“I’m sorry about Venom”
Well, well, well. No one could tell me that they are shocked that a standalone film all about Spider-Man‘s nemesis, Venom, could work without Spider-Man. A character whose origin, motivation, design, and anything remotely interesting about him is connected to a character that his corporate paymasters at Sony could not use. Keep in mind, that Sony has been trying to make a Venom-centric film for a little over than 15 years now, simply because fanboys and fangirls gush at the sight of the character. In a way, he’s like Boba Fett in the Star Wars universe: he’s practically goddamn useless but he has perplexing large following based solely around his looks. This is going to be a spoiler-heavy review, because I seriously cannot extract as much vitriol from this worthless production otherwise. So if you’re bothered by this, grab your Venom shirt and sniff hard until pass out from the fumes of the chemicals used to print it out and I will see you in the afterlife. Everybody else? Let’s dive in.
So Eddie Brock (Tom [Goddammit what were you THINKING] Hardy) is a sleazy but hard-hitting investigative journalist living in San Francisco, when he loses his entire life in one fell swoop after he pissed off the wrong billionaire in the form of Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). As a result, Eddie loses his career, his fiancee Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), and his home because he broke multiple ethical and professional boundaries for the sake of a glory moment. Six months later, he’s approached by one of Drake’s top employees, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) as Carlton’s company has been performing testing on humans with alien parasites called symbiotes (sorry, sim-BI-oats). Quelle surprise, as Eddie investigates he ends up getting merged with one of the parasites called Venom who takes the hapless journalist on a ride, granting him superhuman strength, an unsatiable appetite, and a big, black gooey suit with large fangs and a large tongue to seem as scary as possible…when he’s about as threatening as a chihuahua.
So problem number one in this dizzying list of issues, is that the film is about as nonsensical as Batman v. Superman. This might have something to do with the fact of a rumored 40 minutes of material that was cut from the final product (we’ll get back to some of those omissions later), and the film has this surreal quality where scenes just seem to occur haphazardly with no connecting tissue informing you why the hell characters are behaving in a certain way or how the hell did certain characters know important plot points. And it’s not the Transformers problem, where the film is in such a rush to get you to the bombastic action because Venom is a pretty boring ass action film when you lay the cards out on the table.
Yeah I said it: this movie is dull as Hell when it’s not focusing on Tom Hardy and Venom. The first third is a true slog to get through, as nothing remotely interesting happens and the dialogue is pure exposition dumps. Action set pieces have poor cinematography and feel like an inferior version of the Edward Norton version of The Incredible Hulk. The computer generated effects look downright terrible half the time, especially in the climax when you have two blobs of symbiotes fighting each other and you can’t tell which one is which, once again reminding me of Michael Bay’s frenetic robot orgies in the Transformers films. Only in this movie, the fight just looks like an explosion of diarrhea being hurled at your face. And to top all this bad action off, the film also features poor character development so you have the compounded problem of not giving a shit about characters doing stuff you don’t care about.
What little character development you do get are calculated attempts to get you to like Eddie Brock, even though he’s about as likable as a deep sea anglerfish. Besides sporting a speech pattern reminiscent of a dude who got 30 concussions per day, Tom Hardy’s curiously all over the place in this movie. He honestly feels like he’s channeling Jim Carrey in The Mask, as he spazzes out all over the place. In a way, his performance becomes a highlight of the film when he bonds with Venom and they have to perform a little comedy double act as they bicker with each other. And he genuinely seems like he’s trying to salvage this production, but the script and direction fail him at every turn. Also: a director worth his salt would have told him that his attempt at a New York accent was miserable at best and to try something else for God’s sake. Granted, this bizarro performance may have been salvaged if his character of Eddie Brock was a fun protagonist but spoiler alert: he sucks.
See on one hand, Eddie’s jovial with working class Americans and gives money to the homeless but on the other, how he clearly didn’t give a shit about his fiancee and used her for his own selfish purposes. On normal scripts, this would be the set up for a good emotional arc where Eddie learns to stop being such a selfish douche nozzle and in becoming a crime fighting hero, he learns humility and caring for others. But in this script, he’s already a “nice guy” so the whole screwing over the girlfriend thing never gets a proper resolution, not helped in the least because it’s awkwardly hand waved away when Venom gets Eddie to apologize for no damn reason at all.
Speaking of which, I guess we should talk about Venom, the proverbial sacrificial cow this whole endeavor has been centered around. Well, if you thought the Spider-Man 3 version of Venom was an insult to the character, wait til you get a load of this. See, Venom speaks to Eddie as a voice in his head but his lines feel like they were written by 12 different people kept on opposite sides of the planet and the director just mashed up together what he thought was salvageable. Venom’s personality wavers between sadistic, nurturing, caring, psychotic, and insulting; and many times these mood swings occur within the same scene. Also his motivation is flat out the dumbest goddamn thing in this sea of goddamn idiocy: Venom chooses to help Eddie and stop the antagonist from doing…whatever the hell he was trying to do (it’s not exactly clear) for one amazing and compelling reason. That Venom is a loser on his home planet just like Eddie, and he has learned to admire the beauty of Earth in order to protect it. I told you this was going to be moronic as all get out.
Actually, let’s beat up on the villain (or villains) as it were. See Riz Ahmed plays his character as flat and as uninteresting as possible, so it’s impossible to feel threatened by him. While I could kind of understand his motivation of merging humans with symbiotes in order to survive on their planet in a Elon Musk-power fantasy sort of way, the way he goes about accomplishing this task is bat shit insane. He just keeps throwing homeless people into this meat grinder of forcing them to merge with the symbiotes only for the majority of them to die horribly in their carelessness. Carlton Drake gets slightly more coherent motivation when the symbiote Riot shows up (put your damn hand down, Carnage is NOT in this) and promises to make all of Drake’s fantasies come true, but Riot needs Venom first. Why? Hell if I goddamn know!
And when Riot decides to come out and display his powers, an ability to fashion his body into all sorts of blades and knives, there is not an ounce of blood spilled. And this is where an R-rating would have been helpful or at least interesting, because you have these creatures with drooling, sharp teeth and sharp as Hell claws and you see random people get knocked aside by the sheer force of these cutting objects. It looks downright stupid and made X-Men Origins: Wolverine look better for it’s bloodless action set pieces. Hell, Venom fans know the character only survives by eating people and you only see him eat two people in blink-and-you-miss-it shots. So these fans can’t seriously delude themselves that they somehow saw the most authentic version of the character in this film, because I sure as shit know they didn’t.
Ah yes, and Michelle Williams is painfully wasted in this. It’s not enough that she’s boring love interest for our protagonist, but she claims she wants to help in the “thrilling” climax but is quickly brushed aside for a cliche “it’s too dangerous for you.” Then she reappears when all seems lost to heroically…press a button. Yeah, that’s basically the extent of her input. Oh, but she did get infected for a hot second with Venom. So if you wanted to see Venom-like boobs and ass while making out with Tom Hardy, then have I got the film to meet your curiously perverted demands.
To cap this whole execrable experience off, you are treated to two post-credits stingers that pissed me off for completely different reasons. The first is a tease of featuring Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady, AKA Carnage, wearing a hilariously bad red wig. And all he says is simply “When I get outta here, there’s gonna be (dramatic pause) CARNAGE.” That’s enough for a trip to Hell, but no, Sony then decides to try connect this film to the upcoming Spider-Man: Enter the Spiderverse with a clip from said movie. And those three minutes were absolute bliss. It was gorgeously animated, genuinely funny, and endlessly interesting in just three minutes. After sitting through 112 minutes of absolute garbage that made me want to violently wretch at every opportunity.
Nonetheless, I did laugh in this movie many a times but none of them were directed at the so-called jokes on display. I kept laughing at how spectacularly imbecilic this whole production was. Nothing worked, not the script, not the direction, not the acting, not the action, and certainly not the story. Even the tone wavers wildly between horror, comedy, action, heroic, and slapstick with the subtlety and grace of a duck getting caught in fishnets. The fact that it caps off with a frankly bad theme song courtesy of Eminem, it feels like it’s trying to emulate the dark age of comic book films from 2001-2005 when Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and Catwoman ruled the roost. It’s a better version of those films to be sure, but the current superhero genre has far and away eclipsed that level of quality years ago.
While this is a godawful film, it at least entertained me for its sheer stupidity, so it’s poised to walk away with my favorite bad film of the year award for 2018. But for now? This is…
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT
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