Sunday, October 14, 2018

Movie Review: VENOM (2018)

The other day I saw the movie Venom with a friend at Atlantic Station right here in Atlanta, GA. Although the reviews were for the most part not very good, it did look kind of cool and he wanted to see it. I've historically been a superhero fan, although X-Men was more my thing than Spider-Man (I think I only owned one Spider-Man comic--it was part of the Clone Saga I think), so I decided to give it a shot.

So how was it? Let's find out...

The Plot

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a crusading journalist in San Francisco living with his fiancee Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) and covering stuff the local powers-that-be would rather not get discussed. His going off half-cocked after Elon Musk-esque Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) with information he shouldn't have costs him his job and his relationship, leaving him living unemployed in a slum.

Then a whistle-blower at Drake's company Doctor Dora Skirth (Melora Walters) contacts him about some shenanigans going on at the laboratory. Eddie sneaks in and accidentally bonds with an alien Symbiote, becoming more than human and more than a little bit hungry for live prey. Now he has to evade Drake's men and figure out what's going on, but there's more than one Symbiote out there...

The Good

*The dynamic between the Venom Symbiote, an alien predator who initially views his human host as nothing more than a "ride," and act-before-thinking do-gooder Eddie is absolutely hilarious. Seriously, I spent the last half or so of the movie laughing my head off. I can tell because I suffered a compression fracture in my spine over the summer that hasn't fully healed and consequently that hurt. Seriously, that is absolutely the best part of the movie and I'm glad the film has made so much money that there has to be a sequel. I want to see more of that.

*I like Tom Hardy's portrayal of Eddie Brock. He clearly wants to do the right thing, but doesn't really have good judgement and it costs him. And then he has his hands full trying to manage an intelligent alien predator with a really sadistic sense of humor that's sharing his body.

*I like how they took elements from the different Venom storylines to put together this one, especially since for whatever reason (rights, contracts, etc) they couldn't have Spider-Man in it. I'm not going to go into a lot of details about which plots got used to avoid spoilers, but one is definitely "Lethal Protector", in which Venom decides to become a superhero.

*Ahmed is very good as Drake. He's charismatic and seems to generally have good intentions, but he's incredibly manipulative, amoral, and downright hissable in parts. Seriously, I was mad at him at times, and not a lot of movie villains straight-up anger me.

*Eddie's job situation rings true to me as a former newspaper reporter--if someone in the community has sufficient pull with the media owner, is a big enough advertiser, etc. they have an unhealthy amount of power over what gets covered and what doesn't. What happens with Eddie is what would happen if Elon Musk were to vindictively pursue a grudge against a local reporter who challenged him, especially if said reporter went off on him without evidence to back up his claims. And given how Eddie was "run out of New York" (an allusion to the comic plot in which Brock loses his job as a newspaper reporter, something he blamed Spider-Man for) and might not have a great reputation already, he's particularly vulnerable.

*I liked how the film handles the relationship between Eddie, Anne, and Anne's new boyfriend Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott), who happens to be a gigantic fan of Eddie's news show. Their interactions are pretty funny and it show the essential decency of all three characters. Anne still cares about Eddie despite what happened earlier (seriously, even an alien monster takes her side on the issue), Eddie respects Anne enough not to resent her new boyfriend and never once thinks about letting his alien "friend" cause him harm, and Dan sincerely tries to help Eddie (whom he thinks has some kind of conventional illness) rather than get territorial. And Anne has some surprisingly bad-ass moments for someone not really established as an Action Girl.

*An alien monster has a character arc. Seriously, he (it?) does.

The Bad

*The movie takes awhile to get going. Things don't really start getting fun until around 1/4 to 1/3 into the film. They could have tightened things up a little bit, although I have no specific suggestions about what to cut.

*As David pointed out after the movie, some of Dr. Skirth's actions in regards to helping Eddie get the dirt on Drake don't make a lot of sense. For starters, Drake's lab is probably full of security cameras, so sneaking him in isn't going end well.

The Verdict

I'll give this an 8.0, barely. The sheer hilarity of the Venom-Eddie interactions outweighs a lot of the issues the movie has.

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