Venom is perhaps one of the most interesting movies of 2018, for many reasons, but chief among them is that pretty much everyone thought this movie was going to be…less than ideal.
Don’t get me wrong: it is. It is easily one of the worst films of the year thus far – the plot is thin, and the characters even more so – but there is something oddly alluring about it.
Truly, it all starts with Tom Hardy. His twitchy investigative journalist, Eddie Brock, resides in San Francisco, California with his fiancee, Anne (portrayed by four-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams), a corporate lawyer. Eddie is the host of the ‘Eddie Brock Report’, a program that sheds light on issues across the country; when he is asked to do a puff piece on shady technological titan Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), he can’t resist and blows up the interview. As you may have guessed, this causes him to lose everything and acts as the catalyst for the film’s plot and inevitable introduction to every Marvel fan’s favourite alien parasite.
It’s worth mentioning that Venom makes no bones about Drake being the ultimate villain, either. He threatens families, menaces his co-workers, and issues terse orders into a walkie-talkie – those are the top entries on the comic book bad guy checklist. He has a god complex of the worst order, believing that he can save the planet with the help of a few innocent alien organisms, which is when Eddie comes back into the picture.
Hardy brings a manic quality to Eddie Brock that lends some strange authenticity to the role, in a way. He’s often praised as one of the best actors of his generation, and even though his filmography has been somewhat spotty, there is no doubt that he embodies Eddie in a way that makes it uniquely his. At the same time, that same manic quality is almost evocative of Jim Carrey’s transformation in The Mask, and I think that’s one thing about Venom that I was reminded of almost instantly: it would have been a smash hit in the 90s, right down to the cheesy Eminem rap song that plays over the end credits.
When you get down to it, even Hardy’s performance can’t save this film from the first 20 minutes or so – it was all I could do to stop from falling asleep. It is a dull, lifeless ride that we’ve all been on before, and if someone had simply pressed fast-forward, I think most of the theatre would have cheered. However, once Eddie comes into contact with the Venom symbiote, the movie absolutely takes off. The physical acting of Hardy, moving about his apartment with jerky, abbreviated movements is wonderful, as though Eddie is not in control of his own body – which he is not.
As mentioned, the plot is incredibly thin – there’s something about bringing down Drake’s corporation in there, but once Eddie and Venom bond with one another, that’s all the film is about. It’s essentially a buddy cop movie, albeit one where both the by-the-book desk jockey and the loose cannon reside in the same body.
What makes it so fascinating is the way that Venom talks to Eddie, resonating in his head so that only he – and thus, the audience – can hear him. That’s truly where most of the comedy comes from, starting with Eddie apologizing to a squad of armed goons as Venom uses his body to take out as many of them as possible. It continues throughout the film, with Venom calling Eddie a ‘loser’, a ‘pussy’, and everything in between. He even, impossibly as it may seem, makes out with Eddie at one point – I kid you not.
There are some visually interesting shots, one involving a smoke-filled room as Venom prowls from corner to corner, teeth glinting with every flash of a soldier’s muzzle. Another, from nearer to the end of the film, is so visually striking, it looks like a cross between a still from a comic book and an oil painting. Unfortunately, at the same time, the final fight of the film is reminiscent of the battles from Michael Bay’s early Transformers films – dark, messy, and generally difficult to see. For the true Venom fans, I also recommend sticking around until the end of the credits – there’s a double dose of Easter eggs, one of which already sets up a potential sequel.
If it sounds like there are any spoilers in this review, fret not: there are none. Everything unfolds exactly the way you might imagine – it’s all very formulaic. The real treat is how it all happens, because I honestly don’t think describing it with the written word is enough to do it justice. It is a truly odd film, ranging from parts that had the audience howling with laughter, to silences that had people scratching their heads.
Venom is evocative of those ‘good bad’ movies, the type of films that rack up the nominations and wins at the Razzie Awards every year, such as 2006’s Snakes on a Plane, or the now-legendary The Room (2003). While it’s not exactly up to the now-lofty standards of recent Marvel Studios fare – this is a Sony flick, and thus stands on its own – it entertains enough to give it a shot.
Venom is in theatres now, having reached wide release on October 5, 2018.
You can find Sho on Twitter at @SNSAlli, where you can tell him just how wrong he is about all his movie opinions…or agree with him, that’s pretty cool too.