Awfully Good: Venom

Let's kick off 2019 with one of 2018's best!


Venom (2018)


Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

Eddie Brock makes a new sym-BI-ote friend.

VENOM feels like such a comic book movie relic that I have to believe it was at least partially done on purpose. Ruben Fleischer is a solid filmmaker, coming from movies like ZOMBIELAND and 30 MINUTES OR LESS, and has to be in on the joke. With its half-baked script, overreliance on messy CGI, and a corporate villain with an evil world-ending plan, this flick has more in common with movies like SPAWN, CATWOMAN, DAREDEVIL, and BLADE than it does any modern superhero film. If Sony wanted to set their Spider-Man Cinematic Universe apart from Marvel movies, this was definitely one way to do it.

That being said, the biggest compliment I can give VENOM is that I was dreading it based on the trailers and, while in no way would I consider this a "good" movie, it manages to be both dumb fun and highly watchable.

Venom arm
Time to switch hands, pal. 

At least it is when Tom Hardy is on the screen. I don't know what Hardy was thinking when he made some of these character choices, but God bless him for every crazy second. The actor seems to be playing every line for laughs, with his mumbling quips and an impressively physical, slapstick performance that channels Jim Carrey in his heyday. Hardy just 100% commits to the silliness of having a literal monster inhabit his body, constantly throwing his torso around, flailing his limbs, and in one memorable scene, jumping in the lobster tank at a fancy restaurant to eat live crustaceans. He also gives some truly spectacular line readings. It takes a dedicated thespian to continually sell the "I have a parasite!" one-liner or say things like, "Whoa, he has one up his ass too!" in a serious way.

venom tree
The only way for Tom to hide from all the rabid THIS MEANS WAR fans. 

When it's just Hardy and the title character interacting, VENOM is a blast. Everything else is pretty much lukewarm garbage though. The script is pretty much a carbon copy of other not-so-great movies, from entire character arcs to individual lines. ("Are you Eddie Brock?" "I used to be…") The weakest part is the villain, played by talented actor Riz Ahmed (ROGUE ONE, The Night Of). Ahmed doesn't have much to work with on the page, but he's also woefully miscast as Evil Elon Musk, whose sinister plan involves saving humanity by forcing everyone to merge with random alien symbiotes that were found on a comet and sending them to live in space before global warming kills us all. That's really villain's motivation in this movie. For that kind of bad guy you need a Gary Oldman or a Nicolas Cage, someone who can stand toe-to-toe with Hardy in the Crazy Department.

venom shithead note
The cast grew less subtle in their requests for the script to get another rewrite.  

Michelle Williams, on the other hand, surprisingly seems to be game to play in Hardy's sandbox, going along with what I can only assume was a constantly improv'd performance. Still, Williams' character is the worst kind of cinematic romantic interest, a complete afterthought to the story, seemingly shoehorned in because the writers were too scared to just make Venom the real object of Eddie's desires. (More on that later.) You could remove Williams entirely from the story and it wouldn't make much difference. She literally just wanders in to the final action scene and does some stuff in the background out of obligation and not necessity. At least the Oscar-nominee gets to say things like "Oh, no. I just bit that guy's head off!" and "I'm sorry to hear about about Venom."

Ironically the script does the biggest disservice to pre-Venom Eddie Brock himself, turning him in to easily the worst reporter of all time. Brock is supposed to be this famed investigative journalist, but is a complete moron. His "source" is him hacking in to his fiancee's computer to steal confidential legal files, then immediately takes them to an interview and ambushes a powerful CEO without doing any other research or corroboration. When he's rightfully fired and dumped, Brock then goes to the company's highly-secured facility with armed guards and security cameras, breaks in to their experimental lab, discovers a bunch of dead people and weird alien experiments, and proceeds to open one of the doors and let out the deadly alien symbiote.

venom eyes
Me in the morning before I've had my coffee haha lolol 

Once Venom is unleashed the movie finds more of its footing, but it's still a bizarre mix of tone and content. Eventually it settles on being a crazy and violent PG-13 kids movie, where the hulking monster antihero goes around biting peoples heads off, leaving you to cheer when he eventually decides not to feast on the internal organs of innocent bystanders. (To be fair, this was part of the character's "charm" for its preteen audience in the comics, so it's at least faithful to the source material.) Venom is better realized here than he was in SPIDER-MAN 3, but a lot of the CGI here is surprisingly sloppy. It works best when augmenting Tom Hardy's performance during fight scenes or a crazy motorcycle chase with kamikaze drones. But any time the title character is in his full form on screen it's like watching a videogame, especially the last 20 minutes, when Venom fights his high school bully Riot, and the two symbiotes and their hosts melt and splatter in to each other. It's just complete incoherent nonsense on screen, like watching Michael Bay direct a Jackson Pollock painting.

venom symbiote fight
Just kidding. This is a brilliant metaphor for man and his inner desires confronting the dark, external forces of society and the pressures of unchecked masculinity. I see what you did there, movie. 

The weirdest part of VENOM though involves the special, intimate relationship that develops between Tom Hardy and his symbiote partner. As the two unlikely friends get to know each—with Venom revealing that he's lonely and chose to bond with Eddie because he's a loser, just like Venom was on his home planet—the film plays it more as a romance rather than a friendship, especially since Hardy's character has better chemistry with the monster than he does with Michelle Williams. It's not A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 or SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO levels of homoeroticism, but if you look for it, that subtext is definitely there. At first I thought I may have been reading in to it too much, but then Venom takes over Michelle Williams' body and makes out with Tom Hardy (which itself brings up a whole other question of whether or not Venom is gender fluid…). The film even ends with Eddie and Venom deciding to pursue what can only be described as an intergalactic interspecies polyamorous relationship with Williams.

If you don't believe me, go ahead and Google "symbrock." Or better yet, don't.*

venom kiss
*JoBlo.com is not legally responsible for anything that happens to you or your computer should you choose to Google "symbrock" of your own free volition. 

Venom's way with words and Tom Hardy's best line deliveries.

The film's best fight and action scenes.

We are Venom and we don't wear pants.

Ready for some carnage? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone says "symbiote" or "symbiosis"
  • Tom Hardy says he has a parasite
  • Venom bites someone's head off
  • There's a romantic or emotional moment between host and symbiote
  • Tater tots are shown or mentioned

Double shot if:

  • There's a Wilhelm scream


Thanks to Darrel and Lind for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: JoBlo.com



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