Cinema Dispatch: Venom

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Venom and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

FINALLY!!  I have been waiting so long for this movie to come out, especially with the last few weeks being miserable times doing these reviews.  None of this wish washy crap where I am not savvy enough to understand the BRILLIANCE of movies like Mandy, Assassination Nation, and A Star is Born!  None of the dull tedium of films like Night School or the disappointingly wasteful Hell Fest!  I’m done with those!  Give me something I can wrap my head around!  Something I can easily size up and bash with a baseball bat for some cheap laughs and maybe some a bit of insight!  Whether this is good or bad (STRONGLY leaning towards the latter if the trailers are any indication), I can’t imagine I’ll have to spend three hours hemming and hawing about the best way to describe why I’m the ONE critic out there who “doesn’t get it” because this is the kind of movie that I’m sure we’ll ALL have no problem understanding!  It’s a sad testament to the times we’re living in that a Sony Spider-Man movie (except maybe not?) is what I consider a grounding influence in my life, but I’m not the one who voted for any of these jerks, nor did I have anything to do with the September release schedule!  Anyway, does Venom actually turn out to be a fun adventure with one of Spider-Man’s most infamous foes, or did Sony WAY overestimate their ability to make another super hero movie after Disney held their hand on the last one?  Let’s find out!!

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is your typical movie journalist!  He’s on the streets looking for the REAL news and has an axe to grind against THE MAN!  So much so that he finds dirt on some smug billionaire jerk named Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) who you’d THINK everyone would realize is bad just from the name, but Eddie’s got the story and springs these questions on him during an interview!  A few problems though.  First, this is the kind of billionaire who can get people fired from newspapers even if they DON’T run with the story, and second… well he got the dirt by hacking the computer of his girlfriend Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) who I THINK was a lawyer at the firm that Mr. Drake was employing, so she gets the boot too.  Well THAT certainly backfired for poor privacy invading Eddie!  Now no one will hire him because… I guess there’s NO outlet in existence that wants to hire someone who’s seemingly as competent as Eddie is (ESPECIALLY since he’s desperate and ready to work for cheap) and he’s just kind of sitting around depressed in his apartment; hoping his girlfriend will come back to him (she won’t) and hoping that his neighbor will turn down the loud music (he won’t).  Oh, and I think there’s something to do with aliens?  Yeah, apparently Mr. Drake had a spaceship that crashed but also had some alien lifeforms on it; namely The Symbiotes.  These giant piles of goo turn out to be rather dangerous as we learn when Mr. Drake starts siccing them on human subjects.  One of the scientists (Jenny Slate) doesn’t recall this being in her job description so she reaches out to Eddie who reluctantly goes to the facility with her after hours, and sure enough one of the Symbiotes escapes and attaches itself to Eddie.  Eventually it reveals itself to be known simply as Venom and the two of them need to work together; otherwise the EVIL MR. DRAKE will find them and… I guess do even MORE evil experiments on them!  Can Eddie and Venom uncover whatever it is that Drake has planned for humanity and the Symbiotes?  What exactly is Venom’s endgame here, and does it require Eddie to stay alive for that much longer?  What chances does Eddie have for reuniting with Anne now that there’s a third slimy wheel in the mix?  WHAT THE HELL IS TALKING ABOUT WHEN HE SAYS TURD IN THE WIND!?

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“Well on MY planet, turds are as light as a feather and could EASILY start rolling from a stiff breeze!  Now shut up as I eat your eyeballs!”

I MIGHT have spoken a bit too soon about The Predator being my favorite bad movie this year, and I’m honestly as surprised as the rest of you!  NOTHING about this movie looked the slightest bit good from the trailers and the market buzz, and even some of the later stuff that showed a modicum of promise (that Japanese awesome) or at least a sense of self-awareness (LIKE A TURD IN THE WIND!!) felt more like desperate Hail Mary attempts to salvage a film that was gonna be dead on arrival.  Heck, the most surprising thing is that they DIDN’T immediately cave in and do a trailer with a Queen song or just threw in a fake clip of Spider-Man!  Now I’m not about to tell you this is a GREAT movie as it has problems that dull its appeal as a guilty pleasure, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t manage to hone in on the appeal of this character and find the right balance of humor and childish destruction!  The fact that they knew enough about this film’s strengths that they got Eminem to do a rap for the movie shows just how in tune they are with the audience that wants to go see this, and just like that video it may not be THE BEST work anyone connected to this has done but it sure is a fun distraction!

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“We’re having FUN right now, aren’t we?  ANSWER ME!!”     “Yes!”     “Good!  Now let’s play I EAT YOUR FACE OFF!”     “CAN’T WE JUST PLAY JENGA!?”

What works about this movie is that it KNOWS that the character is a self-insert for twelve year old boy who wants to indulge in the power fantasy of beating up jerks with impunity.  Needless to say that Venom does indeed beat the ever loving crap out of a bunch of hapless goons and manages to get away with some pretty nasty stuff within its PG-13 constraints.  Look, I’m not about to say I know the first thing about Venom or Eddie Brock, but I get the feeling that much of Venom’s fan base, either the kids who want a violent monster to admire or the adults who still appreciate his aesthetic and story, are gonna be satisfied with what they’re getting here which is lots of menacing glares, eating bad guys with a big shit eating grin on his face, and a sardonic sense of humor that paints a world where you don’t really have to think too hard about the massive destruction he leaves in his wake.  That’s actually where the movie rises above its contemporaries like Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman.  It has JUST enough understanding of the negative connotations surrounding this character and his appeal to keep it from feeling TOO gross or mean-spirited and it achieves that balance through its rather  on point sense of humor, even if LIKE A TURD IN THE WIND is still one of the most ridiculously painful lines in any movie this year.

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“Tell it to her!  I’m SURE she’ll get it!”     “SHUT UP!”     “Uh… is something wrong, Eddie?”     “NOPE! NOTHING AT ALL!”

Since we’re on the topic, while I’ll admit that the most competent parts of this movie are still cheesy and kind of trashy, there are still parts of this movie that are so bad that you just have to laugh at them.  The villain is a good place to start, since this is yet another stock villain in the Steve Jobs mold (though I gues now we’re updating it to Elon Musk) that we JUST saw put to terrible use in A.X.L., but it’s somewhat compensated by Riz Ahmed’s performance who is savoring every deliciously evil moment he has in here.  I honestly don’t know how he expects to get away with ANY of this and it’s even funnier when you think of just how far his security team must go on a regular basis to cover up this crap.  Hired Goons are one of my favorite tropes in fiction, and while some will find the ones in this film non-descript and rather flat, I got immense joy out of thinking how much this dude has to be paying these guys to help him not only commit a LITANY of crimes up to and including murder, but to THEN have no compunction about chasing down a murderous space goo the giant freaking teeth.  And we’re not talking about following him around or trying to lay traps or anything!  These guys are RACING down the streets of San Francisco (no cops in sight obviously) trying to gun down this dude with no concern for civilians or their own safety!  Heck, it might be utterly reckless for them to throw exploding drones at him in the middle of downtown, but that STILL manages to be one of the safer things they do in this movie, and I just love watching that kind of stuff play out in movies!  Venom himself is a bit of an enigma in the film as his motivations remain unclear throughout most of this movie which makes it all the more confusing at the end when he makes a sudden character turn that feels completely out of nowhere.  I was riding on this film’s particularly cheesy wavelength the entire time though, so I didn’t really have a problem with it, and it’s helped by the fact that Tom Hardy’s chemistry with… well himself as he supplied the voice for Venom as well, is pretty solid.  The comedic timing between the two of them is spot on with Eddie constantly being flummoxed at what he’s been thrown into while Venom clearly knows he’s stuck in an obnoxious situation but compensates for it by incessantly teasing Eddie for his amusement.  Then again, he IS rather hard to understand what he’s saying half the time (what is it with Tom Hardy and bad voiceover!?) but you can still get the gist of it!

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“Aren’t you already in my head?  Why are talking all out in the open?”     “Because it’s more FUN this way!  I can also bite off your nose if you say something asinine!”

As much fun as I had with this movie, there were definitely parts of it that don’t work very well and others that miss the mark entirely.  One of the biggest laugh lines in the movie didn’t work for me (it’s a good gag, but the use of a particular swear word felt unnecessary) and really anything involving a butt in here should have been left on the cutting room floor.  The pacing in the first half is pretty slow which is something you don’t want for a movie that lives and dies on its ability to give cheap thrills, and there’s just too much pointless dialogue and exposition to explain what Venom is and what Symbiotes are, and none of it feels even half as necessary as the film thinks it is.  I understand that not everyone going to see this is gonna know what Venom’s deal is, but this isn’t even as complicated as Iron Man’s backstory!  Two people living in the same body and one of them has superpowers?  I’m pretty sure Robert Louis Stevenson has already seeded that idea into the public consciousness!  This over explaining of the plot not only slows things down too much, but it also takes up time from firmly establishing what SHOULD be the primary story thread which is the relationship between Eddie and Anne.  Now Michelle Williams is a great actor, but there’s only so much you can do with a role like this which… now that I think about it is REALLY prevalent in super hero movies.  Does anyone remember who Dr. Strange’s girlfriend was?  I certainly don’t, and I’m not even sure if she was his girlfriend or just a friend of his.  In any case, that’s basically the level of writing we get for the female lead in this movie who’s there just to motivate the male character and to occasionally do something useful for our hero.  Seems like kind of waste given how great of an actress is and how much personality (even if it’s really over the top) is given to the rest of the cast.

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“MWA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAA!!”     “He’s doing the laugh again.”     “Look, I’ve got great insurance and stock options here.  If YOU want to say anything to him, be my guest!”

This movie is somehow making a HUGE amount of money which means that a sequel is almost inevitable, and just like with The Predator and The Mummy, I am all in on this being a franchise; especially with the ridiculous post credits scene setting up what could be an even MORE gloriously trashy film.  Now I would CERTAINLY prefer a film that didn’t just have the cheap laughs and gratifying action scenes, a film where someone ACTUALLY tried to write a decent story, but hopefully this is a Deadpool situation where the first film is a solid setup for what will ultimately be a much better sequel now that we’ve got the origin story out of the way.  I’m DOUBTFUL they can pull off something as gloriously awesome as Deadpool 2, especially with this film not being NEARLY as good as the first Deadpool, but it looks like Sony may have just gotten a bit of a reprieve as far as the Spider-Man license, and MAYBE there’s room for Venom to show up in one of those films down the road!  I’d certainly like to see him try to explain what TURD IN THE WIND means to Thor!

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If you liked this review and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

Venom [Blu-ray]

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