Probably one of the most criminally misunderstood comic book movies, Venom is a brilliant B-movie that knows it is a B-movie and isn’t taken very seriously by its creators. Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a San Francisco news reporter who is a bit of a slob, very arrogant, dishonest, disloyal, and has no friends. This is a supreme contrast to the exceptional individual of most superhero and action movies where the protagonist is this single supreme all-star destined for greater things above everyone else (a typical neoliberal fantasy).
Within the first fifteen minutes of the movie, Eddie loses his job, fiance, and apartment after he reads some legal memos from his lawyer girlfriend, played by the always welcome Michelle Williams, regarding a tech and pharmaceutical billionaire’s experiments on the poor of San Fran and then decides to confront the billionaire during a routine news interview. Six months later, Eddie breaks into the billionaire’s lab and becomes a host to a lethal alien symbiote that calls itself Venom, giving Eddie superpowers and super strength.
Okay, so you can understand how ridiculous this movie is, and that’s why it is so welcome when so many superhero movies these days are so dark, dreary, gritty, and dull. Venom is silly and comical. Hardy is in nearly every scene, and he’s very funny as he plays the earnest loser Eddie as well as voices the threatening Venom, who talks with Eddie and at times controls him. Williams is lovely and radiates intelligence and kindness as Eddie’s smart and loyal ex. Riz Ahmed plays the billionaire Carlton Drake with a very believable sense of visionary charisma. You actually believe that he believes he’s doing good by experimenting on homeless people with alien substances in order to somehow save mankind. There is also Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Melora Walters all doing good work.
I think a lot of viewers were disappointed with Venom because it’s absurd. Hardy himself likened the dynamic between Eddie and Venom to that of Ren and Stimpy, and said he was influenced by such disparate sources as Woody Allen, Colin McGregor, and the rapper Redman in his performance (who else commands Hardy’s love of both highbrow and lowbrow?). The sci-fi fish out of water premise as well as the fighting between Eddie and Venom certainly and lovingly recall other works including The Thing, The Fly, An American Werewolf in Paris, and especially Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies. In fact, Venom is very much like Spiderman meets Evil Dead, what I would have liked Raimi’s Spiderman movies to have been like. Andy Serkis is set to put out a Venom sequel in October this year. I hope it’s half as good as this one.