Hotly-anticipated and almost instantly critically panned, Sony’s Venom has spawned a cascade of memes and a throbbing pulsating slash fandom which has mystified those same professional movie-watchers who derided it as “fantastically boring”, “incoherent”, and riddled with bad CGI (I’ll give them that). Far more importantly, the social media hotbed of fannish discourse that is the microblogging site/hellhole Tumblr has adopted the central couple as its flagship… ship.
Venom, whose titular character has already been compared to someone drizzling Creme Egg filling onto a bin bag, is an absolute masterclass in how to balance horror (bodily and external), action (some whizzy fight scenes and a bathetic bike chase), comedy (…lobsters), and romance against each other, to pepper respectable action sequences from 1999 with clunky eggfart dialogue generated by a bot, inexplicable delivery without logical emphasis, a nonsensical plot – and produce a thoroughly entertaining movie on the strength of genuinely warmth of character decision-making rooted in kindness rather than ideology, and a cast who were determined to have fun – with no amount of embarrassing dialogue preventing them from serving up whatever performance they felt like giving.
Also, I think a lot of respectable critics haven’t really grasped a vital fact about Millennials – and even more so Gen Z – which is that they really, truly are extremely thirsty for big monsters. The bigger, slimier, more toothy and threatening the better. Google the word “kaijuf***ker” if you don’t believe me and enjoy having your afternoon ruined.
In the opinion of my afternoon’s companion, the movie opens with 20 minutes of completely unnecessary nonsense. I find it hard to disagree. The movie-watching public probably don’t need the majority of set-up that’s fed to us in action movies in particular, and while the opening crash-landing of the Life Foundation spacecraft and its subsequent goo refugee symbiotes gave some smaller part actors an opportunity to add to their showreels that I absolutely do not begrudge them, the attempt to build tension with this didn’t really work and was quite boring.
We’re all hear to see Tom Hardy get tongue-boxed in various orifices by a living sex toy while having an absolutely catastrophic case of the junkie sweats and gurning like his life depends on pulling a plausible Jim Carrey impression – so let’s skip the niceties.
Mr Hardy, playing himself as a vlogger who has accidentally got a job as A Real Journalist with absolutely no investigative skills (plausible, unfortunately), immediately sh-ts up his job and gets fired for trying to publicly generate some sort of conscience in Riz Ahmed’s beautifully understated Elon Musk pastiche villain. He’s then promptly dumped by his long-suffering girlfriend, Michelle Williams, because of his complete failure to respect her boundaries, and completes the classic movie downward trajectory into a “loser apartment” and scenes of frantic job-hunting while haunting the local corner store and trying to avoid low-level gangsters. Although, as he has the wherewithal to live by himself in a whole apartment in San Francisco, one of the most housing-crisis-y cities in the US, we have to assume he’s not doing too badly.
Elon’t Muskn’t, the off-brand Pharma Pioneer at the not-at-all ominous Life Foundatain meanwhile continues to blithely murder his way through the large homeless population of said city in the pursuit of “saving humanity” with an untested injection of a recently-acquired alien lifeform that’s already detonated a couple of rabbits, which is… ethically problematic. The idea El-not Mus-off appears to be peddling is that what with ecological Armageddon looming, mankind – or at least the part of mankind that runs the Life Foundation – could escape to a life beyond the stars rather than stick around to fix its mess. Who could possibly… do… such a thing? Oh. Perhaps the problem with Venom isn’t that it’s far-fetched, but that in a time when every news report feels like a waking nightmare, it’s not really far-fetched enough for fantasy,
One of the scientists acting as a shepherd to shoddily-constructed tests and general murder finally develops a spine about her misgivings and for some reason takes her problem to Eddie Brock, a man who spectacularly crashed out of his career practically in front of her eyes. Eddie Brock, disaster journalist and haunter of cornerstones, loved by homeless women but loathed by his ex-girlfriend’s cat, goes through the inevitable dance of “I absolutely am not helping you” / “oh no I’m personally invested now” and accompanies his whistleblower in breaking into the worst-secured secret science facility on the face of the earth. Huge, wall-sized doors slide open at the touch of a palm. One solitary security guard is on patrol. The security at my local gym is better than that, and to the best of my knowledge we only have the usual range of deadly contaminants in the shower room.
A series of predictable disasters plays out now, replete with red flashing lights, gratuitous suffering vulnerable people, and one black alien goo impregnating our reluctant protagonist, and now the fun truly begins.
Two moist losers, against all the odds, have found each other and become one sweaty, unbalanced idiot eating last night’s chicken from the bin and muttering to itself. Then! Terrible Bad Men with small mouths come to split these two newly-weds asunder!
Every minute of Tom Hardy’s possession by interstellar parasite and self-avowed loser Venom is a romp. He saw the chance to flex a set of comedy muscles that rarely get the opportunity they deserve to put on a gun show, and he went for it – much to the gratitude of thirsty Tumblr fans and to the detriment of live lobsters.
As an aside, one of the reasons you will discover that Venom and Brock are absolutely the core couple of this movie is that ex-girlfriend Anne’s new boyfriend absolutely does nothing to conform to the jealous ineffectual stereotype that the Replacement Boyfriend normally does in an action movie. Instead, he behaves… like a doctor, treating a man in obvious distress, doing his best to care for his physical and mental safety, and not once throwing even the slightest bit of a shitfit about his girlfriend speaking to her ex. That is maturity!
The core of the several terrible movies baked into one moreish cakewreck of a movie is an odd couple romcom. Leaving aside the illustrative line about having “one of those things up your ass” (it could have been anywhere else in your body – probably was – but you had to make it like that, didn’t you?), leaving aside the keynote smooch which is, technically, an interspecies threesome – every moment of this film exists for the sole purpose of getting the two main character together in a beautiful, bickering unity, a meeting of like souls. If that’s not the definition of romance, I don’t know what is.
Admittedly, it’s perhaps a similar sort of romance to the kind Bryan Fuller made for NBC, but I don’t think that should disqualify this charming little globe of used lube from picking up some romance movie plaudits.
And besides, in the comics – it’s canon:
Venom #150, Writer: Mike Costa, Artist: Tradd Moore, Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro, Letterer: Clayton Cowles.
I rest my case.