I just caught VENOM last night, and I gotta tell ya. It was… a whole thing. Normally I try to make these reviews as spoiler free as possible, but in order for me to properly discuss some things about the movie, I’m going to have to make this review spoiler-lite.
So WARNING! WARNING!!! SPOILER-LITE REVIEW. If I haven’t made it clear, that means there’s spoilers ahead!
At long last, VENOM is about to come out. There’s been so much speculation about how is any of this going to work? With or Without Spider-Man? What will Sony do with a stand-alone Venom? WHY?!
Even if you go into the movie knowing NOTHING about Venom or the Symbiotes, none of it works, none of it makes sense, there’s so many questions left unanswered, most of all there’s no goddamn Spider-Man--Except for...well, we’ll get to that.
Before the movie ever started, people were snickering in the theater when it said “In Association with MARVEL.”
The set-up begins with a space shuttle sponsored by the Life Foundation (or as the movie constantly calls it, a rocket) returning to Earth. Something goes horribly wrong, and it crashes right into the ground in Malaysia. Life Foundation goes out to the crash site to see what they can recover, and they find one astronaut (who I think they said was J. Johan Jameson III, but I can’t confirm that with the IMDB currently) is somehow alive. Immediately he is put into an ambulance to be rushed to the hospital. On the way, the astronaut sits up and reveals that he has a symbiotic alien within his body, by killing one EMT driver and hijacking the other. If you know anything about the Symbiotes, you would know that they are supposed to be intelligent life-forms. The Symbiote, later to be revealed to be called Riot, opted to instead of a speedy ride into town, to take over a new body and walk there on foot.
Was the astronaut still alive after Riot left his body? I have no idea. Riot hops from body to body, making his way to the U.S. trying to get to the other symbiotes that were brought over there by the Life Foundation. We see people collapse after a symbiote leaves their body, but have no idea if any of them survive. It is assumed that they all die, because it is difficult to find a “correct match of a host” for the Symbiotes. But at one point we see Venom hitch a ride with main character Eddie’s ex-girlfriend Anne (ex-wife in the comics), and she transfers Venom back over to Eddie, with no repercussions and no questions asked. In comics Anne becomes Venom for a while, so it makes sense if you know that, but this movie is supposed to be a thing of its own. So the issue is that the movie fails to really establish how things are supposed to work exactly within it.
Tom Hardy was great. He portrayed well the character that he was written. Although, there are a lot of things about the character that do not make sense. Apparently Eddie Brock fudged up his life in New York, and went to start a new life in San Francisco as a journalist that exposes some high level bad guys for what they are to the public. Yes, San Francisco. You know, the opposite end of the country away from Spider-Man. Eddie Brock’s character is supposed to be extremely self absorbed and narcissistic, and I think they tried to apply that, but he just comes off as socially awkward, meek, and incompetent. He demonstrates that by making these rookie mistakes trying to expose Life Foundation, which makes no sense because he’s supposed to be good at what he does.
Now, let’s talk about Venom himself, also played by Tom Hardy. This is supposed to be a story where maybe Venom isn’t exactly the bad guy, and this was some sort of anti-hero story. I guess there’s a lot of bias since I’ve always known Venom to be pure evil, but it was extremely bizarre to see Venom demonstrate more empathy than his human host, and even coach Eddie on how to handle his wife emotionally.
Comic knowledge or not on Venom, there was no real reason given in the movie for Venom to have a big change of heart to decide to NOT try to destroy the planet. I think that was about the point at which the movie completely jumped the shark. Or maybe that was when Venom bonded with a pomeranian mix.
Or….when we saw Woody Harrelson in a red clown wig, teased as Cletus Kasady/Carnage. Because you know they did such a great job, why not try to set up for an immediate sequel?
There is one post-credit scene, but still more coming if you wait. And boy, that clip from SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE was a hell of a palette cleanser after everything I just saw. I think that clip was easily the best part of my viewing experience in the theater that night.
What was good in the movie: the action, Stan Lee’s obligatory Cameo, and Tom Hardy’s acting.
I don’t really like tearing movies apart like this, but VENOM left me no choice. Really, I think as my own way of coping to get through this movie: I found that Venom’s movements reminded me of Hexxus from FERNGULLY, and spent a lot of time imagining Tim Curry’s voice coming out of Venom’s mouth. MYESS.
Slime beneath me (ooh), slime up above
Ooh, you'll love my (ah-ah-ah) toxic love.
As you guys may have noticed, I actually didn't finish off this review with a full conclusion. You got my initial response, now that I've weighed on the flavor VENOM for a few days, I'm ready to share my inference.
I feel I may have already said it throughout my review without actually saying it: VENOM was...mediocre. I definitely don't find myself looking back and hating it, but as I think about it the more I seem to forget. There wasn't really much in the movie that made it stand out "against the rest" that made it memorable. Sure, some of it was fun but I ultimately didn't find myself very engaged in it. I don't see myself going out of my way to see it again any time soon. If I do, it'll be when it pops up on Netflix and I want to reanalyze why I felt the way I did about it.
See VENOM and have fun. Maybe a slightly less mediocre sequel will come out of it. (One certainly seems on the way with the rising box office success.)