movie review: Venom (2018)

What did you watch? The Sony studio clutching the Marvel IP action movie Venom.

How much of it was a complete waste of time? uh, if you nitpick everything, and there’s a lot to nitpick, well, most of it is really bad. BUT it’s a quick-moving really-bad…so that’s a nice point.

There’s some backlash over CinemaSin type “commentary,” where people make videos pointing out every logistical issue that might derail the plot for people who may be sharp eyed, but don’t see the good forest for its faulty trees. But at the same time, none of the haters (of haters) grew up on Mad Magazine, which was great at skewering even good movies. And a movie is a big expensive production, so you’re punching up against a studio that has to meddle every step of the way and wreck someone’s vision, sometimes blaming that writer or director who wanted to tell a story and made a Faustian deal with said movie studio who wants to add a carchase to their love story or something.

Venom isn’t exactly that (it has a love story, and a car chase). It’s Sony trying to hold on to their original deal with the Spidey-parts of Marvel that Disney would like to wrestle back. There’s a Morbius movie that is delayed because of the pandemic but most likely because the trailer looks terrible. I love Spider-Man comics from certain periods and he has a lot of villains but a lot of those villains are pretty goofy or downright pathetic after you get past most of the original rogues’ gallery that have had a movie version (or 2). And this is the 2nd Venom after the Raimi Spidey 3 weirdness.

I’m glad the movies aren’t 100% loyal to how the comics introduced or developed them because a lot of the time those comics creators were throwing things at the wall and hoping enough stuck to fill up 20 pages before deadline. Venom here is still Eddie Brock, with no Peter Parker to be an awkward love triangle for the symbiote that turns Eddie into Venom. He’s a sensationalistic dot com youtube reporter who also cares about the downtrodden, he has a girlfriend who is a corporate lawyer, and he does something unethical (but his girlfriend should have guessed at the quality of his kind of investigative reporting what kind of things he might do, like…) by going through her laptop one night to dig up a story about a medical lab that may have killed some people.

Oh, this medical company ALSO has their own space program. This is the plot nitpicking that some people would love to point out as kind of ridiculous, even in the face of a spate of billionaires creating their own rockets to kinda go into space to impress the rest of us dealing with the pandemic. I’m definitely one of those people who’s like, “what?”. It might actually be something in a comic book for sure, Roxxon or one of those fictional Marvel companies might have their own rocket. Heck, the Fantastic Four probably launch themselves from the Baxter Building in the middle of Manhattan into space and the Negative Zone on a daily basis. But in a live-action movie? And in San Francisco? That’s a diverse portfolio, though the evil company owner is definitely spot-on for an arrogant and manipulative tech-bro (and his squad of security who act like a gun crazy army, which in another nit-picking, I ask “what jurisdiction do these guys have outside of the company’s walls?”).

Anyway, stuff happens: Eddie gets in trouble for trying to expose tech-bro using his girlfriend’s laptop, his girlfriend gets fired from her firm, he has to move into a still-rather-large apartment in San Francisco for a guy who is unemployed, and he merges with the symbiote we know as Venom when Jenny Slate from Parks & Rec wants to expose her boss’ evil actions. The movie is then a bunch of scenes of Eddie acting erratic, his ex and her new boyfriend trying to help him (this is a pleasant ‘twist’ instead of a hurdle for Brock in dealing with some other archtype or predictable plot point), and then a merged Eddie & Venom being chased by tech-bro’s goon squad.

Most people I know who saw it thought it was “dumb but good,” like their expectations were in the sewer and then it was a passable adventure and so it was better than expected. I think the movie is a missed opportunity: Eddie in the comics is introduced as a terrible person, not just unethical, but down right sociopathic. A lot of this was retconned as the character grew more popular for Eddie to be more of a down on his luck persona with a twisted sense of morals, but he had morals, or something. Well, why not make this movie about Eddie being a bad person, who doesn’t just do unethical things, but always does unethical things, and then he merges with Venom, a creature that wants to eat people to sustain itself, and has to show Venom why that’s wrong, realizing himself that he’d been doing bad things all this time?

Why not make it a parody? His ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, a doctor played by Reid Scott (Dan from VEEP), seem almost self-aware of how ridiculous Eddie’s plight is, while they try to help him. Reid’s character doesn’t criticize Eddie, despite that he must know what problems Eddie cause for the girlfriend. The doctor nor Eddie’s ex never push Eddie away – the doctor actually stands up for Eddie at his most erratic in a restaurant scene, because he’s a doctor and someone writing this movie said “let’s not have him act like a jerk to our main character, because he’s a doctor and he’s sworn to help someone who is clearly having a medical issue.”

Tweak up some of this dialog, give Eddie more to do for his own development beyond a sort of redemption and reinvigorating his interest in helping the homeless. I’ll say, though, that when a movie is bad and weighed down by talky sci-fi exposition nonsense, it can DRAG…and this movie didn’t. So the filmmakers at least had the pacing down. Will I check out the sequel? In the end, when Woody Harrelson is like “CARNAGE IS COMING!” did people in the theater know what he was talking about? Was it just for the fanboys? Because Carnage is a terrible character. But maybe the sequel will be better.

Was it good? was it bad? It was okay, I guess. Despite my criticisms (there’s plenty) and the film just devolving into a fight on a platform between some CGI characters, I guess I ended up pulling for Eddie and I like the dynamic of his now-unrequited love for his ex and I hope there’s a story where, too bad buddy, she’s got a new man, and I hope that other guy sticks around for future installments, as a foil & friend. Also, I love VEEP, and Reid Scott’s great in it. Go watch VEEP.

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