Reel Talk

The Baffling Experience of Venom

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I imagine that it’s fairly clear that I’m a huge fan of comics. I spend a shocking amount of my time writing about the adventures of various people who dress up in ridiculous costumes and punch other people in ridiculous costumes. And, one of the superheroes that I have the most affection for, and who I end up talking about a lot on this site, is good old Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. I love Spider-Man, and have some pretty strong beliefs regarding all sorts of aspects of his character. Especially his villains. Spider-Man has some of the absolute best villains in comics, filling out a rogue’s gallery of fascinating and fun antagonists. And then there’s Venom. I don’t like Venom. I’ve never liked Venom. But I feel like I’m drastically in the minority on that one. People seem to find Venom absolutely fascinating, especially based on the staggering amount of comics and other forms of media that he’s appeared in. There are some aspects of the character I like, but generally I find Venom to be right up there with Cable as a perfect representation of everything I hate about late-eighties and nineties comics. I’ve enjoyed some versions of the character, primarily the Agent Venom character, but the classic Eddie Brock flavor? Can’t muster more than general disinterest. So, imagine how thrilled I was to find out that Sony, a film studio that seems to be fueled on bad ideas, decided to make a movie all about Venom. And, to sweeten the deal, they made it completely unattached to Spider-Man in any way, taking away the one interesting aspect of the character there is. And guess what? It’s a mess!

Venom follows the exploits of a man named Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist living in San Francisco who spends his time riding his motorcycle around town uncovering corruption, hanging out with his high-power lawyer girlfriend Anne, and standing up for the little guy. So, when he gets the opportunity to interview Carlton Drake, a powerful pharmaceutical magnate who owns a massive company called the Life Foundation. And, Eddie immediately starts antagonizing Drake, bringing up rumors of unethical human experimentation, which makes Eddie a very powerful enemy. Drake makes sure that Eddie is fired, and even gets Anne fired, ending their engagement. Drake then goes back to conducting unethical human experimentation. Because apparently the Life Foundation, which is a pharmaceutical company, has a space division, and has been sending astronauts to comets in order to find cures for diseases. They didn’t accomplish that, but they did find found sentient piles of goo that they call symbiotes. Drake believes that if he can successfully bond human beings to the symbiotes they can travel in space, so he begins testing the symbiosis on a variety of homeless people, which almost always results in gruesome deaths.

Eventually one of the scientists working at the Life Foundation decides that all the murder is too much to handle, and heads out to get Eddie Brock to help expose it all. He’s been living in a crappy apartment, barely holding it together, and he decides to check out the Life Foundation to give himself a new purpose. And, while checking out the Foundation, he ends up encountering one of the symbiotes. It climbs onto him, and he’s then able to escape the lab, before finding a whole slew of strange effects. He’s hearing a voice in his head, he’s constantly hungry, and he seems to have increased strength and speed. But, when some mercenaries from the Life Foundation show up to kill him, he finds that the symbiote is able to cover him, becoming a monstrous being called Venom. Venom helps Eddie escape the mercenaries, and explains to Eddie that he’s an alien being who was sent here with three other beings to take over the Earth. But, Venom now wants to defend the Earth, and decides to help Eddie. Eddie does briefly lose Venom after looking to Anne and her new boyfriend for help, but the two are eventually reunited in order to stop the leader of Venom’s invasion force, Riot, who has bonded with Carlton Drake. Drake is using his pharmaceutical rockets to get himself and Riot into space in order to bring back an invasion force, and Venom is the only one who can stop him. Venom and Riot have a huge fight at the Life Foundation that quickly devolves into a bunch of ugly CGI, ending with Venom breaking the fuel tanks so that the rocket explodes, burning up Riot and Drake. Eddie and Venom then find a way to life together, becoming a superhero who is perfectly fine with eating people.

 

 

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This movie is rough. I wasn’t really anticipating this film to be anything other than an unmitigated disaster, but when reviews for it started coming out, I was a little caught off guard. People were certainly saying it was terrible, but they were saying it was enjoyably terrible. And I don’t think I’d even go that far. It’s a weird movie, one of the weirdest blockbusters I’ve seen in a long time, but it never got so weird that I felt like I was having a good time. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s shot pretty well. Other than that? Nothing works. The effects are terrible, the plot doesn’t make much sense, the acting is all over the place, and it just generally felt like a film that was somehow able to travel through time. This movie screams 2003, from the Eminem song over the credits to the strange reluctance to even show Venom, to the general disinterest in actually telling a superhero story. Tom Hardy has gone on record that almost everything he liked about the movie was cut, and I think that makes sense, because I have no idea why he would take this role. Other than money of course, I mean, that’s probably the reason. But it just seems like such a weird decision for him. Especially when you watch the movie, and realize that Tom Hardy is in a completely different movie from everyone else. He’s over-acting, putting in a goofy comedic performance, and generally seems to realize that he’s in the dumbest movie of the year. Everyone else though? Taking it deadly seriously, making Tom Hardy’s insane performance that much more bizarre.

I don’t think that a movie about Venom was ever going to be good. And that’s not even just my lack of interest in the character speaking. I just don’t see Eddie Brock as a character that works as a functional protagonist. If this had been an Agent Venom movie with Flash Thompson in the lead, it could have worked. But, instead, we’re given a character that is inextricably linked to Spider-Man, removed from Spider-Man. Yeah, the origin of Venom doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, what with Spider-Man receiving the symbiote from a vending machine on an alien planet, but the context of Spider-Man just makes things make more sense. I mean, why does Venom’s eyes look like Spider-Man’s eyes? It’s just weird! And, by taking a villain that is completely and thoroughly linked to one of the most well-known superheroes and assuming he can stand on his own two legs is a wild idea. And it did not pay off. Nothing about the movie makes sense, which I guess tracks now that we know a significant portion of it was cut out. You just end up spending the entire time staring at the screen, wondering how in the world this movie was allowed to be made. And, now I’ve contributed to the financial success of this film along with everyone else who saw it out of morbid curiosity. And I have to live with that shame.

 

Venom was written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel, and directed by Ruben Fleischer, and released by Sony Pictures Releasing, 2018.

 

 

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