Review: Venom10 October 2018
My sister, having been to a pre-release screening all on one occasion prior, thought she’d got this all figured out. She kept a vigilant eye on the reception desk, hoping to beat everyone around us (and by that, I mean the two other individuals who rocked up half an hour early) to get our names ticked off and line up. She reminded me that tardiness would be our downfall. What she really meant was that we’d get shitty seats. Last time we’d done an event like this, she didn’t hesitate to tell me that if need be, shoving little kids out of the way would be on the agenda. This time round, the waiting area filled with superhero fanboys and a surprising number of people in their 40s–50s. I didn’t need to look over to see the glint in my sister’s eyes. They wouldn’t stand a chance against her pointy elbows.
Names ticked off and positioned in line, the next feature of the night was of paramount importance: refreshments. The popcorn was carted out without fuss, but no soft drinks followed. My sister, now an expert in these events, assured me that they were keeping the drinks in the fridge until closer to start of the screening. She actually had no idea what she was talking about because moments later, off in the distance, our gazes set upon a most heinous sight. Rolling our way, a trolley filled with bottled water. I swivelled my head to meet my sister and found her mirroring my disbelief. Were we not to quench our thirst with the sweet nectar of Coca Cola? Turns out the both of us needed to calm the fuck down because a second look revealed that the soft drinks were placed on the trolley’s second shelf. Fears assuaged, we armed ourselves with refreshments and took our seats.
Before the screening, an MC took to the front of the cinema to hype the audience. Lo and behold, it was the same MC from the last pre-release screening we’d gone to, and he had left such a strong impression on us that we awaited his speech with glee (You can check out our previous encounter with him HERE). He fumbled and invited awkward laughter just like last time, but we were honestly proud of how far he’d come (though his improvement was probably due to having his script on hand this time). He needn’t have stressed though. Even without the encouragement of a hype man, everyone was eager for a fresh and entertaining take on Venom.
And the film delivered.
Director Ruben Fleisher delivers a portrayal of the alien symbiote that is remarkably different from the character’s last silver screen iteration in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3. Gone is the dominating and manipulative villain. Instead, you’re offered a pile of goo that acts as part-time pet, other times wingman, full-time hilarious inconvenience for one Eddie Brock. Don’t get me wrong, he still kills and maims in glorious fashion, it’s just that in his downtime, you’ll see him providing a running commentary on Eddie’s love life and loser status. Another impression of the symbiote you’ll likely have by the end of the film? Venom embodies that one bro who goads you into doing stupid shit. All of this amounts to a portrayal of the symbiote that I was pleasantly surprised by. He’s an enjoyable character to watch in his own right and his likability isn’t contingent on the traits of his host. Avoiding painting Venom as an all-consuming mass that takes away its host’s agency, the film instead gives you a more buddy-cop dynamic between symbiote and host, where the two banter, argue and learn off each other. This results in one of the film’s greatest strengths: getting you to root for a jacked-up alien with entirely too many teeth and a habit of eating human heads.
Venom may be the titular character, but the film’s protagonist is very much Eddie Brock, and actor Tom Hardy does a brilliant job portraying a more sensitive and vulnerable type of hero. Hardy brings a certain softness to the character, exemplified in Eddie’s mannerisms and speech towards people that mean something to him. The way he interacts with his homeless friend, Mary, is a notable example. One of the things I liked best about his character is the way he’s emotionally open. Eddie isn’t the suave or collected male hero you may be used to seeing. He’s angry at the world and a bit of a mess. For much of the film, he’s out of his depth. What’s so refreshing about him is that he freely admits when he’s scared, hurt, lonely or confused. This trait makes him more accessible to viewers because it’s easier to sympathise and empathise with a character that’s explicitly shown to be flawed and susceptible to pain. The fact that even when he’s feeling lost Eddie still strives to fight for justice, makes him a protagonist you’ll admire and get behind.
The two main side characters, played by Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams, aren’t all that noteworthy, but they adequately perform their roles in the story, that is, creating tension and adding depth to the protagonist’s journey. Ahmed’s antagonist, Carlton Drake, is a bit of a cliché, with him being a scientist slash businessman tampering with unknown forces for human gain, however his contemporary concerns about Earth’s limited resources, which underpin his motivations, are a unique touch that make him a compelling villain.
Williams portrays Eddie’s love interest, by the name of Anne Weying. What’s great about her character in this film is that she often takes an active role in progressing the story and she very rarely plays the damsel in distress, a common trope in superhero movies. Williams’ chemistry with Hardy also makes for a believable and appealing pairing.
A final point of discussion would be the film’s visual effects and score. I was particularly impressed by the look of the alien symbiotes. Their colours, textures and movements all captured an otherworldly essence indicative of their alien status, while also remaining realistic and naturalistic enough that they didn’t become farfetched images in the world of the story. In the fight sequences, the Venom symbiote’s ability to be an extension of his host and form corporeal shapes was employed ingeniously and was a delight to see manifest. The actions scenes were made more epic and tension was heightened by Ludwig Göransson’s riveting score. This, paired with the seamless transitions and interplay between Eddie and Venom, resulted in a captivating fighting style distinct to the antihero.
Venom is a humorous, gripping and memorable take on the origin story of Eddie Brock’s merging with the symbiote and fighting against crime. The film is so fast-paced that it’s over far too soon, but if anything, that just leaves me wanting more. So to Sony I say, bring on Venom 2!