Venom Goes Above and Beyond

Director Ruben Fleischer turns fools’ gold into actual gold.

Sometimes it’s great to be absolutely wrong about a film.

After claiming The Predator as the worst of film of 2018, expectations were set for Venom to set the bar lower. Oddly enough, the former still holds the title while the latter is easily way more fun than advertised.

This comes at a complete shock. From inception, not being part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, quick production and turnaround, and a PG-13 rating all spelled doom from the start. You can google the complete backstory on the comic book character, but what is Venom without all the gore and excess? Apparently, a buddy-hero story that was never fully realized. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an easy comparison. Yes, they’re the same person but what if they’re friends? It’s an interesting enough logline that is worthy of admission.

To be fair, a lot of Venom is boilerplate. Thirty minutes is spent on boilerplate exposition explaining the origins of our hero, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), and why he is the anti-hero the billboards advertise as such. Forty-five minutes in is when the film takes a hard left from being a stock superhero film. When Brock and the alien symbiote known as Venom are finally together, it’s as if the hero elements only occur by happenstance. Venom is just as much a body-horror film (not too bad, remember the rating) as anything else.

We all owe director Ruben Fleischer an apology for sleeping on his ability to make something from nothing. 2009’s Zombieland is still the funniest zombie film to date. The real accomplishment is taking a script that was written by committee and make it feel cohesive. This isn’t a good movie or a bad movie. Credit Fleischer for making a great good bad movie.

Tom Hardy does what Tom Hardy does best and goes over the top with his character. Most of the time, we’d lay into him for turning the intensity to 11 on a 10 scale. With Venom it forgives a lot of highway-wide gaps and plot holes. Again, it’s more than welcome. Ten years in, the Marvel Universe is pretty much paint-by-numbers. There is no way a scene with Brock (Hardy) and his symbiote, Venom (also Hardy), would wrestle each other for bodily control while eating cold tater tots could exist.

The fact that it does here and makes you want more, makes Venom not only the hero we want but the hero we deserve.

JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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