Friday, October 12, 2018

Venom

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Bioengineering giant Life Foundation has found extraterrestrial lifeforms called symbiotes and takes them back to Earth. As their spacecraft crash lands in a forest in Borneo, one of the aliens breaks loose and hops from host to host until it makes its way all the way to San Francisco. Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is assigned to interview the corporation’s CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Using his lawyer girlfriend Anne Weying’s (Michelle Williams) access to classified information, he grills the executive and gets fired in the process. She also breaks up with him after getting dismissed from her own job. Caught in a downward spiral, he seeks revenge by breaking into the lab, but gets infected by one of the symbiotes who goes by the name of Venom.

Disney’s MCU has become so massive that it has become the trendsetter for every comic adaptation that came in its wake. The family-friendly humor has been perfected over time and has proven to be a box-office winning formula. Venom does not quite live up to those standards, but the film is not as dark as the DCEU’s prevalent tone either. We can’t really say that it is unique in that the protagonist is a villain. Suicide Squad already did that a few years back. Perhaps it is the Eddie Brock/Venom rapport that is to thank here?

Venom is fun to watch because it’s a buddy film. Whether that is intentional or not is beside the point. When the symbiote admits to his host that he does not want to leave Earth anymore because he is a loser back in his home planet, you just know that this is going to be a hilarious extraterrestrial bromance. And you are right. Two losers form an unlikely bond and just to remind you, they are NOT heroes. But in the absence of one and the introduction of a threat from a worse form of evil, the two reluctantly become the savior of a planet they were initially bound to invade. Venom is not perfect, but it is hella funny when it needs to be.

The fight scenes are messy, which is perhaps to be expected based on the nature of the fighters. The main villain is a bit anti-climactic and leaves you feeling shortchanged. In any case this is just the right treatment given how this is an origin story. We don’t really have to introduce the most popular villain right away. Changing the settings from New York to San Francisco is also a welcome change. We don’t have to destroy Manhattan every time, guys.

For the unacquainted, the only big screen Venom that we remember in this generation is that of Topher Grace in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. There really was no backstory to begin with, nor was there an attempt to differentiate the parasite from the host. He was just the obligatory villain, end of story. With this movie, we get to see two sides of one character, clearly delineated to show you that the two are separate entities with opposing motives. The film is not a psychological thriller per se but appears to be so, because this character divide brings to life a colorful and tangible manifestation of internal conflict.

But Venom without Spider-Man is not complete. How do you anchor a narrative on a villain? Who will the antagonist be? That dilemma is answered by the simple introduction of a bigger villain. In this case, there appears to be an entire planet of symbiotes who want Earth for their own. There goes your villain. The mid-credits scene hints on the arrival of Carnage in a not so subtle way, and given the box office records this movie has just shattered, that sequel is more than assured now. Whether Sony will proceed with their own shared universe via Sinister Six is up in the air, but there is obviously some potential here.

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