I was lucky enough to get to go and see Venom (2018) over the weekend, roughly a week after its initial release. If you haven't heard about it yet, you've probably been living under a rock, but this movie is sparking some serious controversy.
Boasting an 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it's clear that more fans than critics have been enjoying the symbiotic love story. And look: I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it was a brilliant piece of cinema. Following the success of big-budget Blockbusters and ultra-ambitious crossovers such as Infinity War, Sony had some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of what seems to count as a successful superhero movie in 2018.
Audience members have come to expect a pretty finite and fool-proof formula from their Marvel films: high-tech, big cast, smooth script, relatable do-good characters, etc. It wasn't that Venom wasn't up to the challenge, per se. It just did things a little... differently.
It's no secret that I have a major bias in this area. Anybody who knows me will know that I am a major fan of any and all Spidey or Spidey-affiliated characters, and yes, that includes grumpy can't-catch-a-break Eddie Brock and his bossy symbiote. So when I heard that this movie (which has been in production since 2008!) was finally coming out, I was pretty ecstatic.
I know it's a controversial opinion, but I kind of loved it.
Sue me for not minding the time-warp trip back to 2002 that this film took me on. Venom seems to be garnering a lot of backlash in the way of critics who have come to expect a very specific kind of superhero movie, especially in terms of Marvel comic adaptations, but I think that there are few things more handy than some good ol' perspective when it comes to taking this film with a grain of salt.
First of all: this is Sony, not the MCU we know and love. Absent here is the campy, cheerful, good versus bad we have come to expect from today's Spiderverse flicks. Watching Venom felt at times like being transported directly back to the early 2000s realm of Toby Maguire's Spider-Man, with its overdone depiction of a grimy city, memorable villains, dark colour grading, and cheesy script.
(Seriously, though. Hearing Tom Hardy respond to the line, "Aren't you Eddie Brock?" with, "I used to be" all whilst wearing a completely serious expression was, like, the funniest part of this movie, and I don't think that it meant to be.)
Secondly: this is Spiderverse without the spider. Director Ruben Fleischer said that "the most challenging part" of bringing this movie to life was writing a character whose main motivation in the comics is Spider-Man without... well, Spider-Man.
Rather than creating a massive plot hole, however, many audience members have found that this then opened up a larger realm of possibilities for motivation between the characters of Eddie and Venom, and gave Venom's writers more freedom in developing motivations on either character's ends. Some have found that the ensuing motivation for Venom (the fact that he is "kind of a loser" on his planet) came off as cheesy. Others feel that it perfectly captures the cheesiness and moral grey that already existed between these two characters in the comics.
I won't lie: there are some obvious flaws with this film. There's Hardy's terrible accent, the lack of chemistry between Anne and Eddie, car chase scenes that go on too long, plot inconsistencies (what the hell was Chaos supposed to be doing in all those months that Eddie was having his melt down? Or are we really supposed to believe that it took him months to get to an airport?) and corny dialogue that comes across as even sillier when spoken in Venom's growly voice.
So what are we supposed to take away from this?
The thing is, not every movie needs to be a cinematic masterpiece to be enjoyable. Much like the equally cheesy and convoluted comics, Venom was a lot of fun. It does a great job of bringing that 90s ridiculousness onto the big screen, and for the first time ever, Venom actually looks like Venom.
Whilst decidedly more goofy than his comic counterpart (and still just as much of a meathead), Hardy does a fantastic job at playing a convincing Eddie Brock. No doubt following from the success of anti-hero flicks such as Deadpool, there is much to be said for how intrinsically good/not good these characters are meant to be, but in my opinion, the film does a fantastic job in this regard.
As much of Brock's charm is supposed to come from how not charming he is, Hardy hits the nail on the head. I can't imagine what better motivation than 'two losers running a chaotic neutral shitshow' there could have been to compensate for the lack of wallcrawler in this movie.
The thing that confuses me is the sheer amount of comic fans complaining about obvious things, such as the film's tonal dissonance, Hardy's bizarre performance, and the sheer absurdity of the relationship between Brock and the symbiote.
To me, these things all felt very Venom anyway. This is a movie adaptation about the hulking muscle monster from space who enjoys senseless revenge, eating brains, and running commentary for the sole purpose of annoying its favourite human. This is a movie adaptation about Eddie King-of-the-Weirdos Brock, who calls his symbiote "darling" and talks to himself more than any functional human being has a right to. And yeah, the weirdness comes in varying degrees, depending on which comic you're reading. (Looking for somewhere to start? Try First Host!)
For fans of the comics, this movie does a great job at capturing the nuances between Eddie and his Other/husband/nuisance symbiote, even without Spider-Man there to motivate them into sticking together. It sort of works better as a romantic comedy than a superhero movie, though.
Another thing that struck me as awesome about this movie was the potential for character design. Like I mentioned before, this is really the first time where a movie with Venom has had the creature looking like himself, and the possibilities in terms of collectables and merchandise are decidedly endless.
I know that ever since the release of this particular Carnage Pop! Vinyl, I and fans everywhere have been hanging out for the character's much needed introduction to this series. Aren't we glad to have stuck around for the after credits scene?
Similarly, these Venomized Marvel favourites have the potential of a crossover (somewhere, somehow, someday) buzzing in everybody's minds: Sony's licensing rights be damned. (Psst: you can get them here as a bundle for $143.92!)
The point is that there still feels like there could be a lot of pop culture potential from this universe, and I for one am excited to see it unfold. And if you're interested, there's already plenty of Venom merch just waiting to earn a place on the shelf.
The final verdict? Go and see Venom. If you're more interested in having a good time than you are with playing cinephile, or if you're a fan of the comics and/or just general silly 90s-inspired monster movie goodness, then this is the movie for you. And if you're not? Go and see it anyway. There's hardly any point in voicing your opinion on something if you haven't even given it the time of day.
What did you guys think of this movie? Are you a fan of the comics or the collectables? Leave us a comment with your thoughts below, because every week we're choosing one lucky commenter to win a bonus 100 Ozzie Coins. Good luck!
Happy collecting, everyone!