Over the weekend, Venom, the latest film to be released that is based on a popular Marvel Comics character, was unleashed on the world, to mixed reviews. Even before the film was released, it was being slammed as the new Catwoman, which, in case you may have somehow erased it from your mind, just so happens to be considered one of the worst comic book adaptations ever made. And the negative reviews didn’t end there. As the first critic reactions hit social media days ahead of its October 4 release, it seemed that audiences were overwhelmingly underwhelmed with Sony’s latest effort to write a Marvel story. But is the movie really that bad? Or, is it simply that movie audiences have forgotten the reason that they go see a movie?
Venom tells the story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative journalist who gets a bit too close to a story (and a homeless woman) and becomes infected with a parasitic alien called a “symbiote” – the titular Venom, to be exact. The alien can take control of Eddie’s mind, transform his body, and can do extraordinary things like open its mouth to eat a man’s entire head in one chomp. Oh, and it also has a telepathic connection to its host, so they can communicate with each other. So, yeah, a hyper realistic story that really lends no leeway when it comes to telling the tale, right? Considering some of the reviews the film has received, you would think that must be the case, but the fact is that anyone who is complaining about this film is either a jaded Lady Gaga (or, possibly DC Comics) fan, a troll, or, more innocently, they simply did not get what the movie was trying to accomplish.
It seems almost hard to believe now but there was a time in which people would go see a movie, not to change their lives or their view of the world, but simply to have a good time. They weren’t all award winners, to be sure, but that didn’t matter. The era of the B-movie was a golden age of film-making in terms of taking imagination to the limits, creating entertaining stories on a shoestring budget, and, most importantly, making theater (or drive-in) audiences find humor and enjoyment from the absolutely absurd. Was it likely that nuclear waste was going to turn frogs into bloodthirsty beasts, ready to punish humanity for its abuse of nature? Not really. Were people of yesteryear truly worried that a 50-foot woman would actually wreak havoc on their city? Nope. Did audiences go home and check their closets after sitting through a movie with a man in a rubber werewolf mask chasing helpless coeds? Probably not. But, did they have fun watching those silly stories play out on the screen? Oh, you can bet your bottom dollar. Venom is a fantastic tribute to those movies that were made simply to bring pleasure to audiences. It isn’t concerned with having award winning dialogue, though there are plenty of great lines throughout the movie. This isn’t a movie that the filmmakers saw changing the current political climate or hoped would bring peace to the Middle East. Instead, they wanted to make sure that all of those paying customers would be leaving the theater with a smile on their face, a chuckle in their throat, and plenty to talk about later. And, in this, they succeeded.
First, the relationship (dare I say, “bromance”?) between Eddie and Venom is completely entertaining in ways that most fans of the source material may never have seen coming. Tom Hardy plays Brock to perfection and watching him go all in with the role is just a treat. Hardy is one of those actors that can comfortably slip into any role he plays but, realistically, most of his roles are rather similar. The characters he plays are generally tough, quiet, violent, and charming. Eddie Brock, on the other hand, is broken hearted, defeated, scared, and, at times, even silly. Sure, there are traces of the characters he usually embodies, and it seems that it may be almost impossible for Hardy to just speak without mumbling, but Brock is a refreshing break from the norm. Really, it can almost be used as a mirror for the entire comic book movie genre: the movies are generally the same, no matter who embodies which main character, but with Venom, viewers are treated to something a bit different; something that they may not have expected. The problem is that when it comes down to it, those same audiences that are constantly asking for something new are generally the same ticket buyers that are instantly offended when they are actually offered something new. Marvel tried an epic fantasy with Thor: The Dark World and missed the mark with its audiences. Then, Marvel tried to shift again by offering a comedy in Ant-Man, which audiences didn’t respond to nearly as well as Marvel had hoped. DC offered audiences some darkness to contrast the brightness of Marvel and we all know how that turned out. Fox is even trying to go the horror route with the (hopefully) upcoming The New Mutants and even with that, the majority of the online reactions to the first trailer are not positive. And, that is pretty much sight unseen! In truth, comic book fans can truly be some of the most finicky, hard-to-please movie goers out there, and, damn, do they know how to use their computers for evil.
In the end, Venom is a blast of a movie. The effects are better than expected, the acting is right where it should be, the story is fast paced and, while a bit far-fetched, pretty straight forward, and the dialogue is funny and charming, just like Tom Hardy. The comic book movie genre has room for its Infinity War and its Venom – you don’t have to choose one or the other. A great movie-going experience is about how you feel after you walk out of the theater. Sure, there will be plenty of movies out there that will give you all the feels and may make you a better person; they may make you hug your loved ones a little tighter or remind you that being a selfish person leads to nothing but a life alone. There are movies out there that can make you see that your life isn’t so bad and that others have fought your same struggles and came out the other end, scarred but stronger. Then, there are movies that just make you laugh and smile and forget that outside the theater, the world is kind of a shitty place. Both types of films have their place and if you are skipping out on Venom because of a few jaded internet trolls who have forgotten that movies can just be fun and don’t have to win awards, you are truly missing out. If you haven’t had the chance yet, or you were just avoiding the ride because you read some bad reviews, you do owe it to yourself to check this one out. It may remind you why you loved movies as a kid in the first place.