Thursday, January 03, 2019

"Venom": two-paragraph review

2018's "Venom" is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed. For such a heavily marketed film, the main cast is surprisingly small. "Venom" is primarily the story of Eddie Brock (Hardy), an investigative reporter with a knack for getting himself in trouble by asking powerful people the wrong questions. His fiancée Anne Weying (Williams) is a lawyer currently defending the Life Corporation, a company whose Elon Musk-like CEO, Carlton Drake (Ahmed, looking unwontedly boyish), has set for himself the goal of rescuing humanity. What the public doesn't realize is that Drake is hoping to unite humanity with an alien species that will allow humans to leave Earth and survive in outer space as symbiotic host-parasite pairings. The problem for Drake is that the alien symbiotes, when attempting to bond with their human hosts, get rejected by those hosts if there is no biological compatibility. A Life Corp. space shuttle with several aliens aboard it crashes in Malaysia; all of the aliens except one are recovered; the loose alien, which has an especially malevolent personality, leaps from human to human until it reaches the United States, where Drake's company is building another shuttle to be launched into space. The alien sees this shuttle as a chance to rejoin the millions of other members of its kind, who will then somehow land on Earth and begin feasting on humans. Eddie Brock, meanwhile, confronts Drake about his unethical use of the poor and the homeless in his ghoulish alien/human experiments; Brock gets fired for his trouble, and so does his fiancée, who is caught in the corporate and political crossfire. Anne leaves Eddie for what she sees as his selfish behavior; Eddie, meanwhile, feels he was only doing his job. Following a lead from a disgruntled Life Corp. scientist, Eddie sneaks into Life's labs and encounters, in one chamber, a homeless woman he knows. She has been infected with a symbiote, but the two are incompatible, and she is dying. The alien manages to leap inside Eddie, and this is how Eddie comes to meet the symbiote that calls itself Venom. Venom can hide completely inside Eddie's body, manifesting himself as a deep, growling voice inside Eddie's head. He can also manifest outside of Eddie, taking the form of a fanged, muscular humanoid that covers Eddie like a black, rubbery suit. Whether hidden or visible, Venom is super-strong and capable of launching tentacles that prove useful in a fight, are capable of protecting Eddie from bullets, and can grab at handholds and footholds to keep Eddie from falling off buildings or accidentally throwing himself off his own motorcycle. The loose alien, which calls itself Riot, ends up inside evil CEO Carlton Drake, and then it's a race to see whether Riot will be able to fling itself back into space with Drake's Life Corp. rocket.

I hate-hate-hated this movie. I can see how Venom might be a compelling character in the comics, and I can tell that the actors and filmmakers all have their hearts in the right place, but the end result of all their efforts, earnest though they be, is a massive turd of a film. No, it's worse than that: it's like a turd that gets stuck halfway out of the asshole, unsure of which way to go. "Venom" is, I think, supposed to be some kind of horror-comedy, but it's hampered by its PG-13 rating (which ensures we won't see any true blood, gore, tits, or ass). Tonally inconsistent, the movie isn't a bit scary and is only marginally funny, thus failing as a horror-comedy. I ended up feeling as if the massively talented cast (I love everyone in this movie: Tom Hardy is a fantastic character actor; Michelle Williams is awe-inspiring in "Manchester by the Sea," and Riz Ahmed has his own watchably quirky stage presence) was being wasted on a poorly thought-out film. Blame for this falls squarely on the director and whatever team of screenwriters thought it would be a good idea to take a vicious alien antihero and "gentle" it so as to keep the PG-13 rating. The rating is itself the sign of a money grab: Venom is part of the Spider-verse, and Spider-Man only appears in family-friendly, PG-rated films. If "Venom" were to go for the hard R rating, then having Venom meet Spider-Man would be as plausible as putting Winnie the Pooh together with Deadpool. The alien symbiote also makes no sense to me; the movie is confusing on the point of whether Venom requires living flesh to eat, or whether he can subsist on dead, cooked flesh. Tom Hardy, who often plays dangerous, smoldering characters, looks and feels awkward when he tries for comedic delivery. Riz Ahmed, albeit talented, looks way too young to be taken seriously as this movie's main villain. Venom's powers, and his weaknesses, don't make much sense when you start thinking about them. Eddie's boss at the newspaper doesn't make sense, either: he cautions Eddie to sacrifice journalistic integrity by asking softball questions when interviewing Carlton Drake, then later rants at Eddie about the need for journalists to hew to the truth. The movie's violence is disappointingly bloodless, even when Venom has the chance to bite off some bad guys' heads. Now, it could be that, because I'm unfamiliar with the comic-book version of Venom, I've failed to gauge how successfully the tone of the comics has been transferred to the silver screen. But taken on its own terms, "Venom" feels like a waste of time and talent. The only good moment comes during the end-credits sequence, when Eddie Brock meets with Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson!), the serial killer who is eventually inhabited by the symbiote calling itself Carnage. I saw "Venom" because I had wanted to compare it with "Upgrade," a movie that is also about super-abilities linked with voices in one's head. While there might be fodder for some interesting comparisons between the two films, I find I'm just not interested enough in "Venom" to really care. My advice: steer clear of this film. It just isn't worth it. Of course, your mileage may vary, and I've heard the film is actually popular among the hoi polloi. I'm willing to consider the idea that I've got a stick up my ass and am a humorless bastard... but I really don't think that's the problem here.


  1. Your warning came to late as I both saw "Venom," and another poorly reviewed film, "The Greatest Showman," that inexplicably did very well at the box office. The mess that is "Venom" came within a few million of taking down "Spider-Man: Homecoming." I like Tom Hardy, but this film that trashed decades of Venom, Carnage, and Spider-Man comics made me quite dislike both Hardy and Williams. Of course, as the film did great foreign and domestic box office, part 2 is already in the works.

    On the flip side, if you want to see a great small film starring "Captain America" and one of "Venom's" stars, check out "Gifted." It deals with a different kind of children not fitting in at school. I used to watch some of these brilliant kids on "That's Incredible" and "60 Minutes" and marvel at their gifts. However, the curses of being extremely intelligent and advances were never really explored. These curses extend outwards to the parents, siblings, teachers, and even school administrators as the TV program "Young Sheldon" so aptly showcases week after week.

  2. Sorry to be so late in reviewing this movie, but then again, you so often disagree with my opinion that I doubt an earlier review would have persuaded you to avoid "Venom."

    I was indeed curious about "Gifted," but reviews seemed iffy. I'll put it in my queue, though—despite the fact that your and my respective tastes in movies seem quite different.

  3. After I heard the film, "Venom," disregarded the "Spider-Man" comics origin story of the alien symbiote entirely, I decided I didn't need to watch a bastardized film version of comics so dear to my youth. I was able to avoid the movie while in theaters, but my nephew talked me into watching it with him on video since it wasn't R-rated and it was his birthday. After the torture that was watching it, I was so upset, I spent $61.60 getting him a Marvel Unlimited membership that has over 20,000 back issues (to keep people buying new issues they don't add them until 6 months have past). Then, he tells me he is a damn "Batman" comics fan, and DC doesn't have the same unlimited service that Marvel does.

    Anyway, I wasn't real big on watching "Gifted," but both the acting and subject matter were great. But the real star of the movie is a young Captain Marvel/young Tonya Harding, Mckenna Grace. Her credits are unbelievable, and she has one bright future ahead of her:



All comments are subject to approval before they are published, so they will not appear immediately. Comments should be civil, relevant, and substantive. Anonymous comments are not allowed and will be unceremoniously deleted. For more on my comments policy, please see this entry on my other blog.

AND A NEW RULE (per this post): comments critical of Trump's lying must include criticism of Biden's lying on a one-for-one basis! Failure to be balanced means your comment will not be published.