Hello my Movie Geeks!
The year was 2007, the future was bright. Movie universes were just a seed in the mind of Kevin Feige. I just finished university, ready to venture into the darkest recesses of the world, discover ancient relics, and potentially fight Nazis! The Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t kicked off yet, and The Dark Knight hadn’t ruined the tone of all future DC movies. Then Sony released its third Spider-man film but this time with added Venom.
The film came off the back of Spider-man 2, the best Spider-man film, if not comic book movie for many years. Therefore it had to go bigger and better because the second was so good. Thus Sony added not one, not two, but three villains for the wall-crawler to fight.
Harry Osborn, Sandman and Venom were all added to the roster. Sam Raimi who directed the films was outspoken that he didn’t want to add Venom. Sony had other plans.
What happened was Spider-man 3 was a jumble of character arcs, retcons and wasted opportunities. Not to mention the dire and I mean dire dark Peter Parker section of the storyline. What we had here was studio mandated additions, meant to boost sales and increase money. In this case what we got was a big pile of turd rolling in the wind.
Raimi was booted, and Spider-man rebooted. Consequently, that didn’t last, but one thing that stayed on Sony’s mind was Venom. Two reboots later, and a cross-company deal and we have the 2018 solo Venom movie.
We are Venom
We open in space where we see the Life Foundation space exploration rocket crash to earth. However, there is one survivor, John Jameson, a nice nod to the larger Spider-Verse. Potentially!
Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a hard-hitting reporter in the city of San Francisco. We discover in a montage of clips that he goes against the norm, fighting for what is right. Eddie Brock is for the people. That’s the character we’re here to follow, and to be fair to Hardy, he is extremely likeable, even when he’s not supposed to be.
He does something early on that gets himself sacked from his job, he loses his fiancé and his career is in the toilet. But even when he’s hiding amongst the pasta as a shopkeeper gets robbed, we still like the character. There’s no sign of the super cocky Topher Grace Brock in this film.
Now at rock bottom, Brock gets the chance to take down Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake, the man who ruined his career. This is where the movie really begins, with the first 30 minutes playing placeholder to the action. Brock is infected with a parasite, but this parasite doesn’t particularly like being called a parasite.
The movie itself is a nice mix of genres. Originally it was supposed to be this R-Rated, blood-soaked film, which seemed to tie in with the trailer released. Threats of biting off heads, eating eyes and pancreases led us to believe Sony were throwing caution to the wind and going down the Deadpool route. Unfortunately, the rating was lowered, (strangely still a 15 in the UK), and we have a relatively blood-free movie.
I said a mix of genres because there are moments of horror that actually feel scary. But there are moments of pure comedy, especially with the interplay between Brock and Venom, and this is where the film works. Hardy is able to play the meek Brock, going through changes as he tries to adjust to being infected. He literally screams like a girl at one point, which made me laugh out loud in the cinema.
There is a very funny scene in a restaurant and its credit to Hardy’s comic timing that this worked. Even Venom himself is funny, asking to bite the heads off some bad guys and stack body parts in the corner. It is a funny film.
It does, however, seem like there is something missing, and not just the blood. I’m not sure what that is, but after being infected it is a race to the finale. Venom explains why he’s there and quickly begins to like Earth enough to turn his back on his kind. It is a quick turnaround for a character who at its roots is a villain.
Short and Sweet
The film doesn’t hang around, clocking in at 112 Minutes. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle. We get an enjoyable action set-piece through the streets of San Francisco, which ends with the Venom reveal. Other than the first section until he is infected dragging slightly, the film doesn’t hang around.
The movie spends time letting us get to know the two main characters. Hardy plays both Venom and Brock different that I had to ask whether they had a different voice actor.
One problem I noted was that the final battle is very jumpy. We seem to be too close to the fight and you can’t really focus. But it’s short and sweet and works overall.
There have been a lot of reviewers saying that this film is bad, that it belongs in the early 2000’s. It even has 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. But if you ask anyone who has seen the film, they’ll tell you that they enjoyed it. That it wasn’t as bad as expected. I believe that this film deserves more praise because they have taken a character that is tied up with Spider-man. They have given him a standalone origin and made a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
In summary, Venom is not ground-breaking, but amongst the plethora of Comic Book movies we have, it stands as one that has done what it needs. It hasn’t tried to reach for the stars, not overstuffing itself on set pieces or villains. I don’t even remember much Sony Product placement. It told a simple story and told it quickly.
I haven’t seen Tom Hardy this energetic since Inception. Hardy plays the characters especially well and is signed on for two sequels.
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