WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony’s Venom, in theaters now.
For lack of a better term, Venom is a mess. As an introduction to Sony’s so-called Spider-Verse, it’s disjointed, unwieldy and lacking in confidence. That’s never more evident than with the actors who, for the most part, seem to be phoning in their portrayals of stock characters. With the exception Tom Hardy, that is.
The film’s star, who’s also an executive producer, throws himself into the performance, making Eddie Brock into a fidgety and well-meaning dope who keeps breaking stuff, screaming and, generally, acts like a weirdo for much of the runtime. His bizarrely likable take on Eddie Brock is, far and away, the best part of Venom.
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Eddie is usually depicted as a bit of a jerk, even before he merges with the alien symbiote. In the comics, he’s traditionally a glory hound who takes out his failings on others before slowly gaining some positive traits by becoming a (somewhat) heroic figure. In Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, he was a handsy and aggressive dude bro. Even in other adaptations, like Spider-Man 3 and the animated The Spectacular Spider-Man, he’s portrayed as a monster even outside the symbiote.
But in Venom, these unlikable aspects are smoothed over with a touch of sweetness. Eddie tries to be a cynic, but can’t stop himself from trying to help. He loses his job as a journalist not dueto his shoddy reporting but instead because he’s an idiot who uses confidential information he stole to make an otherwise-unsubstantiated attack on a literal captain of industry. Because, to him, that was the right thing to do, therefore, it needed to be done. He brings problems onto himself, but always tries to dodge the ramifications. He gets his fiance fired because of his actions, and acts as if it’s not his fault. He wastes all of his potential, and ends up losing his friends in the process.
Eddie doesn’t have an Aunt May or a Ned or an MJ. For most of the movie, the closest thing he has to a friend is the verbally abusive voice in his head. As the Venom symbiote so succinctly puts it, Eddie is a loser.
Eddie isn’t even an active player in his own story. Much of the agency in Venom is relegated to the symbiote pushing him forward, against his will. He’s literally dragged along on his own adventure. It doesn’t make for a good story or protagonist, but it turns Eddie into a strangely endearing character as he screams throughout his offbeat adventure. It all goes toward making someone who otherwise might be difficult to like much more relatable.
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