Venom: The Hangry Wingman
Updated: Oct 13, 2019
It seems that the hardest part for people to grasp about this movie is that it completely scraps the concept of Spiderman and Venom actually meeting. I believe this was done deliberately mostly, I think, to distance itself from the previous incarnation. And seriously, who wouldn't want to distance themselves from those movies, right? Acceptance of this choice seems to be the major difference between this movie's proponents and detractors. Personally I appreciated the switch; it allowed for the presentation of a very different Brock and Venom that fueled a much more fun ride.
That's not to say that it doesn't have its issues, but I find those issues few and far between. In reality I'd say there were only two, and both of them may just have been the victims of editing.
The first comes when Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy) is handed a new assignment by his superior, to write a fluff piece on an incredibly successful inventor and founder of the Life Foundation. Of course Eddie demurs. He's a successful and well known investigative (in this incarnation anyway) reporter and his nose smells a rat in Carlton Drake (Played by Riz Ahmed). The issue comes after he makes this feeling known to his editor, who simply insists. Cause, I mean, of course Eddie's totally the type of guy to toe the line. In the end Eddie reluctantly agrees and heads off to date night with his girl friend Anne Weying (played by Michelle Williams).
His girlfriend who just happens to be a lawyer for a firm hired to defend the Life Foundation in a series of lawsuits. And wouldn't you know it, just as he's getting up for a snack afterwards she gets an e-mail containing confidential information. On her laptop. That's still on. In the middle of the night. Protected by a password Brock knows. And, of course Brock opens it to find data regarding a sealed case involving violations in human testing by the Life Foundation.
Wait, what? The movie's something like thirty minutes in, 15 spent showing you what a close, trusting, warm relationship these two have and here Brock is violating her personal (and professional) privacy. Makes little sense. Now, in the previous scene, if his editor had come down on him harder I might buy this behavior. If his editor had mocked him sarcastically for forgetting that Eddie Brock's feelings were not enough to condemn a man Eddie might just have been a bit defensive. If his editor had pointedly reminded him that they were journalists, not a smear mag (I realize the difference seems minor in this day and age) Eddie could have felt that his professional opinion was in question. And if he'd expressed surprise that he had to point these things out to Eddie then he'd certainly have felt that his professionalism itself was found wanting. All of which would have led to an 'I'll show that guy' attitude that might just have pushed him over that ledge if, and only if, his priorities placed his career above his relationship.
My other issue comes from the symbiote's behavior. And no, I'm not upset that it doesn't harbor a secret resentment against Peter Parker, or that the entire movie isn't about it moving on from being dumped by a person it had never met. My issue resides more in the speed of its change of heart.
When we're first treated to Venom (Voiced by Tom Hardy) its eating its way through possible hosts as fast as Carlton Drake can shove them in a room. The scientists involved seem to think this behavior is due to an incompatibility between the hosts and symbiotes, and so continue thrusting bodies at our alien snackers, conveyor belt style. Eventually Eddie breaks in to get a scoop (sort of) and runs smack into Venom, who abandons his current host for Brock.
But then something peculiar happens; it decides it likes Brock, like a rich guy sitting in a high end Porsche. It doesn't eat him (much), and instead helps him to escape. Even then it clearly sees Eddie as a mode of conveyance that will allow it to eat as many other people as it wants. It even informs Eddie of its plan to hijack the next Life Foundation shuttle and bring more of its kind back to Earth so they can feast. Sort of like meat crazed cattle ranchers eating their way through their breeding stock.
Shortly thereafter, Eddie's ex manages to force the symbiote out and Eddie takes off . . . right into the hands of the Life Foundation's goons. Venom then hijacks Eddie's ex to rescue him. And in that insanely small amount of time goes from evil cattle rancher to sympathetic hero. Its a bit of a stretch really. Where are the arguments between Brock and Venom about the value of an intact society, or the value of cooperation? The value of good over evil? Where's the question of whether someone with the might has the right?
The story does try to offer an explanation by having Venom tell Eddie he's also a loser in his habitat. In other words he'd rather be top dog on Earth than lose that spot to all the arriving symbiotes Riot is bringing back with him.
But wait, wasn't that his very own plan? Wasn't he perfectly okay with his ilk arriving and eating everyone as long as he was the one to bring them? Why was that suddenly not cool when Riot showed up to enact same?
Now I'm not saying this turnabout is unreasonable, just that it happens far too quickly. No one goes from 'I'm going to eat you' to 'lets preserve the Earth and its denizens' in one night. There needs to be time for the symbiote to begin enjoying top dog status for him to fear losing it. But there's no evidence he's even enjoying his domination over all things human until he tells Brok he was a loser on his . . . well, wherever he came from. Without this distinction the growth of sympathy within the symbiote seems a bit forced to me.
Other than these two issues I enjoyed this movie a lot. By sidestepping the traditional jilted lover attitude of the comics (and the animated cartoon) the writer was able to add quite a bit of humor into the symbiote. The interplay between Brock and his alien hitchhiker is very well done. There are several laugh out loud moments in the movie with Venom getting all the best one liners.
Venom also has a peculiar protectiveness of Brok that goes further than simply changing the oil in your Bently. He seems to care about Eddie's relationship with his ex. He even risks himself to save Eddie at the end of the movie.
On top of that Tom Hardy does a fantastic role as the guy whose face is screaming "WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME!????". He also does a great job of actually looking like he's having an argument with an unseen agent through the movie.
I find the plot to also be interesting. In essence, this is the story of two assholes doing what they want in the belief that they are doing what's best for humanity. Both have allowed their pride in previous accomplishments to make them think they are somehow above the boundaries society sets on us. One is censured and forced into obscurity, while the other is allowed to do whatever he wants. This creates a rift whereby the former begins to develop a respect for those boundaries, and the latter develops quite the god complex. I would not be surprised if the teased sequel dealing with Carnage (played by none other than Woody Harrelson) makes its way smoothly into production. But, whether this movie sees a sequel or not, I'd give it a solid 88%