Day 5: Venom
Premise: Sony still somehow thinks they can make their own Cinematic Universe with just Spider-Man properties. Now with more Tom Hardy.
Huh. Well, that was certainly a thing.
You know, it’s kinda funny. I made a big deal at the end of yesterday’s entry about how and why I should totally be allowed to count this as a ‘horror’ movie, in spite of how clearly the trailers and marketing have made it look like it’s supposed to just be another superhero movie in the style of Marvel. Yet, upon watching the movie itself, I couldn’t help but notice that the most interesting parts of it where when it stopped trying to be a superhero movie and instead acted like a creepy horror possession flick, while the least interesting parts of it were when it was actually trying to be a superhero movie.
Yes, this is attempt No 372 of Sony’s to attempt to cash in on the MCU/Cinematic Universe craze. You’d think the absolute car crash of a reputation TASM2 got, combined with the almost universal internet mockery of the dozens of rumoured ideas they’ve been throwing about (an Aunt May movie, fucking seriously?) would’ve discouraged them, but no. But in this case, their shameless greed and absolute incompetence more irritates me than amuses. Because… honestly… I actually think there’s a fairly good movie buried within Venom. A weird and silly and probably hard R movie, but a good one nonetheless.
See, the comment I made earlier about the least interesting parts of Venom being the parts when it most tries to act like a superhero movie more or less sums up my thoughts on the movie. You could practically make a tally about all the boring scenes that feel like they’re there just because that’s what superhero movies. It’s especially notable in the 1st act which was probably the most generically boring ‘1st act superhero movie’ I’ve seen in a blockbuster since forever. You can practically predict every scene and character beat in it note for note and there’s not a single spark of imagination or charisma or anything worthwhile in it whatsoever. Even Tom Hardy seems somewhat boring to start with (which trust me, is not the case for the rest of the movie).
However, after Tom Hardy gets infected by the Venom symbiote and starts hearing voices, the movie takes a hard 180 from painfully generic to hilariously bugfuck insane. Tom Hardy clearly has a blast with the mentally deteriorating Eddie and his weird cravings and ticks and interplay with the sociopathic voice in his head are all great fun to watch. Push it a little further and reattach that R-Rating that was sorely missing and I could easily see this being a fantastic horror/black-comedy. I was about ready to mentally switch off after about half an hour of the first act, but this immediately pulled me back in as Tom Hardy takes a bath in a lobster pool or does some crazy stupid shit that’s hilarious to watch.
However, midway through the second act, after a cool little fight scene bolstered by Tom Hardy’s fantastically twitchy performance, he gets into a big car chase sequence, something that’s again often a staple of a lot of superhero movies. Which is why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the point where the movie immediately starts getting boring again. Its not a good car chase. It feels like it goes on too long, only has a handful of cool moments and features the most stupidly wasteful use of drones I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, kamikaze-ing them into vehicles can not be the most cost effective way to kill someone). Fortunately, once it’s over, we get right back to Tom Hardy and Venom being bugnut insane and having great chemistry with each other, but it only goes further to prove my theory that Venom is at its least interesting when it’s just trying to mimic its competitors.
It’s especially notable because I actually really enjoyed the action scene that came shortly after, with a full-suited Venom going full movie monster on a swat team and picking them off out of the smoke while they desperately try to kill him. It’s violent and brutal (albeit still clearly tamed down for the PG 13 rating) and fun and not really something you’d see in a traditional superhero movie. I’m not going to call it outstanding, but I had more fun with it than any of the other more traditional action sequences.
Anyway, more crazy stuff happens with Tom Hardy and Venom and it’s relatively entertaining, right until we get up to the big superhero movie climax. You know the one and, if you’ve been paying attention, you know exactly how it’s going to play out. Venom fights a slightly more powerful version of himself and it’s as smashy and dull and filled with all the same boring emotional beats you expect. And I’ve especially got to bring up Ric Ahmed’s villain here, who I just fucking hated all throughout the movie. Almost every scene he’s in, he’s delivering some self-righteous ‘for the greater good’ speech that is clearly supposed to make him seem intelligent and just a bit frightening and give him ‘complex’ motivations, but it feels more like someone just opened up their ‘Dummies Guide to writing ‘for the Greater Good’ speeches and copied and pasted the most basic examples. It doesn’t make him intimidating or sympathetic, it just makes him boring and self-righteous and yet again another superhero movie feature that just doesn’t work in this movie. It doesn’t help that Riz Ahmed, as much as I’ve loved him in other movies, has absolutely no menace. Absolutely none. He’s more punchable than intimidating.
Honestly, it really is kind of a shame that this movie didn’t end up being what it wanted to be. Almost all the issues I had above feel like stuff re-shot or ordered by executives to make it more palatable and like the traditional superhero movie format, yet it’s ultimately what drags the movie down from it’s original glorious vision. Which is a bugfuck crazy, hilariously fun horror-comedy ride that I really did want to see more of. Heck, I’m not surprised in the slightest to learn that Tom Hardy said nearly 40 minutes of content was cut out of it and that said 40 minutes contained almost all of his favourite bits. And I really want to see how that 40 minutes turned out, because what little I could see though the cracks of this movie was deliciously insane and entertaining.
Basically, long story short, screw the Snyder cut, that’s going to be awful either way. Bring me the goddamn hard R Venom cut, with all the drippings. And then bring me a sequel with Woody Harrelson in a terrible wig attempting to outham Tom Hardy. Which is something I never would’ve thought I wanted until I saw the post-credits scene to this film, but now I can’t think of anything I want more.
Is it Scary?: Not really? But maybe a bit more than you might expect.
Is it Silly?: Gloriously so, when it gets the opportunity.
Overall Grade: C (B+ for entertainment value though)