Ellements of Film: Venom

I’ve decided to start trying something new—live responding.

 

One thing that I should have known about myself when I started doing movie commentary is that I like to be thorough. I like to look at all the angles, remember all the quotes, read up on and synthesize what other people say. It usually makes for (in my opinion) pretty good articles. It also makes for very, very slow articles, that sometimes don’t happen at all, let alone in a timely manner. *glares at corner of brain where reviews of The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049, and Black Panther are supposed to be formulating*

So I’ve decided to start trying something new—live responding. Aka, sitting in the back of the theater where my phone screen won’t bother anyone and recording my thoughts as I’m watching the movie, and then posting them after a few edits. Maybe that way, I’ll actually review the movie within a year of it coming out.

We’re going to start this with Venom.

Before we start, some background: I didn’t go into Venom with terribly high expectations, partly because I don’t have terribly high opinions of Venom. I understand his place as an iconic Spider-Man villain, and do think that interesting things have been done with his character on occasion, such as Agent Venom. But for the most part I think of him as emblematic of the SUPER HARDCORE TM 80s and 90s, where all of the comics got bloody, all of the muscles got swole like characters were living off of Muscle Milk and HGH, all of the girls got even more boobilicious, and Rob Liefeld tried to single-handedly usher in thigh pouches as a thing. (They are not a thing.) There’s a Venn Diagram that is basically a circle of men and boys who would wax poetic to me about how kickass Venom is and men and boys who would tell me I’m not a “real” comics fan if I haven’t read all of the issues from a time period when I was five. But I still thought the concept was interesting enough and thought that having a standalone villain-focused film could do some work towards relieving superhero fatigue and giving us more complex characters. So, first the liveblog, and then my ultimate reactions.

First, a thought from the Aquaman trailer: How can the CGI for Atlantis be so good and Mera’s wig be so bad?

 

NOW ALL THE SPOILERS, SERIOUSLY I AM NOT KIDDING

 

  • I can tell that this movie stars Tom Hardy, because this intro music is like Jaws through a funnel.
  • Bwoooaaaaam
  • Jenny Slate is a Scientist now. You can tell because she is wearing glasses.
  • If this takes place in San Francisco, does that mean he is gonna hang with Ant Man?
  • If Michelle Williams is a lawyer that means she is already too smart for Eddie Brock’s shit.
  • I have no idea what accent Tom Hardy is trying for.
  • From what I hear on the interwebs, all this heteronormative shit is gonna seem real funny soon.
  • IS HER NAME DOCTOR SKIRT? (note: Her name is not, in fact, Dr. Skirt. It is Dr. Skirth. But she was definitely Dr. Skirt in my brain for the rest of the movie)
  • Eddie is making fun of Riz Ahmed for having the same ambitions as every rich tech dude. Why do all the rich tech dudes always want to go to space? Why is no rich tech dude ever like, “Hey, I built great wealth via amazing ideas and exploiting the working class, now I’m gonna explore the Mariana trench yo.” (No, James Cameron’s not a tech bro, he’s just dude who made a movie about a boat and then got kinda obsessive.) Or, you know, help the fucking poor.
  • Am I the only one who wants Michelle Williams to stab Eddie with a stiletto? Just me? Can’t be just me.
  • Am I the only one who wants this entire movie to be about the symbiote in the old lady? I can’t be the only one, can I?
  • Exposition: The Meeting. If this is six months after they brought the symbiotes in, this CANNOT be the first time Riz Ahmed is hearing about the problems with the symbiosis. He is waaaay too type A to have just been kicking around for six months giving tours to children and NOT knowing what is going on with his alien goo.
  • No way Eddie affords even this shithole if he is just an unemployed wastrel in San Francisco. I have been to San Francisco, this apartment would cost $1200 a month with no utilities.
  • How exactly do they plan to get the goo back in the tube? This is poor planning.
  • Do NOT tell me that homeless lady is missing because she is one of the test subjects. San Francisco is too big for a coincidence like that. There are five homeless people per block, and it has many blocks. No way they manage to get the one that Eddie knows right before Eddie breaks into their secret lab.
  • YOUR LIFE WAS RUINED BECAUSE YOU MADE CHOICES, EDDIE BROCK.
  • Yay for non-asshole new boyfriend. He can join Ant-Man’s ex’s new husband and Cary Elwes in Liar Liar in  the “perfectly nice and normal new boyfriend who is not evil just because he is fucking your ex” club.
  • Anne’s Marcia Brady hair is very distracting.
  • Yaaaaas Anne, inform the sad white boy about his own choices ruining things.
  • Are you seriously about to throw that ring over the bridge instead of pawning it? Have you seriously been carrying around a giant rock whilst unemployed? YOU MAKE THE WORST CHOICES EDDIE.
  • I mean, Drake is evil but not wrong. We ARE gonna fuck up the planet within a generation. Or like, uh, 12 years.
  • “Please don’t touch anything” is excellent advice that never gets followed.
  • Goddamnit homeless lady Maria this is still way too convenient.
  • Eddie does not understand the dangers of leaving incriminating photos and messages.
  • What do you mean what is wrong with you A GIANT BLACK GOO CREATURE CRAWLED INTO YOU, YOU IDIOT.
  • If the first evil symbiote is a black man I am gonna scream “Tuskegee” real, real loud.
  • I will watch an entire movie of Venom touching things and declaring them dead or not dead and telling people “no” because he is snooty about who he eats.
  • MY THEATER TURNED THE VOLUME UP SO LOUD I CANNOT HEAR THE TALKING OVER THE MUSIC
  • “Pile of bodies, pile of heads” explained as if it is the most normal, obvious thing is my new favorite line. Venom acts like he is a nanny explaining to a child how to clean their room.
  • If they need to take him and the symbiote back alive why are they sending exploding drones after him?
  • Venom is best at car chases. Eddie is worst at car chases. This is why you watch the road.
  • DID WE SERIOUSLY JUST GET HEAD EATING IN A PG-13 MOVIE? You can barely show LGBT people kissing in a PG-13 movie. Does PG-13 even mean anything anymore?
  • “I am Venom and you are mine.” Nope, nothing homoerotic there. Does that count as homoerotic? Does Venom have a sex or gender? I’m thinking about this too hard.
  • Venom you just said you know everything and now you are asking who Anne is? You are bad at invading brains.
  • Nice Spiderman pose bro.
  • Venom is turning good way, way too fast. There should be like, 60% more evil happening before he turns good.
  • Normally I don’t like “pussy” as an insult, but an alien calling someone that for not wanting to jump down a bazillion story building somehow makes it amazing.
  • This scene would be so much better in an R-rated movie, but they didn’t want to lose out on that sweet, sweet, 13-year-old edgelord cash.
  • “No, we do not eat policemen!” Way to set ground rules, Eddie.
  • Venom likes it when ladies order Eddie around. Noted.
  • Venom teaches Eddie that he needs to apologize for mistakes. Venom is best carnivorous goo.
  • …does Tom Hardy think that whispering is the same thing as emoting? Is he reverse James Franco?
  • Why does Riot need Venom? If there are millions of the symbiotes and it doesn’t matter if a couple die, why does Riot need Venom?
  • Scary scary sexy lady Venom 
  • Does this count as a threesome?
  • “Oh, that’s bullshit!” Hell yes it is Michelle Williams.
  • Is Riot somehow psychic? And how did he cut so many people without blood? THIS NEEDS TO BE RATED R GODDAMNIT.
  • Blurry grey scale monster fight!
  • GOO FIGHT.
  • Helpful lady is helpful.
  • “You like the power when it’s inside you.” There continues to be nothing homoerotic about this. Nothing.
  • “Look at her. She has no idea we are going to get her back.” I share Venom’s admiration of Anne, but he’s gotta be less stalkery about it, for serious. Anne is a powerful lawyer Marcia Brady and she don’t need no man. Plus, Dan is nice. Don’t hurt Dan.
  • … I kinda want to try tater tots and chocolate.
  • “A TURD BLOWING IN THE WIND” WTF THIS IS NOT AMERICAN BEAUTY YOU WEIRD CREATURE. I am taking away your points for the pile of heads line. Who the fuck thought this line was ok?
  • Is that…. Is that for serious Eminem? How 2002 do we have to get? Did a 13-year-old boy from the early 2000s ACTUALLY write this?
  • ….Is that fucking Woody Harrelson in an Annie wig?

The end.

So…. Well. To be honest, this movie confuses me. I don’t feel strongly positive or negative towards it. And it’s just… weird. It feels like a mix between a time capsule from 2002 and a thinkpiece from 2018. It follows the beats of an early superhero flick—boy is established, boy gets powers, boy explores powers briefly, boy fights mirror-verse version of themselves in villain form. It is almost beat-for-beat similar to Spider-Man in terms of pacing and startlingly quick moral switches. And that pacing is a large part of its problem—the actual cool shit makes up at most a half hour of the movie’s run time, which helps explain why Venom goes from carnivorous alien invader to basically hero in what seems like less than 24 hours. It may actually be less than 24 hours, the timeline of this movie is hella confusing.

Anne is obviously in the mold of a Strong Female Character, and while she doesn’t need to be rescued by Eddie in the way that MJ has to be saved by Spider-Man, she’s also not given very much to do. It would have been really awesome to see Lady!Venom on screen at least a little bit longer.

Riz Ahmed is almost too constrained in his portrayal of Drake. In a sentence that I never thought I’d write, we could actually use a bit more of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in this character. Drake should be like Elon Musk times ten, and Elon Musk is getting pretty damn crazy pants. Drake mostly gets to look intense and disdain the haters.

This movie also desperately cries out for an R rating. In the same way that a PG-13 Deadpool would have been a waste of the character, a PG-13 Venom is a waste. He genuinely looks very cool, and his mouthful of teeth are awesome. But I barely saw any blood. And for all the talk of head eating, and all the actual head eating… it’s all very tame. I saw more gore in the Netflix Daredevil, or even The Walking Dead. Venom at PG-13 is much like his teenage male fans—all bark and very little bite. Ironically, for how much I disliked Venom for being emblematic of the HARD CORE TM 80s and 90s, this movie could use a little bit more HARDCORE. Yes, in the comics Venom or versions of Venom become antiheroes or kinda heroes, but it’s after many, many issues of trying to eat Spider-Man’s face. I don’t really understand why you would take one of Marvel’s most iconic, violent villains, strip him of his violence, and then make him basically good after only about 15 minutes of screen time. We’re given a rushed explanation that Venom likes Earth and likes Eddie, and he was a “loser” on his home planet (Jesus if Venom is what losers look like in Venom-world I do not really want to see many of the winners), but it’s all very one-dimensional. In an R-rated film, we could have seen a lot more head eating (maybe even some innocent people head eating) and a better actual struggle between Eddie, who is portrayed here (kinda against type, tbh) as a crusader for justice instead of a tabloid hack, and Venom, who really doesn’t understand why Eddie won’t let him just take over the world and eat all of the heads. It would make their dynamic have more meaningful conflict, and it would make Venom’s eventual turn to heroism mean more. I even would have liked it if they let Eddie be more of a villain. Walter White and Rebecca Bunch have proven that we don’t actually have to think a protagonist is a good person in order to root for them, as long as they are compelling and have something redeemable. Instead of being jobless for 6 months, Eddie could have been spending that time “debasing” “himself as a tabloid journalist, writing gossip pieces about tech bros meeting Bigfoot or something. That would have been interesting. And shown how he could afford his apartment.

That isn’t to say that I thought the movie was all bad. I really do enjoy the attempts to give Anne some agency, and to make Dan a part of the narrative without making him a stereotypical prick. The fight scenes, with the exception of parts of the final boss fight which were so grey scale and blurry I legit could not really tell what was going on, were cool and Venom’s ability to morph and react made for one of the better chase scenes I’ve seen in recent films. I’d even put it close to on par with the chase scene from Deadpool 2, which rocked my socks.

The truly best part is the interaction between Venom and Eddie. I started having worrying Green Goblin flashbacks when Eddie first started to talk to Venom in a mirror, but I liked the solution they came up with where a Venom face could speak with Eddie in 3D. Their banter is pretty fun, and they actually teach each other in interesting ways. It’s not just Eddie teaching Venom how to be good—it’s Venom teaching Eddie how to not be a dick. The design for Venom is quite good, and the CGI comes off well.

What I actually like most about Venom is actually offscreen, in terms of how it has opened up some really interesting conversations about queer and monstrous characters. So even if all of the rest of the film is just serviceable, I appreciate it for that.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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