Sunday, October 21, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Venom

Venom was written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel. Yep, believe it or not it took a whopping THREE people to write this. It was directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Pinkner is a terrible hack who previously co-wrote such "hits" as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The 5th Wave and The Dark Tower. Now THAT'S a resume! He also co-wrote Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, which accidentally came out pretty well. Note that EVERY screenplay he's written so far has been for Sony. He must have some really juicy dirt on them!

Rosenberg is a very uneven writer, who previously penned Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Beautiful Girls, Con Air, Disturbing Behavior, High Fidelity, Gone In Sixty Seconds, Impostor, Highway and Kangaroo Jack (!!!). He co-wrote Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle with Jeff Pinkner.

Marcel wrote the criminally inaccurate biopic Saving Mr. Banks, as well as Fifty Shades Of Grey, which should tell you everything you need to know about her talent level.

Fleischer has a similarly checkered resume. He previously directed Zombieland (which I liked quite a bit), 30 Minutes Or Less (nope) and Gangster Squad (BIG nope!). He's done a lot of TV work as well.

It's not a terrible movie per se, but it's far from good. I'd call it mediocre at best. It's big, loud and most of all, dumb. The plot makes no sense, the characters have no motivation and the tone is all over the place. 

It feels for all the world like a superhero movie from ten or fifteen years ago, before Marvel Studios began dominating the genre with their superior product.

There may be a reason for it feeling dated. Sony actually began developing Venom wayyy back in 2007, and it sat in Development Hell until 2017!

As I always do in this situation, I just want to point out to everyone that Venom is NOT a Marvel Movie. It's made by the fine hacks over at Sony Pictures, the wonderful studio that pumps out hit after hit, year after year to universal critical accla... HAW, HAW, HAW! Sorry, I couldn't finish that sentence with a straight face. Marvel Studios had absolutely NOTHING to do with this film and share none of the blame.

I'd also like to point out that despite the fact that Venom is a major Spider-Man villain in the comics, Spider-Man doesn't make an appearance in the film. In fact, according to the producers, this film takes place in a universe in which Spider-Man doesn't even exist! What the hell?

Sigh... Only Sony could make a Spider-Man movie that doesn't actually have Spider-Man in it. 

I freely admit I've never been a huge fan of the Venom character, which may be coloring my review a bit. I thought he was OK when he first appeared, as he was sort of a "mirror image" of Spider-Man and made for an interesting foe.

All that came to an end when Venom's popularity inexplicably exploded. The public couldn't get enough of the character, so Marvel decided to spin him off into his very own title. That created a problem though, as you can't very well have an evil villain as the title character of a comic. Heck, Venom's catchphrase at the time was "I want to eat your brain," for corn's sake!

So Marvel changed Venom from a violent psychopathic entity into a self-described "lethal protector," one who defended the innocent and punished the guilty. In effect they straight up neutered him.

That's pretty much when I lost touch with the character. He was mildly interesting as a bad guy, but who the hell wants to read about a heroic Venom?

Sadly, the film appears to be using this watered down version of the character. When Venom first appears he's slightly evil, but soon becomes a hero, helping protect his host and save the Earth from an evil symbiote.

Is this really what the fans wanted? If I was a big Venom fan and had waited decades to see him finally grace the big screen in his own movie, I'd be severely disappointed when I found out they used the watered down version of the character.

Another big problem I had with the film was its tone, as it was all over the place. One minute Venom's literally biting the heads off people (chastely offscreen of course), and then he immediately undercuts this horrific violence with a stupid one liner.

I was under the impression that Venom was supposed to be a deadly serious, no nonsense character. I don't know how it is in the comics, but that's definitely not the case in this film. Both Venom and Eddie spend the entire run time cuttin' it up, spouting one liners like a Vaudeville comedy team. It's more buddy comedy than superhero movie.

Of all the things I expected from a Venom movie, high comedy was definitely last on the list.

The movie's rating also caused a minor controversy. Fans were hoping Venom would be a hard R-rated film along the lines of Deadpool. Sony wimped out of course, cutting it down to a more family-friendly (and profitable) PG-13. 

Sony executives defended the ratings decision, claiming it would allow Venom to appear in a future Spider-Man movie, or even cross over into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stated in no uncertain terms that that would never happen, so the movie was gutted for no reason.

According to some reports, a whopping FORTY minutes of footage was cut from Venom (!). This might help explain why so much of the movie doesn't make any goddamned sense. Star Tom Hardy also lamented that the missing parts were among his favorites in the entire film. 

In case you're still wondering if you should see Venom or not, consider this quote from star Tom Hardy. He claims Venom is the coolest of all Marvel heroes, because "he has a brazen swagger and a zero foxtrot attitude." That says it all right there, whatever the hell it means!

Against all logic and reason, so far Venom's grossed an astonishing $460 million worldwide, against its $100 million budget. And it's still going strong, as of this review. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks the $600 million mark before it's all over. 

I know why it's doing so well. It's because the popcorn-munching general public doesn't know from studios, and they're flocking to this film because they think it's from Marvel, not Sony. I guarantee that's what's happening here. It's the only explanation as to why such a mediocre movie's doing so well.

Look for Eddie and Venom to face off against Carnage in Venom 2: Revenge Of The Symbiotes sometime in 2020.


The Plot:
We open on a space shuttle owned by the Life Foundation, as it returns to Earth from a deep space mission (I guess?). Suddenly there's a commotion inside the shuttle, causing it to crash land in Malaysia.

At the crash site, a team from the Life Foundation sift through the wreckage. Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed), the powerful billionaire CEO of the company, monitors them. Drake's unconcerned with the crew, and asks if his people managed to recover all the "samples" from the shuttle. 

We see several hazmat-suited figures remove a few capsules filled with squirming black symbiotes (although we're not supposed to know that's what they are yet). A tech tells him they've recovered three of the samples, but haven't found the fourth.

Just then the EMTs pull a survivor from the wreckage. He's identified at J.J. Jameson III, aka the son of Peter Parker's boss, even though there's supposedly no Spider-Man in this film's universe. He's loaded into an ambulance which then drives off.

Suddenly the comatose Jameson sits up, and we see he's been possessed by a symbiote. A black tendril shoots from his body and envelopes the Female EMT who's treating him. Another tendril kills the driver for no reason, causing the ambulance to violently crash. The Female EMT is thrown from the ambulance, and seemingly lies dead in the road. Suddenly her broken bones heal and she walks off.

Cut to San Francisco, where Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy) lives with his fiance Anne Weying (played by Michelle Williams), who just happens to be a lawyer with the Life Foundation. They exchange nauseatingly cutesy banter in an effort to show us they're the perfect couple.

Eddie's a reporter and the host of his own hard-hitting, investigative TV show, which is imaginatively called The Eddie Brock Report. He's scheduled to interview Carlton Drake, and is looking forward to ripping him a new asshole. Eddie's 
boss warns him to go easy on Drake, as he could easily make sure he never works in TV again. He reminds Eddie that his unorthodox antics already cost him a job in New York.

That night Eddie "accidentally" stumbles onto an email on Anne's computer, which confirms that three people were killed in the shuttle crash, a fact which Drake had covered up.

The next day Eddie interviews Drake, asking a series of pre-approved questions. He can't help himself though and goes off-script, asking Drake about the deaths. Drake angrily ends the interview and stalks off.

Predictably, Eddie's boss calls him into his office and fires him. Even worse, Eddie's actions get Anne fired as well. She gives him back his ring and breaks up with him.

Meanwhile, the Female EMT 
wanders into a local Malaysian market and starts chowing down on live eels. When the owner tries to stop her, she forms a blade with her arm and slices his throat. Other angry merchants try to attack, but she easily kills them all. She staggers toward an old woman, and the symbiote jumps into her body.

Six months later...

Drake is conducting illegal tests on the city's homeless in his lab. His chief researcher, Dr. Dora Skirth (played by Jenny Slate), objects to the tests and refuses to cooperate on moral grounds. Drake implies he'll harm her family if she doesn't comply, and she quickly backs down. He brings in a test subject named Isaac and locks him inside the lab. He releases one of the symbiotes, which immediately bonds with Isaac. He seems fine at first, is suddenly devoured from within, as he turns out to be an incompatible host.

Eddie's now unemployed and living in a cheap, rundown apartment. He goes out for a drink, and on the way back sees a homeless woman named Marie who's camped out on the street. They chat for a bit, and he even gives her some money (don't worry, this'll become important later).

He enters a bodega and greets the owner, Mrs. Chen. Suddenly a thug comes in, pulls a gun on her and demands his weekly "protection" money. Eddie watches this exchange as he cowers behind a display. 
Wait, what? He looks like a goddamned boxer who could kick anyone's ass. Plus he's supposed to be an aggressive journalist. So why's he hiding?

As Eddie leaves the store, he's approached by Dr. Skirth (that was quick!), who wants Eddie to investigate Drake (again) and expose his misdeeds. Eddie tells her to get lost, saying he doesn't do that anymore.

Eddie stops by Anne's apartment, and sees her coming home from a date with Dr. Dan Lewis, her brand new boyfriend. Eddie says he misses her and is sorry for what happened, blaming Drake for their mutual firings. Anne rightly tells him everything was HIS fault, and tells him there's no chance of them ever getting back together.

Having nothing to lose, Eddie calls Dr. Skirth and tells her he's in. They march right into the Life Foundation after hours, and Eddie takes photos of mutilated bodies from the failed symbiote experiments. He sees Maria in one of the labs (told you she'd become important later) and frees her. She immediately attacks him, as Eddie tries to fend her off. Suddenly she dies, and a symbiote exits her body and jumps into his. As the symbiote takes over, he's filled with new-found strength and agility.

An alarm sounds and Eddie runs through the building. He's approached by a team of security guards, but leaps over them with ease. He kicks down a heavy door, jumps over a fence and flees into the woods.

Drake finds Maria's empty body, and realizes one of his symbiotes is loose. He forces Dr. Skirth to confess she sneaked in Eddie, and throws her into a cell, where she's killed by another symbiote. Drake orders his security man Roland Treece to bring back Eddie and the symbiote at all costs.

Eddie returns to his apartment, which is obviously the very last place anyone would ever look for him. He's suddenly ravenously hungry, but the only things in his fridge he can stomach are tater tots and rotten meat. Suddenly he hears a deep raspy voice in his head, calling his name. This shocks him so badly he ends up knocking himself out.

Meanwhile, the Old Malaysian Woman arrives at a Hong Kong airport. She sees a Little Girl heading for San Francisco, and ominously follows her.

Cut to Anne and Dan on a date in a fancy restaurant. Eddie bursts in and tells Dan he thinks he has a parasite. He then starts gobbling food from other diners' plates, and hops in the lobster tank and begins eating them alive. Dan, who apparently takes his Hippocratic Oath very seriously, vows to help. 

Dan takes Eddie to the hospital and puts him in the MRI machine. As soon as it's activated, Eddie begins vibrating and convulsing, as the frequency from the machine is apparently deadly to his symbiote. If you don't recognize this scene as blatant foreshadowing, then you've never seen a movie before.

Eddie returns home and tries to get some rest. Suddenly Treece and his goons burst in and attempt to capture him. Eddie raises his hands and says he'll come quietly, but the symbiote has other ideas. Black, gooey tendrils shoot from Eddie's body and beat, strangle and murder the goons, in a scene that's lifted shot for shot from Upgrade.

As more goons arrive, the symbiote forces Eddie to leap out the window to escape. Treece reports in to Drake, who realizes Eddie's done what no other subject has been able to do
he's achieved perfect symbiosis with the er, symbiote. He orders Treece to bring Eddie back at all costs (again).

Treece sends out a fleet of armed drones to find Eddie. One spots him and tries to kill him. Wait, doesn't Drake want him alive? Anyway, Eddie spots a motorcycle, jumps on it and takes off. There's a big setpiece battle as Treece and his fleet (where do all these agents keep coming from?) and the drones chase Eddie through the city. The symbiote helps Eddie evade his enemies, as well as make impossible hairpin turns around busy street corners.

Eventually Treece manages to slam into Eddie with his SUV. Eddie's knocked off the bike, flies through the air and lands hard on the street, mangling him horribly. Treece saunters up and taunts Eddie, telling him he's a pain in his ass. Suddenly Eddie's broken legs straighten and heal, and his body's completely covered by the black goo of the symbiote. A terrifying toothy face covers Eddie's own, as he fully (and FINALLY, at the FIFTY SEVEN MINUTE mark) transforms into Venom.

He grabs Treece by the throat and picks him up off the ground. Just as he's about to kill him, another goon shoots him in the back. Venom spins around and bites his head off, but since this film's rated PG-13, it happens mostly off camera. Venom then flees and dives into the ocean.

He emerges next to a lighthouse, and retracts from Eddie, who's amazed that his broken legs have been healed. Suddenly a long tendril extends from his back, and Venom's head forms out of it. The two of them then have a heated conversation. Venom says he needs Eddie, as he's his "ride." He says he wants Carlton Drake's "rocket," for reasons of his own. He tells Eddie if he cooperates, he just might survive.

Meanwhile, a plane lands in San Francisco, and the Little Girl we saw in Hong Kong gets off. She's obviously now possessed by the symbiote. Also meanwhile, Drake is livid when he discovers the symbiote that infected Dr. Skirth killed her and then died. He tells Treece (AGAIN) to recover Eddie at all costs. Also also meanwhile, Dan calls Anne and says Eddie's tests came back, and the results are grim. He tells her to get him to the hospital ASAP.

Eddie (with Venom's help) climbs to the top of the Transamerica Pyramid, where he used to work. As they look out on the city, Venom says he almost hates to see our world end. Just then, a low flying plane roars overhead. The sonic vibrations from its engines damage and disrupt Venom. Eddie then falls down the side of the building, but Venom manages to recover and catch him in time.

They then break into the office of Eddie's boss. He lays his phone (containing the photos of Drake's illegal experiments) on his desk, along with a note telling him to do the right thing with them.

Eddie takes the elevator down to the lobby, and when the door opens, he's confronted by every cop and SWAT team member in San Francisco. He begs them to just let him walk away, but of course they attack instead. Venom envelopes Eddie and begins battling the cops, maiming and killing them all.

Anne tracks Eddie to work and sees Venom about to kill a cop. She screams, and Venom's head retracts, revealing Eddie inside. This only makes her scream even louder. He tries to explain, but she tells him to get in her car so she can rush him to the hospital immediately. Eddie's reluctant to get in, fearing for her safety. Venom tells her he likes Anne, and won't try to eat her.

As she drives to the hospital, Eddie tells her about Venom, and explains it's a sentient life form inhabiting his body. Anne takes this news surprisingly well. She suggests another MRI, but Venom violently disagrees, saying a sound frequency between 4000 and 6000 hertz is deadly to him (WHY WOULD YOU TELL THAT TO ANYONE?). They drive on, unaware one of Drake's drones is following them.

At the Life Foundation, Drake encounters the Little Girl from the airport. He asks her what she'd doing there, and she grabs him by the neck and transfers the symbiote into his body.

At the hospital, Dan tells Eddie the tests show his heart's atrophying, due to the presence of the "parasite." Anne addresses Venom, telling him he's killing Eddie. Venom tells Eddie not to listen to them. Venom then attacks Dan, as Eddie begs him to stop.

Anne turns on the MRI machine, and Venom shrieks in agony. He separates from Eddie, and Dan locks the symbiote in a lab. Eddie's furious with Venom for lying about not harming him. He tells him they're through and leaves. Venom slithers up the wall and escapes through an air vent.

Cut to a woman's hospital room, where he small dog's asleep at the foot of her bed (???). The dog hears something moving around in an air vent, and walks up to it, growling. Subtle! Gosh, I wonder if Venom will possess this dog next?

Eddie runs down a corridor and bangs on the elevator button. The doors pop open, revealing Treece and even more of his men. Treece shoots Eddie in the chest with a tranq dart and drags him off. Anne runs into the corridor looking for Eddie. Suddenly she sees the small dog staring up at her, and its eyes go white.

Eddie wakes up inside the Life Foundation, strapped to a chair. Drake enters and realizes Venom's no longer inside him. He demands to know where he is, and Eddie says he honestly has no idea. Suddenly the symbiote inside of Drake, which calls itself Riot (????) emerges. It's even bigger and uglier than Venom, and it roars at Eddie and then retracts. Drake tells Treece to "clean up his mess."

In an isolated lab, Riot's head extends out of Drake's body. He says there are millions more symbiotes in space, and as soon as they retrieve Venom, they can use Drake's "rocket" to go get them, bring them to Earth and take over the population. I don't understand why Riot needs Venom for any of this to happen, but let's just move on.

Cut to Treece marching Eddie into the woods surrounding the Life Foundation. He tells Eddie to kneel and prepares to kill him. Not sure why he had to bring him out here to shoot him, other than because the script said so. Suddenly large tendrils begin yanking Treece's men out of frame.

Treece turns and sees She-Venom, aka Anne, lurch toward him. She bites off his head and tosses his body away. She then picks up Eddie and plants a big kiss on him, transferring Venom into him. Venom tells Anne to stay put and runs off.

Venom tells Eddie that Riot has an arsenal of weapons (???) and plans to use the "rocket" to bring back millions more symbiotes to take over Earth. Eddie says he thought Venom was on board with that plan. He says he was, but changed his mind and likes it here on Earth. He now wants to stop Riot in order to save his newly adopted planet. Eh, who needs motivation in a movie like this?

Drake orders his team to begin the launch sequence for his "rocket." He notices one tech attempting to abort the launch, and transforms into Riot. He forms his hands into enormous axes and slays the entire crew. He then leaps out the window and runs toward the "rocket."

Venom chases after him, and the two engage in a lengthy, hard to follow CGI battle. Riot somehow pulls Venom out of Eddie (???) and it looks for all the world like he's about to eat his fellow symbiote. Just then Eddie reaches out and Venom leaps back onto him.

The battle continues, and for some reason Venom and Riot's chests both open, revealing the hosts inside them. We then get a shot of Venom fighting Riot, while Eddie and Drake slap at one another as well. Suddenly Riot absorbs Venom (and Eddie as well, I guess?), turning him into a bigger, stronger super symbiote. He scampers up the side of the "rocket."

Anne enters the control room and sees what's happening. She somehow activates a sonic blast, which causes the super symbiote to split back into Riot and Venom. They fall to a platform far below, and the sound causes both symbiotes to release their hosts and slither away.

Eddie and Drake then begin fighting one another. Eddie gets the upper hand and shoves Drake off the platform, and he falls into the ocean far below. He walks up toward the rocket, and suddenly he's impaled through the chest by a bladed tentacle, as we see Riot's somehow rejoined with Drake. He tells Eddie he's nothing, and leaps into the "rocket" and it blasts off.

Eddie seemingly dies on the platform. Suddenly Venom slithers up and envelopes him, healing his wound and reviving him. He jumps onto the "rocket" as well and sees Riot in the cockpit. He pulls the jagged chunk of Riot out of his chest and uses it to slash open the "rocket." It explodes, killing Riot and Drake.

Unfortunately, Venom's highly susceptible to flame as well as sound. He screams in agony as he's enveloped in the fiery explosion. He tells Eddie goodbye as he evaporates. Eddie's saved from the flame as he falls into the ocean.

Cut to some time later, as Eddie and Anne sit on her stoop. She says she's accepted a job in the public defender's office, and he says he's decided to "concentrate on the written word." Jesus, I hope that doesn't mean he's gonna work for the newspaper. He'll be unemployed again in a month!

Anyway, Anne makes him promise not to tell Dan about the kiss they shared. Suddenly Venom's voice tells Eddie that Anne belongs with them, indicating he's not dead after all.

Eddie goes back to the bodega, and sees poor Mrs. Chen get held up for protection money again. This time Eddie doesn't wet himself and cower behind a display. He turns into Venom and bites off the thug's head, in front of an astonished Mrs. Chen. Eddie asks Venom what they should do next, and he replies they can do whatever they want.

In the mid credits scene, Eddie enters San Quentin prison, where he interviews serial killer Cletus Kasady (played by Woody Harrelson in a ridiculous, bright red fright wig). Kasady tells Eddie that when he gets out, there's gonna be so much carnage, which causes the comic fans in the audience to cream their pants and swoon.


• As I said before, the watchword for this movie is dumb. The characters have constantly shifting motivation, things happen for no reason other than because the script says so, and absolutely nothing makes any goddamned sense.

Case in point: At the beginning of the movie, EMTs are taking the symbiote-infected Jameson to the hospital. Suddenly Jameson sits up and a tendril shoots from his chest, killing the driver and causing the ambulance to violently crash. The symbiote then enters the Female EMT and staggers off toward town.

We know for a fact that the symbiotes are intelligent beings. So why the hell did this one crash the ambulance? What if both EMTs had been killed in the wreck? The symbiote can't possess a dead body. Why not just relax and ride into town, and THEN jump into the EMT?

Did the writers put the ambulance wreck into the movie because they thought it was exciting?

• The producers have stated that Venom exists in its own cinematic universe, separate from any of the Spider-Man or Marvel films. And yet there's a character in the film named Jameson, who's supposedly the son of J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle.

So apparently J. Jonah and the Bugle exist in this world, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man don't. Got it. 

• Whenever we see Drake's spaceship, it's clearly a modified space shuttle design. Yet all through the movie, every single character calls it a "rocket." I know it's nitpicky, but IT'S NOT A ROCKET! It's a goddamned shuttle! 

I'm wondering if the ship was originally meant to be a rocket, but was later changed to a shuttle and the script just never got updated?

• I don't know who Ruben Fleischer is, but he's definitely not an actor's director. There's not one convincing performance in the entire movie. Everyone seems stiff and awkward, as if they're not sure where they're supposed to stand or what they're supposed to be doing. 

• There's absolutely no motivation in this film, as the characters actions are all wildly inconsistent, changing for no reason other than because the script says so.

Eddie's the worst offender in this department, as his character is extremely muddled and confusing. We're told he's a tough as nails journalist, known for his aggressive interview style. 

Yet later on we see that Eddie's so afraid of confrontation that he can't even tell his neighbor to turn down his music. And later we see him cowering behind a display during a convenience store robbery.

So which is it, movie? Is Eddie a bully or a coward?

The idea that Eddie's a weak-willed milksop isn't helped by the fact that he's built like a goddamned weightlifter and looks like he could beat the living sh*t out of anyone he sees.

Venom's actions don't make any more sense than Eddie's. When he first appears, he's all for joining up with his pal Riot to bring his symbiote brethren to Earth, so their race can take over the planet.

A few scenes later though, Venom tells Eddie he's "changed his mind," and wants to kill Riot to prevent him from destroying humanity. 

I'm not opposed to him changing his mind, but we're never given any explanation as to why he decided to switch sides. 

Even Riot suffers from this same inconsistent motivation. After he bonds with Drake, he says he needs to find Venom, so the two of them can fly into space, gather up their fellow symbiotes and bring 'em all back. 

But why? Why does he need Venom to help with this task? Who the hell knows? 

A bit later we find out it doesn't really matter, as Venom switches sides and Riot tries to kill him. Which of course means he never really needed his help in the first place!

Come on, guys! You had three goddamned screenwriters on this movie! Surely at least one of you went to film school and knows that a character needs clear and consistent motivation if you want the audience to understand and care about them.

 Let's talk a bit about Tom Hardy's voice in this movie. Hardy's British, so he affects an American accent (at least I think that's what it's supposed to be) as Eddie Brock. He gets the accent right, but it's the voice he uses that's the problem. He sounds for all the world like Christopher Walken trying to do a Bobcat Goldthwait impression. It honestly makes Eddie sound like he's brain damaged at times. You really have to hear it to believe it.

Note that Hardy also provides the gravelly, raspy voice of Venom as well. Which means Eddie's bizarre voice was an acting choice, not just the best he could do.

 In an interview, Tom Hardy said he took the role of Eddie because his ten year old son Louis is a big fan of the Venom characters. Said Hardy, "I wanted to do something my son could watch. So I did something where I bite people's heads off." Yeahhh...

Hardy also said his son gave him pointers on how to properly portray both Eddie and Venom, since he wasn't familiar with the characters. Yes, because it's always a good idea to get your acting tips from a ten year old boy.

 Venom joins the ever-growing list of films in which Tom Hardy spends much of the runtime with his face covered. He sported a weird breathing apparatus all through The Dark Knight Returns, spent a good portion of Mad Max: Fury Road with a garden tool strapped to his face, and filmed all his scenes in Dunkirk wearing an oxygen mask.

What the hell, Tom? Your face isn't that bad to look at!

• Credit where it's due: Venom actually looks pretty good in the film, and very much resembles his comic book counterpart— with one big exception...

He's missing his characteristic white spider logo across his chest. 

The reason for that is obvious, since in the comics Venom had a connection to Spider-Man, and he doesn't exist in this universe. It would have been nice if he'd had SOME kind of white logo or emblem across his chest though, as he looks almost... well, naked without it.

• I mentioned this in the plot summary, but it's worth a repeat. I was amazed to see that Venom doesn't appear until the fifty seven minute mark. Think about that. The title character, the one everyone came out to see, doesn't show up until almost an hour into the runtime! Well done, Sony!

• Shortly after Venom finally appears for the first time, he grabs Treece by the neck and says, "Eyes, lungs, pancreas... so many snacks, so little time!" Note that this little speech is lifted verbatim from the comics.

• Anne says she works for the law firm of Michelinie & McFarlane. That's a reference to David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, who are widely considered to be the creators of Venom.

Eh, that's sort of true, but in reality Venom had many fathers besides those two, and it would take 50,000 words to adequately explain his origin. 

The simple version is: Peter Parker accidentally got reporter Eddie Brock fired from the Daily Bugle. Later, Spider-Man went to another planet, where he acquired a brand new black costume, because comic books. Back on Earth, he discovered the costume was actually a living thing, trying to take over his body. Spider-Man removed this symbiote and rejected it. The symbiote then found Eddie Brock and joined with him. Since the two now had reason to hate Spider-Man, they became his greatest enemy. 

Many, many writers and artists had a hand in that convoluted origin story. Heck, Eddie Brock was created years before Venom was ever a greasy twinkle in anyone's eye. Yet for some reason, Michelinie & McFarlane get sole credit for creating him.

• Eddie's apartment is in the Schueller building. This is a reference to Randy Schueller, a Marvel Comics fan. Back in 1982m Schueller designed a new black costume for Spider-Man and sent a drawing of it to the Marvel offices. Editor In Chief Jim Shooter liked the design so much, he paid Schueller a whopping $220 for it.

Shortly afterward Marvel actually used the black costume in the Spider-Man books, and the rest is history.

• Venom's tongue appears in the movie, in all its bizarre and disgusting glory.

When Venom first appeared way back in 1984, Todd McFarlane drew him without a prominent tongue, and that's the way he appeared for several years.

Sometime in the 1990s, artist Eric Larsen drew Venom with a ridiculously long, slime-covered lolling tongue. The tongue was inexplicably a big hit, and soon everyone began drawing him that way.

After a while it became like an arms race, as each artist tried to top the one before and give Venom and even bigger tongue. Eventually his tongue was a good three feet long! 

There was never a time when you didn't see the tongue, as it stuck out in every single panel. I never quite understood this. How the hell did Venom talk with that thing dangling out of his mouth? Could any of the other characters understand anything he was saying, or did they just hear, "AGG ONNA EET ORR AAIN!"

 I brought this up a few months ago, but it's worth mentioning again here Upgrade and Venom are very, very similar to one another.

In Upgrade, Grey Trace is a quadriplegic who's given a new lease on life when he's implanted with a microchip that restores his mobility. Unfortunately, the chip has a sinister life of its own, and begins slowly taking over Grey's body, causing him to maim and even kill.

In Venom, Eddie Brock is an unemployed loser who's given a new lease on life when he's implanted with an alien symbiote, which grants him nearly unlimited strength and power. Unfortunately, the symbiote begins slowly taking over Eddie's body, causing him to maim and even kill.


This similarity becomes even more glaring when you compare the two trailers. In the Upgrade trailer, we see several thugs break into Grey's apartment. The microchip, called STEM, asks Grey for permission to take over his body. Grey agrees, and he instantly starts ruthlessly killing the thugs. Grey grimaces and tries to apologize to the men as his out of control body murders them.

The exact same thing happens in Venom. Treece and his thugs break into Eddie's apartment. Venom then takes over Eddie's body, and begins ruthlessly killing the thugs. Eddie grimaces and tries to apologize to the men as his out of control body murders them.

In both cases, the camera angles and fight choreography are virtually identical! And Logan Marshall-Green, who plays Grey, even looks amazingly like Tom Hardy!

Coincidence, or blatant theft? Upgrade began filming in March of 2017, while Venom started shooting a few months later in October. So there was definitely time for Sony to see what Upgrade was doing and "draw inspiration" from it.

On the other hand, the Venom character's been around since 1984, giving Upgrade three decades to lift its storyline from the comics. There's no real way to tell who stole from who.

• The Riot symbiote spends a good hunk of the runtime jumping from host to host, in an effort to get from Malaysia to America.

At one point Riot hops from the Lady EMT to the Old Malaysian Woman. SIX MONTHS then go by, and we see the Old Woman finally arrive in Hong Kong, looking to board a plane to San Francisco.

Many people online are calling this a plot hole, saying it shouldn't have taken this long for her to get to Hong Kong. Eh, I dunno. Take a look at a map. Malaysia and Hong Kong are a good 2,400 miles apart. I could easily see it taking a frail old lady six months to cover that distance.

• How does Venom eat people's heads when he's attached to Eddie? Does he instantly absorb every molecule of the head? Or does he mash it into a puree and force Eddie to swallow it?

• Jesus, Anne's boyfriend Dan must be the most understanding man on the planet. Her ex boyfriend appears out of nowhere, looking like a hobo and ranting like a crazy person, and Dan drops everything and instantly devotes his life to saving him. I can't quite decide if his actions are admirable or borderline creepy.

• Whenever we see an unattached symbiote, it's surprisingly small. They look to be about the size of a small dog. Yet when Venom inhabits Eddie, he somehow covers every square inch of his body, and even manages to form long tentacles, large shields and huge bladed weapons. So where's all that extra mass coming from?

• At one point in the film, Anne briefly joins with Venom in order to save Eddie. This is lifted right from the comics, where she was known as the imaginatively-named "She-Venom." 

• Venom spends most of the third act battling Riot, a rival symbiote who wants to take over Earth. Wow, another superhero movie in which the hero fights an evil version of himself. How original.

I can't single out Sony for using this well-worn trope though, as Marvel Studios has done it in dozens of their movies too (I'm definitely lookin' at you, Black Panther!). It was especially problematic in this film though, as Riot looked virtually identical to Venom. This made it tough to tell them apart, especially in the dimly-lit battle scenes. They were even the same color! Would it have killed them to have made Riot purple or green?

There's nothing wrong with this "evil twin" plot if it's done in moderation. But I'm growing weary of seeing it happen in virtually EVERY single superhero movie I see.

• By the way, why are these alien beings using English nouns such as "venom" and "riot" as names? Shouldn't they call themselves "Groptar" or "Slithmog" or something like that? 

Now that I think about it, they don't seem to be able to make sounds when they're not attached to a host. So how do they communicate with one another back on their homeworld?

• As in most superhero movies, the third act degenerated into one long, confusing setpiece battle. Half the time I couldn't even tell what I was looking at. Don't believe me? Take a look at the image above. What the hell's going on there? It's all just a big CGI mess, with one chunk of pixels fighting another.

• Late in the third act, Riot forms a six foot long edged weapon out of his hand and stabs Eddie through the chest with it. He then leaves this blade sticking out of Eddie's body and scampers off.

Um... that blade is part of Riot's body. Doesn't he need it? Does he really have mass to spare?

Of course the real reason he left the chunk of himself in Eddie becomes obvious a few seconds later. Venom yanks the blade out of Eddie's chest and then uses it to slash open the side of the "rocket," causing it to explode and kill Riot/Drake.

• In the very end of the movie, Venom finally says the big trailer line the audience came to hear. He grabs a robber and tells him he's going to bite off his arms, legs and face. He then says, "You will be this armless, legless, faceless thing, won't you. Rolling down the street like a turd... in the wind."

I don't think Venom understands how turds work. At the risk of being too awfully gross, turds are generally pretty sticky, and really not prone to much rolling. In fact you'd need a very stiff wind just to get one to move at all. Heck, who're we kidding, you'd need a tornado!

• In the mid credits scene, Eddie meets with an incarcerated serial killer who makes a pithy comment about causing carnage after he escapes.

See, in the comics, once Marvel turned Venom into a superhero, they needed a new villainous symbiote. So they came up with Cletus Kasady, a psychotic, unrepentant murderer who bonded with a red symbiote that called itself Carnage." 

Obviously the movie's setting up a future appearance from Carnage here. Given Venom's massive success so far, it's a sure bet he'll appear in the inevitable sequel. Hopefully they'll ditch Woody Harrelson's outrageous Ronald McDonald fright wig though.

Venom is a disappointing throwback to the superhero movies of ten or fifteen years ago, before Marvel came along and perfected the genre. Weirdly, it's also a Spider-Man movie that doesn't have Spider-Man in it. It features incoherent plotting, nonexistent character motivation and is a tonal nightmare. Worst of all, it takes a potentially interesting villain like Venom and neuters him, turning him into a comedy relief character. Despite all that, the movie's inexplicably popular and has already wracked up nearly half a billion dollars, so expect to see Sony pump out Venom sequels for the rest of your life. I give it an unenthusiastic C+.

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