Of all the children, the Barbarienne is the most susceptible to Internet memes and just plain-old advertising, which makes her an oddity around here, and which also means that Yours Truly pulls dad duty and takes her to see films that would otherwise go by like dust in the wind. But this year, at least, it’s been an okay Avengers flick, and not something like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel.
And also this movie. Going on ten years now, I’ve mentioned “superhero burnout”, and there hasn’t been one made in the past few years I had any strong interest in seeing. I’d heard good things about Venom, but you hear good things about all of these movies, even as the Marvel formula drains more and more life out of each incarnation.
This isn’t a Marvel picture, exactly, though. It doesn’t follow the formula, and it’s not Disney. (In fact, when the Sony logo came up, I did my best Plinkett imitation: “Oh, no….” which either amused or offended the Barb, it’s hard to tell) Even odder, though, is that it’s not exactly a superhero movie. It’s a buddy-cop movie in superhero clothes. (I’d say “in tights” but there aren’t any tights and movie superheroes don’t wear tights any more.)
The story is that Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is an hard-hitting investigative reporter who takes advantage of his fiancee (Michelle Williams) by sneaking a peak at a confidential email which happens to contain dirt on mega-tech-villain (the new standard, if you hadn’t noticed) that Eddie just so happens to be interviewing—with strict orders not to go all Mike Wallace on the guy.
Which of course Eddie does, losing his job, his girl, and making an enemy out of the evil tech-lord Drake (Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler). However, dorky Scientist Girl (Jenny Slate, My Blind Brother, Abortions Are Awesome, and a bunch of kids movies, like Zootopia) gets cold feet when Drake starts using human subjects in his experiments with alien xeno…blobs. Whatever they are.
Drake’s convinced that the future of man is in the stars, and he’s gonna need an alien parasite…er, symbiont. Symbiote? We couldn’t figure out which it was, though the two words seem to be largely synonymous. The problem is that these xenoblobs, as eager as they are to hook up, tend to kill their hosts.
A little guerilla reportage gone wrong and before you know it, Eddie’s got parasites and is struggling to survive as Drake’s henchmen come after him, and his space-alien passenger likes to solve problems by eating humans.
It works better than it should: Tom Hardy is appealing, even as a kind of loser character, and the movie spends most of its time with him talking to himself. I mean, yeah, he’s talking to the parasite inside him, and we hear said parasite, but he’s basically talking to himself. Arguing with himself against eating random passers-by, and so on.
Then Venom comes out and my interest flat-lines. The CGI is not bad but the character itself is so cartoony, that you’re never in danger of thinking that you’re watching anything real. Now, I couldn’t always parse what the gravelly-voiced creature was saying—voiced by Tom Hardy, so you know he really is talking to himself—but even the raspy voice has miles more charm and interest than the goofy 3D model.
Sort of like Thor: Ragnarok, the parts that work are the least comic-book-y aspects. There’s a car chase early on that’s pretty good and has realistic (in the ’70s sense of realism, as in “real cars were involved”) but goes on way too long. The final battle is also a bit too long and shows the real limitations of this kind of CGI spaghetti.
I mean, I can’t prove that this isn’t exactly how two blobbby space aliens fighting would look, but I can say it was overly busy and boring to look at. But they show it in the trailer, so clearly my tastes are not really the ones dictating these things.
I would say director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) did about as good as could be expected with the material. Hell, probably everyone did. I feel like the whole superhero genre is kind of on automatic pilot with nobody really in control any more.
But that shouldn’t deter you, if you don’t mind a lot of CGI goofiness and some mild superhero antics. Oh, and Venom’s weakness is sound in the 3-5K range, which strikes me as improbable somehow. Like there are sounds going on in that range not infrequently, and we just never notice them. But that’s a nitpick.
The Barb loved it of course. I didn’t hate it, which is not nothing.