The market these days is very oversaturated with superhero movies, thanks to Marvel’s success. I mean, you don’t get to conclude a twenty-three movie saga without doing something right, right?
It’s no wonder that other studios wanted to cash in on that success, so the market was flooded with superhero films for the past decade. Some, like Fox’s Deadpool, were a success like Intertops mobile casino, while others, like Zack Snyder’s Batman VS Superman, were not. Marvel’s success even influenced other franchises, as the “Marvel Formula” got applied to Disney’s Star Wars sequels.
However, one superhero movie that I never really bothered looking into was Sony’s “Venom”. After hearing middling reviews, I put off watching it for a long time- until yesterday, from the day I’m writing this. Let me just say that the film exceeded my expectations, and surprised me by being pretty good.
After that lukewarm praise for “Venom”, I should probably clarify what I meant. I liked the movie. I enjoyed it. The movie does a lot of things that I really like while avoiding a lot of pitfalls I was expecting it to fall into.
To sum up the plot, Eddie Brock investigates a not-Elon-Musk type character, whose company is rumored to be experimenting on people so unethically that they end up dead more times than not. Since Eddie doesn’t actually have any proof aside from a sealed legal case his girlfriend is working on, Eddie ends up losing his job, his girl, and his home because of his blunt method of journalism.
In addition, not-Musk wants to begin populating humans onto different planets, and his recon mission ends up bringing back alien Symbiotes- one of which inevitably ends up on Eddie, which results in a sort of buddy-cop dynamic in which they each eventually grow a liking to each other, and work together to save the world.
So nothing particularly groundbreaking there. Where Venom impressed me was its execution. Eddie Brock is played magnificently by Tom Hardy, and his descent into anti-hero status is a fun ride. The Venom symbiotic is vicious, confident, and snarky, contrasting hilariously with Eddie’s “oh-my-god-no-you-can’t-just-eat-people” reactions.
“Venom” also manages to dodge the relationship cliches that plague these kinds of movies. In contrast to, say, CW’s love-interests from “The Flash” and “Arrow”, Eddie’s girlfriend Anne is actually smart and capable and reacts like a normal human being when weird things happen around her. She breaks up with Eddie at the beginning of the movie because of his actions, completely justifiably, she ends up in a relationship with another guy who she stays faithful to for the rest of the film.
In other words, a lot of the typical love-triangle cliches are avoided, thank goodness, and none of the relationships ever feel toxic or implausible. I’m emphasizing just how well this movie handles it’s relationships because characters who can’t seem to manage any kind of relationship like normal human beings is one of the worst tropes that Hollywood likes to shovel down our throat, and I feel like I have to credit this movie for being better than that. The god-awful relationship stuff from the CW shows completely derailed the series for me, and I’m so happy to have found a movie that does contain relationship drama but handles it well.
Outside of that, the movie is fun, it’s paced well, and the action is awesome in a sort of over-the-top way. While not the best CGI I’ve ever seen, the special effects for Venom are great and really sells him as a monstrous pile of goop.
With all that praise I’ve heaped on it so far, this movie is not a cinematic masterpiece, and it falls short in a couple of areas.
While Eddie’s arc from rock-bottom to hero is really consistent with his morals and values, Venom’s is not. The Venom symbiote starts out wanting to help the villain and basically eat humanity. Through the course of the movie, however, Venom switches sides and decides that he actually likes Eddie, and maybe humanity doesn’t all deserve to be eaten alive. That being said, the transition from one to the other doesn’t really… happen.
There’s nothing that Eddie does to convince Venom to be better, and Venom never really has a reason to listen to Eddie or be better, aside from the fact that he kind of likes Eddie and that Eddie is a compatible host for him.
The dialogue also falls short here and there. There’s the infamous “Turd in the wind” line from the trailer, but aside from that, it’s well written overall.
The movie does suffer a bit from the “Marvel Formula”, where the tone is lighter than it probably should be and the violence is turned down just a tad too much, and the villain is yet another “villain-with-same-powers-as-hero-but-otherwise-forgettable” kind of character. The villain from Ant-Man comes to mind. I can’t even remember his name clearly. His chief henchman, Tierce, is also pretty bland too.
I really honestly cannot think of a better description for this movie than “Superhero Shlock”. “Venom’s” plot is simple like it’s characters, but it’s entertaining and competently executed. It’s a popcorn flick that you can turn your brain off to. For what it is, so long as you aren’t expecting “Logan but with Venom”, it’s a B-list movie that you can confidently have a good time with.
7 / 10: Turn your brain off and just have fun with it.