Saturday, April 13, 2019


Note: This review contains spoilers for Venom (2018).

Although I like to keep up with Superhero films, I haven’t necessarily had the desire to see all of them. Case in point, Venom (2018), released only last year by Sony. Simply put, the trailers didn’t appeal to me and I felt turned off by the inability to determine its actual place within Sony’s deal with Marvel Studios. It was only on a recent flight, however, that I decided to finally watch it to form my own opinion (and so I wouldn’t otherwise have to pay to see it). I realize now that I had initially made the right call to avoid it.

Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is looking for his big break when he uncovers information about the unethical practices of the Life Foundation, but loses his job when he confronts the company’s leader, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), about it during an interview. Eddie soon discovers that the Life Foundation is performing experiments with alien Symbiotes using unwitting human test subjects and, during an investigation, becomes infected with the Symbiote known as Venom (Tom Hardy). Though their agendas are wildly different, the two of them learn to work together to try and shut down the Life Foundation for good.

Venom (left; Tom Hardy) and Eddie Brock (right; Tom Hardy) learn to work together.

The most apparent thing about Venom is the uneven pacing. The first half takes its time to build up the stakes and explore the different characters, but this process is so slow that it’s about an hour in, out of a nearly two-hour running time, that the titular Venom finally makes a formal appearance (as in, completely bonded physically with Eddie Brock, teeth and all). After this, the story really picks up the pace, but at the cost of coherence. Plot points whizz by so fast that Venom’s character arc makes little sense and it seemed like the movie had skipped a few scenes to fit what showed up in the final product.

On that subject, there are a few things about Venom that don’t make sense. When he’s introduced, he establishes fairly quickly that he cares more about consuming food, especially human flesh, in his goal to conquer the world for his race. However, when he’s reunited with Eddie, following a separation, he’s suddenly willing to save humanity because Eddie changed his mind. There is, however, no indication of exactly how Eddie convinced him to change his ways, visually or verbally. During the fight with the Riot Symbiote (Riz Ahmed) towards the end of the movie, Venom also burns up in an explosion and says goodbye to Eddie, as though accepting his death, and yet he’s able to come back to life and attached himself back onto Eddie with no explanation as to how he survived. I’ll also point out that there’s no real explanation as to why it took Riot six months to get from Malaysia to San Francisco and attach himself to Carlton Drake.

Some aspects of Riot (Riz Ahmed) go underdeveloped or unexplained.

That said, Venom’s inherent weakness to certain frequencies is cleverly woven into the movie. For example, when it seems that Eddie Brock has gone crazy, following him unknowingly becoming Venom’s host, he’s taken to the hospital for an MRI scan, but the frequency causes Eddie to shake violently within the machine and the scan to completely malfunction. A similar visual effect is used consistently throughout when the Symbiotes hear certain frequencies.

Aside from this, however, the special effects weren’t really that great. They sort of towed the line between impressively fluid, for animating the Symbiotes, and kind of bad due to the texturing used for them.

Of course, I do have to mention one particular scene, since everyone else has brought it up, specifically the part where Eddie and Venom make out. The context, which I hadn’t heard beforehand, is that Venom had bonded with Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), Eddie’s ex-girlfriend, after she had separated him from Eddie. This turns her into She-Venom, who finds Eddie and makes out with him, transferring the Symbiote in the process. Seeing this scene in context helped it make more sense, but got weird again when Anne implied that the kiss was Venom’s idea. Make of that what you will.

Apart from the obligatory cameo from the late Stan Lee, there’s also an appearance from Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady, traditionally the host of the Carnage Symbiote, during a mid-credits scene. Terrible wig aside, this scene goes out of its way to plug a possible Carnage movie, which wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility considering Venom made back at least eight times its budget of $100 million, with $855 million in box office returns.

Woody Harrelson plays serial killer Cletus Kasady
in a blatant plug for a Carnage movie.

This brings me to an interesting timeline of events concerning the creation of Venom (2018), which had apparently been in the works for over 20 years. To simplify it, a script had been written for a Venom-based movie in 1997 for New Line Cinema, but the project didn’t go anywhere and Sony obtained the film rights to Spider-Man. Venom was then rolled into Spider-Man 3 (2007), with Eddie Brock portrayed by Topher Grace, with plans to develop a Venom spinoff alongside other Spider-Man sequels. These plans fell through until Sony rebooted the franchise with the Amazing Spider-Man series of films, which included plans to feature Venom, among other villains, in standalone films. This, too, fell through after the disastrous reception to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Sony ultimately struck a deal with Marvel Studios to share the Spider-Man films rights. Venom was eventually revived in 2016 with the intention of making it completely separate from any other Spider-Man films or the MCU, to the point of originally going for an R-rating, but was ultimately toned down to PG-13, partially to leave the possibility open of crossing over with the MCU version of Spider-Man.

Speaking of Spider-Man, it feels like the presence of Spider-Man would’ve helped Venom’s story, if only to help make a stronger connection with the character’s roots. The closest thing to it is an extended preview of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which turned out to be the most entertaining thing in all of Venom’s runtime.

Venom is, simply put, not a very good movie. The story doesn’t make too much sense, not helped by the bad pacing and the feeling that the plot had skipped major scenes. The acting is decent, but the effects, in spite of some clever moments, aren’t that great and Riot and Venom both have issues with character development. I’d really only suggest this movie to die-hard Venom and Spider-Man fans, but even they wouldn’t really be missing much if they decided to skip it.

No comments:

Post a Comment