WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Venom, in theaters now.
The reviews for Venom have been mixed, to say the least. While some critics have embraced the horror-comedy roots of Ruben Fleischer’s film, others have labeled it one of the worst superhero movies in recent times. Some have even compared it to Halle Berry’s Catwoman, the pariah of comic book movies.
Now, we need to take a step back here for a second. Catwoman wasn’t just a bad superhero film; it was one of the worst movies ever made. It had absolutely nothing in common with the source material, and the villain was a cosmetics company’s CEO. (If it was a parody of the real Selina Kyle, no one in the movie knew about it.) There are no redeemable qualities about it and it’s universally regarded – even by the people who worked on it – as a dud.
While Venom won’t be winning any awards at the end of the year, it’s a welcome reminder that mindless fun still has a place in cinema. This movie isn’t meant to be an event that changes the entire landscape of cinema; it’s only intended to give audiences a good time.
In the ’80s and early ’90s, the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone ruled the box office with a brand of cheesy action films that combined over-the-top violence and one-liners. They were crucified by every critic under the sun, but they were untouchable and laughed all the way to the bank as millions of fans lapped it up and flipped off the criticism.
Venom falls into this category. The script isn’t Oscar-worthy material, and the first act drags on for too long, but when the symbiote bonds with Eddie Brock, it becomes a spectacle of non-stop action and comedy. The motorcycle chase scene, for example, is heart-pumping exhilaration and wouldn’t be out of place in a Mission: Impossible movie. Then there’s Venom’s wild and brutal melee with the security guards at the Life Foundation, which could’ve been pulled straight from the pages of a comic book. It isn’t so much about character and world building here as it is about pure, unadulterated destruction.
Yet, the true strength of the film lies in the humorous relationship between Brock and Venom. They not only bond on a physical level but an emotional one as well, trying to figure out how to coexist. Watching the two of them argue and hurl insults at each other is mesmerizing, especially when you consider how Tom Hardy played dual roles here. There’s a powerful struggle within Brock over who really is in charge and it’s entertaining to see how a compromise is reached at the end (even if one of the trailers did spoil the ending). In many ways, this dynamic is similar to Grey Trace and STEM’s in Upgrade – which features Hardy’s doppelganger, Logan Marshall-Green. Leigh Whannell’s film also featured a protagonist who battled to adapt to the thing inside of him.
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