Marvel’s Venom isn’t the best they’ve ever created – but it’s good fun, with an enjoyable storyline and Deadpool-esque scenes that are sure to make you at least giggle.
Venom follows the story of a mad doctor, Drake, who is trying to merge humans with symbiotes that he found somewhere in space. When one of his space crafts crashes, one of the symbiotes gets lost in Asia and begins its process of jumping from human host to human host and causing mass chaos. Meanwhile, back in America, Drake is testing his remaining symbiotes on the least privileged members of the population to see how a relationship can form between human and symbiote.
This is the relationship that gives us Venom. Reporter Eddie, who is to become Venom’s human host, ventures into Drake’s testing facility under the lead of one of his workers, who is outraged at the fact that he’s testing on humans. She wants Eddie to run a report on this and expose Drake for the maniac he truly is. It is as he’s venturing in to the lab that Venom jumps from one of Drake’s hosts into Eddie and the two begin a tumultuous relationship for the rest of the film.
Here’s the thing, I like the premise. The whole symbiote idea is pretty interesting and there are a lot of humorous ways in which the director makes it work. I did struggle at first however. I mean it’s just a bit samey. The whole mad scientist trying to improve a population of humans so that we become accelerated, skilled and dangerous beings has been battered to death in pretty much every fantasy film or novel ever. I was expecting something more complex to get my head around and I was disappointed when I realised that there was nothing complex about this.
Reading a review written by Rolling Stone, the symbiote has been described as “a slithering mass of defanged, digitalised slop”, which is a fairly accurate description of what it is. It sort of looks like something you’d give a child to play with in nursery – only there’s more of it, it talks and it’s supposed to be deadly. I know this sounds stupid but bare with me here, it gets better.
Again from Rolling Stone, the film is described as a “puddle of simplistic, sanitised PG-13 drivel that Marvel has released instead of the scary, dark-night-of-the-soul thunderbolt fans had the right to expect.” I mean, I think this is very harsh. It’s simplistic but it’s not PG-13 drivel and I can’t speak on behalf of the die hard Marvel fans out there, but it definitely didn’t disappoint me visually in terms of what I was expecting. I loved the transition between Eddie and Venom. It had a sort of Jekyll and Hyde aesthetic to it and that’s one of my favourite novels to have ever been written. Going off the point slightly here but if you haven’t read it you simply must.
Yet again, this has been criticised. The Verge claim that this constant battle between Eddie and Venom “makes Eddie a ride-along passenger in his own chase scene”. But he sort of has to be doesn’t he? This is a direct criticism of one of the first fight scenes there is, where we see Venom using Eddie as its host. So I would argue that he has to be a passenger in this scene. Eddie hasn’t learned anything about Venom yet, he barely knows what’s inside him and most importantly, in this scene, he is being overpowered. That’s the point – for us to see Venom in full smash mode because Eddie wasn’t just going to willingly sit back and let him destroy everything was he now?
The Guardian describe Venom’s fighting as “clumsy, monolithic and fantastically boring superhero movie-slash-entertainment-franchise-iteration”. Let’s take this word by word, shall we? Clumsy, yes. It’s clumsy because of everything I’ve just explained – their relationship isn’t yet fully symbiotic, not in any fight scene in the film. The whole film seemed to me to be a journey to symbiosis. Duh? Monolithic? I don’t know what context they mean this in. If we’re talking about Venom then yes, I suppose he is monolithic. Why is that a bad thing? We need more big, indivisible guys. We can’t only have The Hulk. Sadly this film is separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the whole time I was watching Venom I was wishing I could see a fight scene between Venom and Thanos. Fantastically boring suggests to me that whoever wrote this review secretly enjoyed it and was told to criticise it. And finally, I do agree that it strikes up a repetition of superhero and entertainment scenes but then it’s doing exactly what’s advertised on the tin, no? So if you know you don’t like that then why did you watch?!
I personally really enjoyed the fight scenes. Fantastical action is really the only kind of action I can stomach watching. Gun violence, physical human assault, huge explosions are just not for me. I don’t like it. Stuff like this where there are superhero villains and smash fighting, I’m really all there for. There’s so much more you can do with this. Although I would have liked to see more scope with the fighting, I was pleased with the sequences I did see. Throwing multiple daggers, winding itself around human bodies. The only thing I didn’t like was the whole biting of people’s heads off. So amateur.
In all honesty, there are minor issues with the storyline. The main symbiote, Riot, getting out isn’t even a problem really until it gets in to Drake. But before this, all we’d see is Drake striding around his lab demanding that somebody find out where it is. It’s freely wreaking havoc in Asia and nobody really cares until it gets to the US and finds Drake. Rolling Stones note that “since this movie takes all the terror out of those implications, Ahmed never looks more than mildly annoyed.” If this was The Avengers for example, the whole squad would have been over there capturing and imprisoning the symbiote. I know that Drake wanted the symbiotes to merge with humans, but at this point he hadn’t even began human testing yet. There needed to be more at stake. We needed everything on a larger scale, which is what I expect from a Marvel movie anyway. I feel that it just didn’t quite work as well being on such a personal level.
Then again, rightly said by Rolling Stone mag, Drake is simply “a billionaire entrepreneur who’s obsessed with melding aliens and humans”. Nothing more, nothing less. And once you see the symbiotes at work you realise that apart from their appearance, which is horrifyingly gruesome in my opinion, they aren’t really that scary. I mean, Venom is constantly mocking Eddie and his repeated grumbles for food are pretty amusing. But this is where the film starts to exist in Deadpool’s shadow. A sort of watered down, try-hard, slightly humorous but not quite Deadpool. You’ve got Venom saying that he’s a bit of a loser on his planet, which makes you laugh. Then he likens his loser status to Eddie’s loser status here on earth which makes you laugh too. You’ve also got him trying to bring Eddie and Anne back together all throughout the movie. Even saying that “we” will get Anne back, not just Eddie!
Deadpool works because it’s so explicitly funny and because Wade is such a likeable character. For starters, I hate Eddie’s character. He’s repulsive to look at even in human form, let alone as his symbiote counterpart Venom. Unlike Wade and Vanessa, I just don’t buy Eddie and Anne’s relationship. I think the actors lacked chemistry and their acting was unconvincing. I also don’t think Eddie has much motivation for logging in to Anne’s laptop and looking through her case notes to find out about the Life Foundation. Even if he was that desperate as a reporter, he’s supposed to love this woman. That’s a massive breach of trust and it results in her losing her job and splitting up with him. Rightly so, but I didn’t even find myself feeling sorry for either of them about the break up.
So there are no implications of the symbiotes really. None at all. Once they merge with a human host, if they can form a positive relationship like Eddie and Venom sort of do at the end of the film, then they aren’t a threat. So they’re not very interesting. Which is why the film’s ending leans toward bringing in a new comic book villain, Carnage. Who I really know nothing about, so can’t really speak on. But I think it does show that the film, as it is, didn’t really leave anywhere for a part two to go without a completely new and separate villain to amp up the pressure.
Despite these criticisms, I really did enjoy the film. I thought it was a lot of fun, amusing and had a good amount of action to keep you engaged. It’s not really a serious Marvel movie, but if you’re looking for some good, wholesome entertainment, then this is a good go-to!