Who Knew a Movie About a Loser-Alien-Symbiote Could Be So Relatable?
This article contains spoilers for the movie Venom (2018).
In an over-saturated superhero market, it’s nice to see a villain/anti-hero film. I haven’t seen a superhero movie since Black Panther this past February, and I FINALLY watched Avengers: Infinity War two weekends ago. To say I’m no longer excited about superhero movies would be the truth.
So when I saw the trailer for Venom many moons ago, I was thrumming with excitement. Firstly, Venom has been one of my favorite villains since Spider-Man 3 way back when Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man. For some reason, I was taken with the tar-like symbiote with a penchant for evil and an aversion to high-frequency noises (because honestly SAME), and was obsessed for a little while. I hunted through my uncle’s comic books to try and find him and I wrote bad fanfiction (I was a high school freshman— when I say it was bad, I’m being kind.)
When I first heard the movie was certified rotten via the film aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, I was let down. Then the audience reviews started coming out, and they clashed with how the critics felt about the movie. Critics scored Venom as rotten, but audiences scored it as fresh. Oh, how I love dissonance between critics and the people.
After seeing the film, I stand with the audience: it was a great movie. However, there were some issues, which we will get out of the way first before I wax hysterical about how great Tom Hardy’s performance was.
The pacing: the movie took a while to set up, which I totally understand since it’s the first movie about Venom and we needed world-building, but man it felt like a little while to get to the action. The cuts to Malaysia where the symbiote, Riot, is making its way to San Francisco, felt like an attempt to remedy this loss of Venom-action, but it ended up leaving me with furrowed eyebrows and lots of questions about how an older lady who did not look like she was in good shape had managed to make it through airport security. But I’m just being picky.
An irritation I had with the movie was the character Dr. Dora Skirth. They did her so dirty in this film. As a smart woman with a strong moral compass, Dr. Skirth disagrees with CEO of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake, on human experimentation to achieve a full symbiosis of a human and alien symbiote. Skirth reaches out to Eddie Brock with information, which is a great risk not only to her life but also the lives of her family, who Drake threatened. When Drake confronts her about who she let into the labs, Skirth resists for like 30 seconds before selling out Eddie.
Now, from a storytelling standpoint, I get it: we needed Drake to go after Eddie. But that could have been written a different way, instead of making this super smart scientist cave into the villain of the movie, who ends up killing her anyway via symbiosis attempt. So, what happened to Skirth’s family? Did she get them to run? She knew better than to trust Drake, who is a manipulative bastard, so what the hell? It didn’t fit in with her character and it gave me a little bit of whiplash.
The final and biggest peeve I had with the film was the reveal that Venom didn’t want to destroy Earth because Eddie changed his mind about the planet. Now, I’m all for a little cheese in superhero/villain flicks, but Venom’s confession did not feel earned. It barely knew Eddie, barely had time to build a relationship with the planet Earth because it was being experimented on, running from Drake, and hanging out inside Eddie while Eddie dealt with relationship drama— so either Venom has low standards for having a good time, or the movie didn’t do a good job with that pay-off.
What I did like: Tom Hardy was brilliant in this film. The range he had to portray in this film was seamless and his performance was so engaging that I didn’t see Tom Hardy on the screen at all; I saw Eddie Brock. When you have an extremely famous actor playing in a big role, there is always the risk that the audience won’t be able to be absorbed by the story because they will just see the actor. For example, Matthew McConaughey playing a space-farmer instead of a man who has to make difficult decisions for the future of not just his family, but humankind. So, kudos to Hardy, AKA Eddie Brock.
Venom was also a joy. I laughed so much in this film due to the banter between Eddie and Venom, and their relationship is what really sold the film for me. I did think it was rushed, but the fact they both bonded (literally and emotionally) over being losers was as touching as it was hilarious. Plus, that part when they are fighting Drake/Riot on the launch pad, get separated, and reach for each other? Feels for days.
Eddie Brock being down-and-out, reluctant to help, and then making the most out of a strange and scary situation is identifiable to audiences, especially in this day and age. Many of us have had one bad break that led to many other misfortunes, and are just trying to get back on our feet. We can see ourselves as Eddie Brock because most of us have been Eddie Brock at some point in our lives. Not many can identify with being a genius-billionaire-philanthropist, or a-kid-from-Brooklyn-who-signed-up-for-an-experiment-to-go-punch-Nazis, but we have had overdue bills and poor luck with the job market.
How we can find ourselves in this wacky film about how a loser-alien-symbiote becomes besties with a loser-washed-up-journalist is what makes it so super.