Finally, the question can be answered – how can Venom be featured in a film, when he’s a Spider-Man villain, and Spider-man is, well….. remember the end of The Infinity War? If you haven’t seen it, then why the heck not?
I have to admit that when the first teaser trailer was released, I was less impressed than I wanted to be. There was something about it that just wasn’t right. When I saw the second trailer, I was far more impressed and looking forward to the movie. Then, right on release day, the first few words about it hit the net and damn, those words weren’t good or kind. “Not just bad, but Catwoman bad” was one. Hell, it could be worse – right? At least they didn’t say it was Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four bad.
Feeling that those reviews were coming from bloggers just like me, I decided to hell with it. Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one. I saw Venom on opening night with a packed house at the multiplex. The audience there liked it. A lot. Deeply appreciative, in fact.
Let’s get the confusing bit out of the way first. It’s a movie based of course on a Marvel Comics character – but it ISN’T a Marvel Studios film. Pretty much like X-Men at 20th Century Fox, the rights to Spider-Man and associated characters lie with Sony/Columbia. (Spider-man appeared in Civil War, Homecoming and Infinity War by special arrangement.)
So, Venom isn’t one of the Marvel Studios films and doesn’t form a part of one of their arcs. It doesn’t play into the Infinity War continuity. Except, it kind of, sort of does – Spider-Man is nowhere to be seen, BUT – the film is set in San Francisco, rather than New York, Spider-Man’s base of operations. So that takes care of that. (Except the pedantic side of me can’t help but point out that nobody seems to have turned to dust in this film either.)
The origin has been changed considerably from the source material. Long story short, back in the eighties, Marvel Comics ran a series of titles under the Secret War banner. A group of their superheroes were pitted in battle against a selection of supervillains on an alien planet. Spider-Man’s suit was destroyed in one of the battles, but he found a strange substance that covered his body, becoming his new Spider-Man costume, or indeed any other form of clothing he wanted.
When he came back to Earth, the suit began behaving oddly and he discovered that what he was wearing a parasitic alien symbiote that was starting to take him over. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four helped defeat the parasite now known as Venom, discovering its aversion to noise. So, eventually, it escaped it’s containing jar and discovered a down on his luck, thuggish reporter who was holding a grudge against Peter Parker and joined with him. Thing is, the suit knows all Parker’s secrets and is itself feeling betrayed by Parker, its original host. And that’s what makes him such an interesting threat.
So – take all that away, and we’re left with a considerable re-imagining of the origin, eliminating the Spider-Man/Peter Parker element and going straight to Eddie Brock. The symbiote is still alien in origin and comes to Earth via a space mission from a seemingly philanthropic bioengineering company who bring some symbiote samples back but their craft crashes and the Venom symbiote, a mass of black goo escapes, going from body to body until it reaches California and finds Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) a guerrilla reporter with a hard-hitting TV news show. Unfortunately, he hits the wrong person too hard in his search for a story and loses his job, apartment, girlfriend…the works.
Venom as we see him here is more an anti-hero than any kind of super villain, plus there are no superheroes around for him to fight. Whether he will go up against Spider-man in the future depends largely on how the next Avengers movie goes and how that massive ending will be resolved.
Most of the film is taken up with Hardy’s Brock trying to figure out what is happening to him, why he’s hearing the voices in his head and how he copes with the sudden onset of the superpowers the suit gives him. There’s a fair bit of comedy here, where brock is replying to the voices in his head but nobody else can hear him. Unfortunately, the joke wears thin before the end of the film.
Venom himself, in his full costumed appearance is absolutely dead-on (with the exception of the white spider symbol we’re used to seeing in the comics being missing) and he is convincingly realised in CGI (but then, so was Venom in Spider-Man 3 to be fair) He looks exactly like the Todd Macfarlane artwork of the comic books come to life, which surely must be the highest praise possible. (See below)
Be aware, there are TWO stings, one mid-credits which will certainly play into the next film (already announced) and one at the end of the credits which has nothing whatsoever to do with either this movie or any sequel – it’s kind of a mystery to me why they tacked it on, if I’m honest. The first is relevant and gives us comic book fans optimism for the sequel and its likely arc, the second gives the audience a definite WTF vibe.
Overall, it’s not a bad film plot-wise. Effects-wise is looks great, but if you’re looking to see the Venom that has plagued the Marvel universe for the past few decades, you’re in for a disappointment. So, not Catwoman bad, definitely not Fantastic 4 bad – more in the league of Punisher, where the character had been softened up to appeal to a wider audience rather than show us the true psychopathic nature of him. But – I’m sure that will come soon enough.