earned a pass for its narrative shortcomings.
Here’s a comment I posted on Facebook to sort of explain how I judge movies:
I have problems when movies don’t have the right balance between entertainment value and intellectual correctness (for lack of a better term). A fun movie can play fast and loose with physics, accuracy, and all kinds of “facts”. If there are going to be plot holes and characters doing dumb things, there had better be plenty of jokes, punching, and explosions to distract me.
Venom hit the right balance for me. But that’s not to say that a couple of things didn’t stand out.
2 – Edgy Space Names – The symbiotes already have names like “Venom” and “Riot” when they arrive on Earth. That’s dumb. But it’s comic book dumb and this is a very comic book movie, so whatever.
3 – Like A Turd… In The Wind… – Venom already has a modern, conversational American vocabulary and speaking style, complete with slang. He probably absorbed all of that as soon as he bonded with Eddie, but I don’t believe that was explicitly stated and it probably should have been.
But again – this movie wears its comic book origins on its sleeve (even if it doesn’t actually use Venom’s comic origins), so it gets a pass. There’s too much action and fun to be had to worry about why Venom is comfortable saying things like, “You feel me?” Honestly it just adds to the laughs, of which there are many.
FULL DISCLOSURE – Venom may not have specifically said “You feel me?”, but he said something close.
4 – A Hoot And A Holler – This movie is SO MUCH FUN. While there are some serious themes and a genuinely good redemption story, in no way is it a pile of grimdark trying to take itself too seriously. Venom knows exactly how ridiculous it’s being and it revels in it throughout the film.
5 – Dodgy Effects – Sometimes the CGI isn’t great. Although if Black Panther didn’t bother you, this won’t, either. It’s tons better than those rhinos.
6 – That Evil Industrialist, OOOOH! – The villain is very generic. But tropes are tropes for a reason. Riz Ahmed does a fine job as Carlton Drake, although honestly he could’ve gone a lot bigger and wilder. Still, he’s shitty and menacing and just the right kind of unlikable to make things work.
7 – I Love This Place! – When Venom has a change of heart, it sort of comes out of nowhere. This is my biggest and only real issue with the movie. We could’ve used a little more Venom/Eddie time to establish that the extraterrestrial was starting to love Earth. There are a couple of spots where it’s mentioned, but more would’ve been nice.
Again – this is one of those things where nuance was sacrificed for pacing. We don’t have time for a buddy montage set to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”; we’ve got bad guys to pulverize.
8 – Perfect Strangers – Eddie and Venom are wonderful. I would put them up there with Tango and Cash, Riggs and Murtaugh, and Larry and Balki. Tom Hardy provides Venom’s voice and it is amazing to hear the differences in the two characters as you watch them interact.
9 – Yes, The Accent Works – Tom Hardy has created a great Eddie Brock. The guy is kind of an asshole, but also very relatable. While he has some noble tendencies, he is also very much the clueless jabroni along for the ride. His physical comedy is on par with early Bruce Campbell, I shit you not. When Venom takes control, watching Hardy get jerked around while being absolutely terrified and confused never gets old.
10 – Venom 3:16 Says I Just Whooped Your Ass – Since our villain, Carlton Drake, is a gazillionaire he has plenty of bad guys to throw at Eddie and Venom. It is one of the many ongoing delights of the movie to see a near-constant deluge of henchmen getting maimed, mutilated, and otherwise mauled.
11 – The Main Event – Surprising no one, Drake symbiosizes with one of the other symbiotes – their leader, Riot. This leads to a Final Showdown with Eddie/Venom that’s visually outstanding. You’d think two dueling symbiotes of barely differing hues might get confusing to watch, but the filmmakers did a great job of making things clear and fun to watch. Far easier to follow than say, Optimus Prime versus grey Decepticon #3.
12 – Wait – A Love Story? – Michelle Williams – who I adore – plays Eddies’ fiancé Anne Weying. Shockingly, the movie does a very nice job of showing the relationship fall apart and then… get better-ish. And if you’re more of a Venom superfan than me, I’ll answer the question you might have about her character – yes, she does. And it’s awesome.
13 – Dr. Dan – After Eddie ruins his relationship with Anne, we catch up six months later while she’s dating a new guy, Dr. Dan Lewis (charmingly portrayed by Reid Scott). In many films he’d be a jerk, but unfortunately for Eddie Dr. Dan is a pretty great guy.
Seeing the two interact is tons of fun, and it gets even more interesting when Venom enters into the mix.
14 – Yes, A Love Story – Now that I’m thinking back on it, Carlton Drake and the villainous symbiote, Riot, almost take a backseat to Eddie and Anne. What made me realize this is looking back at a scene from the end of the movie where the two are talking and Venom says “We’re going to get her back”.
I don’t care about any other symbiotes or rich industrialists or even Spider-Man showing up – I want a sequel that’s just Eddie and Venom trying to woo Anne away from Dr. Dan. A full-on romantic comedy. Bring the Farrelly brothers in to direct. I’m down.
15 – The Post-Credits Scenes – Okay, it’s time to go down, down to spoiler town!
The first post-credits scene features Woody Harrelson(!) as Cletus Kasady(!) in the most hilarious effing red wig(!) I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how Carnage might come to be in this very different vision of the Venom-verse, but Harrelson chewed the shit out of the scenery and made me curious to find out (although I still don’t want to see Carnage as much as I want to see Venom Too: It Takes Two to Woo).
The second post-credits scene is almost a cheat and comes across as a very cynical move by Sony. But it’s fantastic, so I forgive them.
Just before Venom’s credits come to a close, roughly five minutes of footage from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse roll.
Phantomaniacs – the trailers have not done this movie justice (and I really like the trailers). The animation is gorgeous. The little bits of the characters we get to see are charming as all get out, and the humor is more Pixar than DreamWorks. My son and I were both in love with what we saw and wanted more immediately.
I feel that Into the Spider-Verse has the potential to open up a whole new way of telling comic book stories and becoming almost a new market for Marvel/Disney.
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