By: Felix Felicis (Three Beers) –
I won’t lie to you, kidlets, Auntie Drinks-a-Lot was less-than-stoked about saddling up her rode-ho for this latest Marvel movie. On the one hand, the last time I remember seeing Venom onscreen was during Tobey Maguire’s Emo Extravagnaza (I’m still throwing up in my mind) but on the other hand, Tom had me ready to party Hardy. It was a real rollercoaster of mediocre expectations combined with an almost negative pre-existing knowledge of this angsty anti-hero. Click here for a Rolling Stone crash course before you see the movie for a few tips and tricks to make this symbiote go down smooth. Like Activia. But fewer probiotics and more bounce to the PG-13 offscreen-decapitation ounce.
Venom follows discredited journalist “Eddie Brock” as his ethical narcissism costs him his job, his fiance, and all professional credibility in one fell swoop after he goes for a space industry wunderkind’s sketchy company jugular and comes up shorter than the two votes our country needed to keep a sexual predator off of the Supreme Court.
Given an ‘in’ to the evil laboratory by disillusioned scientist (kidnapping homeless people as extraterrestrial hors d’oeuvres will one thousand percent harsh your mellow) Dr. Dora Skirth (a weirdly misfired Jenny Slate), Brock becomes the symbiote’s snack pack ride-or-die bro as both man and puddle of goo realize the High School Musical of it all on the road to stopping Science Dick from serving earth up to Revenge of Fern Gully and his meteor full of malicious malcontents hell-bent on devouring earth’s homo sapiens like a plague of sticky locusts. Hats also off for a fucking creepy-as-shit creature design.
I’m not sure this is totally a good thing (more on that later), but Venom delivered a pretty seamless, energetically effective superhero flick under the PG-13 gun. For a comic book character a lot like the gleefully (and gloriously) Rated-R Deadpool, Venom likely would have been living its best life as a Rated-R flick that didn’t have to pull any offscreen-decapitation punches. That said, Tom Hardy and Co. made lemonade out of those neutered-content lemons.
Venom is also, admittedly, getting spanked in the critical ratings (currently holding around a 30% on the Rotten Tomato-Meter), but in the court of public opinion (mine included) it’s been raking in the goodwill, benjamins (40 million opening weekend), and still going strong on positive word of mouth. The budding, moderately homicidal, Eddie Brock/Venom bromance was a delight to watch with Tom Hardy SLAYING (in every sense of the word) his role with superb, delightful, pitch-perfect gusto. Hardy was operating on an entirely different level (in an entirely different GAME) than everyone else (with the possible exception of Riz Ahmed’s just-psychopathic-enough Space Mogul “Carlton Drake” aka Symbiote “Riot”).
Venom also overcame mediocre marketing and ill-conceived trailers that made my baseline going into this flick somewhere above “Gene Simmons-tongues-you-down-after-getting-smacked-with-(and-covered-in-honey-from)-a-beehive-complete-with-angry-bees” and right on par with “confused-hamster-shows-up-to-wrong-wheel-expecting-treats-gets-aggressively-tickled-until-it-pukes”. Bottomline: don’t judge this movie by its trailers or pre-conceived expectations, you’d be missing an inexplicably entertaining ride.
Straight-up nothing about this movie should’ve worked. The broad-spectrum panning of Venom is likely fairly earned and honestly analyzed. I don’t know if I should blame frequent co-reviewer (and co-dependant MovieBoozer bud of mine) Hawk Ripjaw for this as he’s forced the part of my soul that unabashedly loves pure craptastic cinema to grow over the past few years (like a hot-house orchid or Kardashian Clan clothing line) but this movie was a logistical and creative train wreck AND I LOVED ALMOST EVERY SECOND OF IT. Please know that Venom had problems with a Wheel-of-Fortune, a la carte, dealer’s choice rotary of options. One of which being the very British Tom Hardy’s weirdly off-putting American accent that started off a bit wonky but found its footing later on.
Venom had uneven pacing upfront and didn’t really get going until Brock and Venom cohabited their shared corpus. The spastic tone of the film also rode a razor-sharp line of deadpan seriousness that was, coupled with Hardy’s off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Brock/Venom THAT NO ONE BATTED AN EYELASH AT – EVEN WHEN VENOM EATS SOME MU’FUCKERS, fairly distracting. Michelle Williams as Eddie Brock’s ex-fiancee “Anne Weying”, showed some life late in the third act that was too blip too late to really capitalize on her character’s potential (a very Kirsten Dunst-ish, Sam Raimi Spiderman franchise-y earnest doe-eyes for days that could’ve been so much more).
There was a flat, singular dimension of character depth that an asthmatic pug couldn’t have drowned in ’cause it was so shallow. There are no hidden motivations or even really anything other than [dialogue] + [motorcycle chase] + [lobster tank/MRI] = ROCKET MAN. I’m not saying Venom had to have a Pan’s Labyrinth type of “choose-your-own-realities” depth to it, but if this were a windshield I’d have been a bug slowly getting pushed off by gale-force winds of glossed-over expectations.
And lastly for Beer Two, Venom did a bang-up job of delivering a fantastically entertaining two hours on PG-13 legs, but it felt like running a 5K with one real leg and a pirate’s peg leg after your other real leg got eaten in a Sharknado. Sure, you’ll get across the finish line and look pretty cool doing it (provided you wear an eye patch and carry a sweet hook) but you’re not exactly gonna be The Flash. You don’t have to have an R-rating to make a good movie, but as Deadpool has proven (twice now), audiences are willing to go there for the right characters and this anti-hero origin story (set just outside the MCU so no Spiderman-just yet) was a pitch right to that R-spot but Marvel took a swing and miss on fulfilling Venom’s full poisonous potential instead.
This wasn’t a bicycle built for two… Or anyone not already familiar with the comic book character going into Venom. Sure, they explain enough that you can get the gist of it (alien blob bonds with human host and wants to scarf humans like they’re Scooby Snacks) but the screenwriters seemed to lose the narrative thread when trying to get anything near the ballpark of making sense for the uninitiated. Okay, so the symbiotes slowly kill their hosts (even when achieving a perfect match)… but killing and eating other people for spare parts helps? Or… any kind of living flesh will do?
The rules on symbiosis in this flick are a moving target at best. Put on your beer goggles and don’t look too hard at that (or why Venom decides to cut bait and bail on Riot’s plan to Pizza Pocket humanity because he spent the last couple of days bro-ing out with Eddie). Come again for Big Fudge? You’re gonna selflessly sacrifice yourself (which is way out of whatever character you’ve been establishing for the past two hours) in the Big Bang for a dude who only “lets you eat really bad people”?
Forget every bit of that (fully hilarious and totally accurate) analysis you just read and go see this movie. Venom defies all logic and expectations and is a highly entertaining hot mess of cinematic parts grafted onto an origin story that shouldn’t have worked in any way, shape, or amorphous gooey form. BUT. IT. DOES. Fuck it, I’m out. Go see this movie. I want another.
Last Call: Stay all the way to the end, there’s a mid-credits stinger and post-credits webtacular treat.
Venom (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each failed symbiote graft. Take Two: for every dead symbiote.
Take a Sip: everytime Eddie hears a little voice in his head.
Take a Drink: anytime a symbiote has a face-to-face with its meatsack.
Take a Shot: every time Venom enters and exits Eddie.
Take a Drink: whenever Venom takes the steering wheel, so to speak.
Shotgun Your Beer: for the mega that puts a HERTZ on Riot.