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Totally NOT as dumb as it looks… (a Venom movie review)

I’ve been too busy to write movie reviews lately. I’ve been seeing a bunch of movies, of course, but I only have so many hours in the day and most of my writing has been going towards either my dissertation, some upcoming academic conferences and publications I have, or the podcast. Even I can only write so much. So I just never got around to writing and posting reviews for Crazy Rich AsiansSearchingEighth Grade, or Three Identical Strangers, all of which were really pretty great. The real shame is, I feel like I actually watched a couple other movies in there too that I just didn’t get around to reviewing… and I don’t actually remember what they were anymore. That actually may be a better reason why I should review everything I watch than anything. Oh well. In any case, I figured Venom is at least nominally a superhero movie, so I should theoretically be able to consider reviewing it part of working, right? Right? RIGHT!?!?

Ok then…

So I really wasn’t looking forward to Venom. Mostly because it just looks REALLY REALLY dumb in the commercials. Like, it looked SOOOO dumb. The CGI looked dumb. The story looked dumb. The characters seemed dumb. The premise seemed dumb. And honestly, I don’t really give a damn about the character of Venom in the comics. Honestly, I never really cared for the character of Venom in the comic books. I think he’s kind of stupid. I always felt that  Web of Spider-man #1, which saw the death of Spider-man’s alien costume was the best end to that storyline and never really cared for anything that came after that. Plus, early reviews for this film were anything but kind… and looking at those, compared with just my general opinions from the trailer. Well, I figured this was just going to be really dumb.

It wasn’t.

I mean, it was dumb. But it wasn’t REALLY dumb. It was fine.

I’m not sure it totally qualifies as a complete movie. And I think that’s one of the things that soured the critics on it. Movies generally have three acts… this makes sense, stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Tom Hardy recently said that the final cut of this film removed his favorite forty minutes of the movie. I’m pretty sure that that forty minutes is… the entire middle.

This movie has no middle. It’s just set-up and resolution.

I don’t know that the film would have been “better” with a middle. As it is, the whole thing is 112 minutes long… and clocking in at 2.5 hours would have been WAY too much. But the fact that it’s missing the entire second act is SUPER noticeable.

Honestly, for the first half of the movie, I was really enjoying myself. Since Spider-man couldn’t be in this movie for various reasons, they had to completely restructure the Venom origin story. This was actually a good thing; if you don’t know who Venom is from the comics… it doesn’t matter. Nothing from that ever comes up and it’s honestly just fine. I actually liked seeing the character development of Eddie Brock (Hardy) as his life quickly falls apart and he is drawn into a super secret evil corporate plot. It had holes… a lot of holes… so many holes… but it was interesting. The storyline they put together was kind of fresh and intriguing and Hardy does his best to hold the whole thing together. He’s clearly having some fun with the role, and even once the plot sort of starts coming together and he gets his origin story, it’s fun and charming. There’s an extended set piece (the motorcycle chase you’ve seen in the trailer) after he first gets his powers but doesn’t quite understand them, that is really fun.

In fact, everything about the film was kind of dumb but charming up until the point where he actually first fully transforms into Venom.

Then I kinda hated it.

Yeah, the suit just looks dumb. The CGI is very… very… SHINY! It looks pretty dated. Like this would be state of the art special effects… in 1999. Everything looks like real people interacting with Playstation 2 graphics. It is quite noticeable. And this would even be ok, except that after he has his big Venom reveal, the storyline that had driven Act I of the plot, basically just disappears, and we move directly into Act III, which is a standard “Type II” comic book movie plot. Completely by the numbers. And how we got there… is never really explained… AT ALL. There must have been something in Act II that explained this… but since Act II is missing… you never really find out why anything is happening. Eddie goes from struggling with his powers to full on “I am Venom and I eat brains!” mode in the span of about 2 minutes. It’s as though the producers and editors said “no one is here for plot… look, everyone just wants to see this motherfucker chomp on some heads! Let’s get to it!!!” (of course, then they decided to be PG-13, so you never SEE the brain eating… but you know it’s there) and based on the box office results, it seems like that’s maybe true. It just wasn’t for me.

I would have liked to see Venom’s transition from down and out reporter into anti-hero. It’s not there. At all. They were moving towards it and then they skipped it. And that really really comes across. They were totally in a rush to get to super gratuitous CGI brain eating spectacle. And since I didn’t care for that part… and the film gave me no reason to, that’s where it really fell apart for me.

Did it SUCK? Not really. I’ve seen some people saying that it was the worst superhero movie since Catwoman. It’s not. It’s way better than Catwoman. It’s way better than Batman v. Superman or Green Lantern or X-men Apocalypse. It’s probably better than Justice League (it’s certainly more fun) and is maybe on par with The Incredible Hulk. It does not “suck.” it’s just not particularly “good” either. It just is.

★★½☆☆+👅🧠🧠 (2.5 out of 5 stars, plus eating a couple of brains… or at least implied brains)

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