“The world has enough superheroes.” So, that means it’s finally time for a (proper) villain movie, right?

Although it’s not exactly what the Sony marketing team promised (if they actually did promise anything, now thinking back on it) Venom is actually a refreshing take on the character of Spider-Man’s polar opposite. Venom acts a chase as opposed to “the hair of the dog” , remembering back to his poor reception in Spider-Man 3 and that one tease of the symbiote we got in the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Sony (and everyone involved) did an exceptional job with this project.

With Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) in the director’s chair, Venom has a star-studded cast of A-Listers with Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, Michelle Williams as his girlfriend Anne Weying, Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth, and Riz Ahmed as big bad Carlton Drake/the final Riot host. And the speculation for all of these months has finally been proved as right, Woody Harrelson makes a brief appearance in the mid-credits scene as Cletus Kasady, who will ultimately become Carnage and of course you can’t have a movie with Marvel’s name on it without a Stan Lee cameo! Fleischer did an amazing job (thankfully) with the pressure on his shoulders to create an origin story, set up a sequel/universe while avoiding another disaster at Sony.

TL;DW, or just to refresh your mind, Venom follows the life of investigative reporter Eddie Brock (who isn’t as big of a douche as he is notorious for) and his happy, well-lived life. He is engaged to Anne, has a successful local gig, ‘The Eddie Brock Report’,  and is overall a happy soul. Then, after trying to expose Carlton Drake on his news cast after being told not to, Brock is fired from the station, Anne is fired from her job as a lawyer for the Life Foundation (Drake’s company) and dumps Brock because of this. Brock undergoes alcoholism and is just a train wreck, until he is found by a Life Foundation scientist, who happens to disagree with the ethics of Carlton Drake’s experiments with symbiosis.

Dr. Skirth sneaks Brock into the special projects lab where the symbiosis experiments are taking place, and after trying to save a test subject, Eddie Brock gets consumed by the Venom symbiote. After beating up hitmen sent by Drake to get his symbiote back, Eddie Brock and Venom get a liking for each other, to the point Venom wants to save Earth as opposed to help take his team leader (Riot) take it over. This doesn’t sit to well with Riot, who at this point has been travelling from body to body like in the Eminem music video for Venom, and finally decides to undergo symbiosis with Carlton Drake, because every superhero movie needs a big bad and in the end they can kill two birds with one stone. In an amazing, but hard to follow on screen battle, Venom/Eddie Brock blows up a rocket ship with Riot/Cartlon Drake inside of it, and it is just a satisfying conclusion that leaves no cliffhangers or ‘hooks’ to be resolved/addressed in the next instalment.

Although it was satisfying to watch, the ending battle did present itself with a lot of plot-holes and concepts that makes the viewer ask “why tho?” which is a massive face palm as the film was going so well and collected. For starters, when Riot stabs Eddie Brock in the stomach, he dies. Okay, makes sense. Then Venom crawls back into Eddie Brock and heals him. Great! That’s sci-fi/comic book movie logic and I’m on board, as Venom is acting like Eddie Brock’s life support. Riot/Carlton Drake get on the rocket and Venom/Eddie Brock blows it up because symbiote and fire don’t mix. So Riot/Carlton Drake dies, and we hear Venom say good bye to Eddie Brock since Venom obviously can’t react well with the big explosion and fire everywhere. The next scene we see Brock drinking coffee with Anne, but shouldn’t he be dead since his life support “died.” No… because he still has the symbiote? We hear Venom’s voice and get to know that he is well bonded with Eddie Brock still. But shouldn’t/didn’t he dip his host because of the fire/loud explosion noise? This is obviously something Fleischer couldn’t address, since the movie from that point on was drowned with jokes (Stan Lee cameo, and the “Turd in the wind,” scene) in attempt to take the audience’ s mind off of the inconsistency.

Nevertheless, Venom did a great job being an independent being in his own universe as a PG-13 anti-hero, without any references to Spider-Man, or spider’s in general. No Oscorp, no Ravencroft, not even the Daily Bugle! And it makes sense, because Venom’s appearance is entirely based off of Spider-Man’s look, since Spider-Man was first to act as a host to the symbiote. The look of the the symbiotes where extremely well done, all though it was hard to distinct between the two when they were fighting. And then Sony once again drove the inconsistency train in the post-credits tease for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse when a message came on screen that read: Meanwhile, in a different Epider-Verse. That message implies that Venom is taking place in a “spider-verse.” A great, “I see what you did there,” moment to promote the next big film, but not the brightest idea since the last couple of months was spent trying to set the story straight to the world that this film is completely indecent of Spider-Man and has nothing to do with him or the MCU.

The character development in this movie was ambitious, but somehow doesn’t sit too well. In an attempt to make Carlton Drake have a Killmonger/Thanos motive of “sacrificing people for the greater good by undergoing experiments to develop/arm humans,” I just couldn’t click or see his reasoning as valid. Also, the dynamic of Eddie Brock and Venom was perfect, as there was sort of a ‘Ren and Stimpy’ relationship between the two, as Tom Hardy stated. However, the character tropes just wasn’t aligned with the comics. Eddie Brock was ‘Peter Parker-ish’ in a way that he wasn’t  assertive for himself and what he wanted, especially during his low point.

Instead of angry and revenge driven towards Drake, he came across as depressed and hopeless. Also, the Venom symbiote was badass at first, but then a line came up where he said, “On my home planet I am a loser too.” That doesn’t sit well because Venom is NOT A LOSER. He gets what he wants, his way, especially with Brock as his host. To play ‘devil’s advocate,’ this does soften him in a way so he could be an anti-hero as opposed to a villain, and at the end of the movie Carlton Drake and Riot are dead, so revenge has been served.

In a post Guardians of the Galaxy industry, no comic book movie is complete without a great soundtrack. After working on the soundtracks for CreedAtlanta, and enjoying his work with Black Panther, Grammy nominated Ludwig Göransson took the composer’s seat for Venom, and did a spectacular job!

As a fan of the Venom comics – it was an intriguing challenge for me to write music for two incredibly explosive characters cohabiting one body…The challenge was in creating two separate identities at the beginning of the story that could later be interwoven and coalesced. For the Venom score I drew on my roots as a metal guitar player. I set out to redefine metal by contemporizing it with current production techniques and infusing it with the superpower of the orchestra.” –Göransson on his involvement with Venom

Eminem notoriously did an amazing job with the title song for the movie Venom, and we also got music from Run the Jewels who wrote Let’s Go (The Royal We). Even though “Drake” is a name thrown around in the movie a lot, the devil came knocking as Pusha T contributed a song to the movie called No Problem. Göransson ain’t slick at all!

Speaking of slick, this movie is coated with easter eggs that have yet to be explored through re-watches. Some notable ones that came to mind was the Stan Lee cameo (obviously), Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady, Anne dawning the Venom symbiote and becoming She-Venom for about 30 seconds, and one that took me while to digest. Hear me out. Remember in Spider-Man 3 when Venom killed Harry Osborne/New Goblin by stabbing him in the gut with his glider spears? Well, although unrelated, the character got his karma when Riot stabbed him in the stomach with his symbiotic weaponry. Doesn’t feel so good, eh Eddie?

In retrospect, I can’t help but think, “Was Venom ACTUALLY a good movie? Or was the expectation going in just so low?” This felt refreshing because this iteration of Venom hasn’t appeared in any film before, forcing this to act as an origin story, something we have seen less of lately, if at all. I was doubtful of the movie at first, due to it’s dependence of Spider-Man, but that ended being the movie’s high point! The soundtrack was fitting, and sat well with the tone of the movie, and the character development was somewhat descent. But seeing Eddie Brock at the end of the movie as a redeemed individual with good intention, and trying to control Venom in his head to do “good” by eating bad people, really gets the audience pumped and going for what’s next to come, without the cheat of a cliffhanger or unresolved conflict.

Grade: B




Vishal Lilman

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