New Movie Review: ‘Venom’ (2018)

In the two thousand and eighteenth year of our Lord, Sony Pictures, yet again, begins their attempt to craft a universe, a cinematic universe, to rival that of Marvel. This idea’s been floating around since the ill-fated years of the Amazing Spider-Maniverse, with rumors swirling of Venom movies, Sinister Six movies, and (god forbid) a young Aunt May prequel. And it finally happened. Here it is, here we stand, amidst the pinnacle of their achievement and…Sony…what did it cost…? 

Venom (2018); Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Right off the bat, I’d like to state that Venom is a weird movie. It has a weird tone, weird character choices, it’s just…weird. Honestly, I’m a little baffled this got made. I don’t think it was very good, and yet, I enjoyed it all the same.

Allow me to elaborate, watching Venom is the same feeling you get when you eat McDonald’s: it’s not all that good, it doesn’t quite taste like you think it should, you know it’s not good for you, and despite all that, you kind of enjoy it anyway. Venom was weird and terrible but I thoroughly enjoyed how weird and terrible it was. Ruben Fleischer clearly had a vision in mind and, by god, did he bring that to the screen. Venom is, on one hand, your typical superhero origin story and, on the other hand, a bizarre Cronenberg body-horror…except it’s played for laughs. Whatever you thought this movie would be, it’s actually more of an action-comedy than anything else.

The performances are very good, better than the movie they’re in. Particularly Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock who gives this movie 110% and I am so here for it. Direction, action, and comedy are all decent; despite decreasing in quality and increasing in weirdness as the picture progresses.

If you are interested in comics or weird, nonsense action-comedies, I’d recommend it; if not, definitely give it a pass.

 

Ye Be Warned; Spoiler Section Ahead!

I am baffled by Venom. This movie has baffled me. I’m at a loss for words. Okay, not really, I’ve got a lot to say, despite being completely and utterly baffled.

To its credit, the movie actually starts off quite interesting, with the intense arrival of the symbiotes (and a nice little J. Jonah Jameson Jr cameo) and the setup of Eddie Brock. I actually ended up really liking Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock. While his performance is good, the way Eddie and Venom are written is just terrible, but we’ll get to that. His accent wasn’t as weird and terrible as it was in the trailers, except when he really starts slurring and slobbering. Annie (played by the ever wonderful Michelle Williams) is really compelling as the love interest and I want to see her and Eddie interact a lot more than they actually do over the course of the movie. Riz Ahmed is so god damn charming and (until the third act) one of the most intriguing parts of the film, a villain who actually may be nice (nice, not good, mind you) with interesting goals and motivations. But this is all in the first twenty minutes. It’s all downhill from here…

And yet, like a horrible car accident, it just spirals into destruction so fast, but not quickly enough. you can’t look away, you shouldn’t look away, and…it happens all the same.

The movie just gets progressively weirder and weirder as it goes on. Bits and pieces are good, but as a cohesive film, it’s just a mess. Switching from body horror to bad one-liners with the snap of a finger. These problems get worse and worse as the film progresses. It starts to go off the rails with the motorcycle escape from kamikaze drones and just kind of continues to derail all the way to the end, where Riot and Venom fight and it’s basically an incompressible nightmare of sticky bodies and “badass” action quips. A finale so boring and generic, I think it was the only portion of the film I actually overtly disliked.  Overall, the film is more of a comedy-action than anything else. It’s not bad per say, it’s just not very good. Entertaining, yes. Quality film, well, no.

My biggest gripe with this movie is Eddie and Venom’s arc and personality. Now, I’ll say right off the bat, you absolutely do not have to replicate a character’s arc and personality from the comics for the movie to be good. Venom can be quite silly, at times, in the comics and the movie tries very hard to bring in the silly side, which is a good idea. They just don’t quite pull it off.

Venom Comic Panel

Venom can be funny if written well, in the movie he just kind of…isn’t?

The actual spoken dialogue-based “jokes” are painfully unfunny for the most part, with a couple that work quite well. A lot of the situational humor in this actually phenomenal, I got more than a few Hardy hearty laughs there.  The scene with Eddie freaking out in the diner is incredible, thank god for Tom Hardy and everything he does for us. Going for the sillier side of the character is a neat take, but they also try and make him edgy and badass, which in theory, isn’t a terrible idea But, somewhere along the road, they really missed the core of Venom. The only conflict is basically: “Eddie doesn’t know what Venom is, then he does; he doesn’t like Venom, then he does”. The plot is flat and unoriginal, the actors here wasted by the script. It’s just kind of generic and lame, missing the charm and complexity of the character in the source material.

Lady Venom was neat to see for the ten seconds she was in it.

Also, the scene where Venom is a dog was weird and terrible and I hated it

Venom, sort of like Sony Pictures, is a hot mess, but I’m kind of curious to see what they do next. It’s not a good movie but it’s a damn entertaining one.

 

Post Credits Post Script:

  • Okay, Sony, yeah, we wanted Woody Harrelson as Cletus/Carnage….ten bloody years ago. This has got to be the silliest, most awful cameo I’ve seen this year. What the fuck was that wig? I mean, Jesus… absolutely terrible.
  • The Into the Spider-Verse teaser was fantastic and Sony should bail on everything else and just put all of their money into this because it looks AMAZING.

 

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