Oh man. This movie is weird.
It’s not a good movie… but I found myself liking it.
Venom is a Sony Pictures movie based on the classic Spider-Man villain. One of the problems here is that Spider-Man is neither part of the origin nor is in this film.
It’s kind of like if you made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and had the Turtles learn the art of Ninjitsu not by the careful training of a Ninja master, but by reading a book found in the sewer.
I mean honestly, they could have become anything then. Teenage Mutant Mechanic Turtles. Teenage Mutant Gardening Turtles. Teenage Mutant Pilates Turtles.
Sorry… I’m tangenting. Back to this movie.
Venom stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock – a kind of “down-on-his-luck” loser-doofus that is an investigative reporter.
Some goo slime arrives from space and it eventually gets on him (I’m keeping this spoiler free remember) and it turns out this goo slime has thoughts and feelings and is an alien parasite, a “symbiote” if you will, that tries to bond with its host for the mutual benefit of both organisms.
This goo slime calls itself Venom and it likes Eddie. They go on an adventure together where they beat up guys and try to get back with Eddie’s former girlfriend and have to fight another big monster goo slime symbiote.
Those are the basics of this film and it’s actually kind of fun.
Venom (the goo slime) is not a hero by any means. He’s kind of a dick, even by alien standards.
Eddie is kind of a weird loser and Tom Hardy plays him like a mix between the Edgarsuit Bug from Men In Black and every Owen Wilson character.
Tom Hardy is engaging to watch, and I admittedly have not seen everything he has ever been in, but he plays Eddie Brock with a charming vulnerability that I found refreshing. He tackles the hard job of acting like there is something else inside of him fighting for control and still making him sympathetic and likable.
While this sounds like a good quality for the lead in a Comic Book Superhero film… it’s a little weird for the character of Venom.
You see, Venom started off life as a Spider-Man villain. In fact, his whole origin story is based on the premise that Spider-Man is responsible for his creation. Venom wouldn’t exist otherwise.
In the 80’s there was a comics event called Secret Wars that brought together all the popular Marvel Heroes and Villians to fight on a “Battleworld” somewhere out in space. It was really created just to sell a line of action figures by the same name. Spidey’s costume got trashed in one of the fights and he finds a machine that creates a new costume for him. This costume was radically different from the classic blue and red duds he had worn for years. It was all jet black with only a striking white spider logo and white eyes to break it up. It had cool features that made it instantly valuable to Peter Parker. It could change its appearance to be Peter’s everyday street clothes, and it even had its own webbing. Peter didn’t have to worry about his webshooters breaking or him running out of web fluid.
As a kid in the 80’s, I LOVED the design. I thought it looked so much cooler than the old red and black and my black costume Spidey Secret Wars figure was one of my favorites.
So fast forward a little bit and the writers decide to make this black costume actually alive. In fact, it tries to “bond” with Peter, and Peter enlists Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) to help him get rid of it. It seems a certain sound frequency weakens and damages it. Peter eventually thinks he is rid of the costume when the sound of the bells of a church seems to destroy it.
Of course, the costume is not destroyed, just injured and hurting. It lies in wait until it senses the desperation of another human… one Eddie Brock.
Eddie Brock was a respected journalist for the Daily Globe that had busted wide open a serial killer case. He got the exclusive confessions of the “Sin Eater” and sales for the Daily Globe were soaring. Unfortunately, the confessions he got were actually from a pathological liar and not the real killer. The real killer was captured by Spider-Man and Eddie was promptly fired and his career destroyed.
Brock went on to write the only gigs he could find. Tabloid trash mags and other venomous scandal rags. At his wit’s end, he visits a church hoping to find solace. He wants to end his life but knows that’s not the right thing to do. The costume senses Eddie’s feelings – feels his hatred for the one that also hurt it… Spider-Man. Their shared hatred for the famed wall-crawler makes them kindred spirits. The symbiotic costume joins Eddie and together they become Venom – named after the garbage that Eddie had been forced to write to make ends meet.
They eventually find and confront Spidey and there have been many comic battles since.
Venom is misguided. The things they blame Peter for aren’t really Peter’s fault. Peter didn’t understand the intentions of the alien symbiote and got rid of it thinking it was trying to harm him. Eddie’s lack of integrity in vetting his source for the confessions are what cost him his career, not Spider-man.
Venom also has a sense of justice and tries not to take innocent life. The only person they want to kill is Peter Parker. Sometimes others have gotten in the way of that and have died, but it saddens them to have to take human life.
This led to Venom being spun off into being more of an antihero, as long as Spidey wasn’t around (they sometimes had to team up to fight a nastier villain). He had a series in the 1990’s subtitled “Lethal Protector” where they moved to San Francisco and fought other bad guys and evil symbiotes.
That series is what this movie was loosely based off of.
We already talked about Tom Hardy. Rounding out the rest of the cast are Riz Ahmed and Jenny Slate as Carlton Drake and Dr. Dora Skirth, both who are part of the sinister Life Foundation. Michelle Williams plays Anne Weying, Eddie’s girlfriend.
Riz does a good job with his bad dialogue. It’s very on-the-nose stuff like literally saying “What is that guy doing?” and other very direct lines that lack any bit of subtlety. His Carlton Drake is an Elon Musk type. A young genius that has a big company and even bigger aspirations.
Michelle Williams is barely in this thing, but she gets a couple of good moments. I kept thinking to myself while watching this “Why did she agree to this movie?” The paycheck must have been nice.
So the story figures out a way to create Venom without Spidey’s involvement. It’s… acceptable. I guess.
Without Spidey’s involvement, that just leaps us right past all the “Venom is a Bad Guy” stuff and lands him as an Anti-Hero.
That’s fine. It works for the story they are trying to tell and is enjoyable enough.
In fact, I can’t imagine Spider-Man living in this world they have set up.
I found the biggest problem with this movie is the tone. It looks really dark and gritty. The story wants to be serious and hard-hitting. It feels like it was meant to be more mature… and originally it was. They shot it with an R-rating in mind and then cut it down to a PG-13.
I actually think it was a wise choice.
Tom Hardy isn’t acting in an R-Rated movie. I can’t imagine how his bizarre antics would ever fit in a movie that wasn’t trying to be funny. He is certainly playing many scenes for laughs. Venom himself is constantly making jokes and there is a considerable amount of slapstick humor in this movie. Seeing Venom leap around the darkness with his GIANT TOOTHY GRIN is in a word, silly.
This could have been an action-horror-comedy directed by Sam Raimi. It really has a “cult” feel to it.
I think if this came out before Marvel Studios came on the scene it may have been hailed as a strong entry into comics cinema. It feels like the “Pre MCU” Comic Book movies of yore.
Marvel has really stepped up the game and Sony shows us again they don’t “quite” get it yet. They tried pretty hard with this one though.
To sum it up… Venom is funny and goofy and has decent action and special effects. I had fun.
Oh yeah, there are two after-credits sequences in this movie. If you really have to pee, the second can be safely skipped as it really has nothing to do with the movie.