Date Posted: 26/05/19
Okay loyal reader, up until a couple of days ago I would have been sitting here saying John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is a 2019 film in which Keanu Reeves’ John Wick returns once more...however, I cannot do that. The reason I cannot do that is because I watched Venom the other day and as soon as I finished watching it, I knew that I could not put off reviewing it. So Mr Wick’s latest outing will have to wait until next week as I talk about 2018’s Venom in which Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock/Venom with Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake
There are some films in which you hear the concept and you immediately think to yourself that such a concept either is guaranteed to be gold or is so stupid that you cannot honestly believe that anyone with a brain would be stupid enough to do it. A few years ago the idea of a cinematic universe comprising of numerous characters that usually belong in comic books would be doomed to failure and yet we live in a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong a decade after starting. Bringing Venom to the big screen was previously attempted in Spider-Man 3 which ended up being Toby Maguire’s last outing as the web-slinger, and sadly Topher Grace was not what most fans had in mind when they thought of Venom. However, surely having the man who brought Bane to life in The Dark Knight Rises, the man that broke the Batman, would be a guaranteed success right?
Things start off with a shuttle crashing on Earth after discovering evidence of life-forms on a comet. One of the four samples escapes containment causing the crash. The shuttle belongs to the Life Foundation and the remaining three life-forms are recovered but the forth is able to escape after somehow joining first with one of the astronauts, then a paramedic. Meanwhile journalist Eddie Brock is investigating the rumours that the Life Foundation is experimenting on humans illegally, specifically, snatching the homeless off the streets to use in their testing. Brock’s fiancée, Anne Weying, is an attorney gathering evidence against the Life Foundation and its CEO Carlton Drake. Brock is set to interview Drake, and Eddie’s boss warns him not to do anything stupid as Drake is a very powerful man that could destroy all of their careers with a phone call. After accessing Anne’s laptop to find the evidence he needs, Brock challenges Drake with all of the information in Anne’s files. Drake calls off the interview and Brock’s boss fires him. Anne is also fired. She knows that Eddie accessed her laptop so feeling betrayed and hurt, she decides to end their relationship.
Six months later...
Brock basically is at rock bottom, he’s unemployed, washed up and drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Anne has moved on with her life and is dating a doctor. The Life Foundation has been experimenting with the life forms they recovered and has learned that they are symbiotes that cannot survive in Earth’s atmosphere without a host. Unfortunately every person they bring in for the symbiote to join with ends up dead. Drake is convinced that the only way humans are ever going to be able to explore the galaxy is through symbiosis, because if the symbiotes can join with a host to survive Earth’s atmosphere, then maybe a human joined with one of them could survive in other atmospheres which would otherwise be fatal.
After witnessing Drake expose one homeless person after another to the symbiotes and watching them die, lead scientist Doria Skirth approaches Brock wanting him to expose the truth about what Drake is doing. Brock is initially uninterested but realises that perhaps this is his chance to reclaim what he has lost so agrees to go to the lab with her. Whilst there Brock spots a homeless woman named Maria, an acquaintance of his inside one of the containment cells, and after she begs him to let her out he shattered the cell. Maria escapes and attacks him, transferring the symbiote that was inside her into Brock, after which she dies. Brock flees the lab and immediate things are strange, he is able to smash through a fence and he scales a tree to escape his pursuers.
Later at his apartment he is disturbed when a voice starts talking to him inside his head, thinking he is going insane Brock seeks out help from Anne and gains assistance from her doctor boyfriend. As Brock becomes more unhinged the symbiote reveals itself to him, and tells Brock that its kind want to come to Earth to devour mankind, and if Brock wants to survive he needs to co-operate.
As Drake and his mercenaries close in, Brock and the symbiote, known as Venom, must work together to stay alive whilst the forth symbiote closes in on them determined to bring the rest of its kind to Earth no matter what...
Now before I go on it is important to have some context regarding who and what Venom actually is. Now my information mainly comes from Spiderman The Animated Series with lesser sources including the game Spider-Man Web of Shadows, Spider-Man 3 and The Spectacular Spider-Man. Now I don’t read comics as you know so how accurate the character I know of is to its comic counterpart I have no idea, but, as far as I understand things Spider-Man was once bonded with the alien symbiote, which enhanced all of his spider powers, increasing his strength, and agility. The power of the symbiote felt good but it started corrupting Peter Parker’s nature and after almost killing someone Parker realises that he needs to get rid of the symbiote. Which he is able to do. Now, there is a fellow journalist working at the Daily Bugle named Eddie Brock who is continually humiliated by Spider-Man. In one such incident when Brock tries to expose Dr Connors as the Lizard, Spider-Man stops him and by the time Brock is able to return with a film crew Dr Connors is back to normal. Over time his reputation is continually damaged and eventually he tries to frame Spider-Man but is exposed to be a fraud by Parker, who was under the influence of the symbiote at a time. Brock is fired from his job and evicted from his apartment. When Parker rejects the symbiote it finds Eddie Brock, who’s anger and rage at both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, matches the symbiote’s own. After the two bond, they become determined to poison everything about Peter Parker’s life and tear down everything that he cares about. The two become the monster Venom which possess all of Spider-Man’s powers and will not set off the Web-Head’s spider sense.
In later seasons of The Animated Series Brock is able to kind-of get over his hatred of Spider-Man and the two even work together to thwart a greater evil. I vaguely remember reading that in the comics eventually Brock becomes a kind-of anti-hero or an Anti-Venom or something like that...[dismissive wave]...but I don’t really know
Now I think you’ll agree that Spider-Man is pretty vital to the creation of Venom, as Venom wouldn’t exist without the hatred and rage that Brock feels for both Peter Parker and Spider-Man matching the symbiote’s fury at being rejected...soooooo...can someone explain to me how you can possible have a Venom film which DOESN’T feature Spider-Man???????
In this version of the character the symbiote calls itself Venom, and it is not a creation caused by Brock’s rage and pain. It also refers to Brock as being a loser, but that on its world, it is also a bit of a loser...
So Venom is a loser where he’s from???
This badass alien symbiote that turns Eddie Brock into a powerhouse that has nearly killed Spider-Man over and over is a loser??
Are you joking????
Do I really need to go on???
The symbiote calls itself a bit of a loser, so how can the film possibly be anything other than garbage???
This might be the part where I tell you that actually it kind-of works and takes the character in a new direction or something, but no, no it doesn’t. Venom is a soldier or maybe a slave that is in the service if the forth symbiote named Riot, not Carnage, another badass symbiote from The Animated Series and comics, but Riot. This symbiote has spent six months pissing about wandering around in Malaysia before it finally makes its way to San Francisco where it bonds with Drake. It is nice and convenient that the dozens of homeless that they feed to these symbiotes and not compatible but Drake, Brock, a rabbit, a dog and Anne all are capable of bonding without any ill effects. I don’t recall there being any issues in the media I have seen about the symbiotes being unable to join with human hosts, so why was that idea introduced here???
You may have noticed I said San Francisco, because yep we’re not in New York, you know the place SPIDER-MAN lives, no we’re somewhere else.
Remember when I said that Venom tells Brock that his kind are going to come to Earth and eat everyone??...rhetorical question because if you’re attention is that short then you probably spend most of your time being distracted by shiny objects. Anyway, during the course of the film, right the hell out of nowhere, Venom decides that he likes Earth and that Riot needs to be stopped before bringing others to Earth. I think this relates back to the whole Venom is a loser on his own world but can be a badass on this one??
It’s just so weak and a pitiful way of making Venom into the hero.
Another issue is that the film is also painfully slow with both Abbie and I pretty bored for the most part. To give you some context on my level of boredom, last week she made me watch the Eurovision Song Contest, a gruelling four hours of tedium, that made waiting for my people to answer the phone for over thirty years looked packed with excitement. But, I can truthfully say, that four hours drifted past like a soothing massage compared to the raking over glass agony of sitting through the hour and forty minutes of Venom.
It wasn’t all bad though
The idea of linking with alien life forms to become stronger is closer to the truth than you humans realise. Take it from me, the human body is far too fragile to survive in space, if I ever got bored and gave you humans interstellar technology, the first time you fire the engines up, you’re internal organs would liquefy, your skeletons would disintegrate and you’re last few agonising moments would be as a gelatinous mass before it turns to dust. I understand that it is super painful, but fascinating to watch...anyway the point is that the only real way you humans will get out into the stars is through symbiosis, splicing alien molecules into your bodies or growing hybrids that consist of many different species combined together into a far stronger, faster, and superior entity, like me.
That idea was interesting and Drake does have a noble goal.
I also cannot say that I gave a shit about the fact that Drake is experimenting on the homeless, human trash littering the streets, if some millionaire wants to experiment on them to enrich all mankind then I’m not going to stop him.
Plus I don’t really understand why Drake is only using homeless people; I mean why doesn’t he use terminally ill people?? Personally if I was terminally ill and someone said to me that they had a cure but it was 50/50 odds that the cure would actually kill me, I’d do it anyway. I mean what would I have to lose?? I’m dead anyway so why not take that chance??
I understand that you humans tend to be more attached to your own kind than my people are to one another. Given time you’ll shed those infantile ways of looking at the world and perhaps you’ll even develop space travel...[chuckle]...sorry couldn’t keep a straight face as I write that.
I will say that the way Venom looks on screen is perfect, I mean absolutely spot on with the voice matching perfectly. But this just makes it more of a tragedy that we don’t have this towering monster standing before the rather puny looking Spider-Man, instead he is the one looking puny when standing before Riot. Venom also has more of a personality having a dark sense of humour and encouraging Brock to let him eat people, whilst also suggesting that Brock apologise for betraying Anne’s trust. It reminded me of The Darkness which is also a dark entity that possesses but seeks to control its host Jackie Estacado, which also has a badass voice.
The special effects are also great and Venom has never looked more like a real monstrous creature rather than someone in a suit.
Every moment that Venom is on screen is awesome; unfortunately he is basically on screen for like 10 minutes. The rest of the time we’re watching Brock, and I will admit that Hardy does a reasonable job of convincing us that his body is acting without his conscious control when Venom takes over to defend them from Drake’s mercenaries. Sadly there is so little of Venom on screen that it really makes you wonder why the film is called “Venom” when the titular character himself is barely in it. It’d be like making a 007 film in which Bond cameos and then buggers off for the rest of the movie.
I’m sure you’re getting the impression that I did not care for this film which is good because that is exactly what I was going for. Basically Venom is shit. It has taken a badass character and turned him into loser that wants to stay on Earth because the other symbiotes beat him up and take his lunch money. It also has no connection with Spider-Man, so we don’t get to see Venom swinging through the city or going toe-to-toe with one of the best superheroes out there.
I have read that apparently Sony are making a Sony Marvel Universe which is kind-of linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man potentially appearing in later films but I hope to god that like Universal’s Dark Universe which began and ended with the woeful Mummy this is the beginning and end of the SMU.
If Venom is going to be done right then put him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have him bond with Spider-Man, be rejected and then join Eddie Brock. He and the other symbiotes that he creates have the potential to be really good enemies in future MCU instalments, but for Venom to exist he must have first tried to bond with Spider-Man, absorb his abilities, and then find Brock. Hell I wouldn’t even object if Tom Hardy reprised the role of Brock in that film, but as things stand this film fails on pretty much every front.
I wanted to like this film, I really did. I wanted it to succeed even though it didn’t have Spider-Man in it, and it had the potential to do that. The symbiotes could have bonded with people, they could have absorbed traits of animals that they bonded with, Drake’s experimentations on them might have given them new and powerful abilities...sadly none of this would come to pass. The symbiotes could have been territorial and we could have had a power struggle between the symbiotes for control of Earth. There was so much potential and you know me, I hate wasted potential. My Thumb is unquestioningly down because with the exception of the special effects nothing else works, Venom is a self-proclaimed loser, and that perfectly summarises this film. He’s a loser and this film is a loser.
4/10 – If you’re going to do a Venom film then for Christ sake give us a Venom film. As it was we got this pile of garbage, watch the trailer and you’ve pretty much seen all of the scenes in which Venom appears. Honestly if you want a more faithful representation of the character you’re better off watching Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3
Date Posted 2/11/21
The sequel to 2018’s Venom, Venom Let There be Carnage sees Tom Hardy returning as Eddie Brock, the host to the alien symbiote known as Venom, with Woody Harrelson returning as Cletus Kasady (a role he first had as a post credit cameo in the first film). Michelle Williams and Reid Scott as return as Anne (Brock’s ex-fiancé) and Anne’s new fiancé, Dan respectively, with Naomie Harris joining the cast as Kasady’s love interest Frances Barrison aka Shriek. This is also the second film in the newly created Sony Spider-Man Universe or SSMU (with Venom having been the first, and presumably the upcoming Morbius being part of it too).
Now as you know my knowledge of the character of Venom is primarily based upon Spider-Man The Animated Series in which Eddie Brock had a mutual hatred of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man for ruining his reputation, and his life by regularly beating him by getting pictures of Spider-Man (Peter) as well as preventing him from proving that Curt Connors is the Lizard (as Spider-Man). The symbiote that attempted to bond with Peter but was rejected bonded with Eddie Brock and their mutual loathing of Peter Parker with Spider-Man lead to the creation of a new entity known as Venom. I took issue with the first Venom film because the symbiote is already called Venom, and bonds with Eddie Brock because he is the only one compatible with it. Now Carnage also appeared in The Animated Series and bonded with deranged lunatic Cletus Kasady (in the comic Kasady was a serial killer but for the animated TV show, a serial killer was not kid-friendly so he was just referred to as a lunatic). However, unlike Venom who referred to itself as “We” Kasady’s insane mind bonded so completely with the symbiote that the resulting entity was named Carnage and referred to itself as “I”. Now as Venom could be for a more mature audience Kasady could remain a serial killer and when bonded with a symbiote could become the stuff of nightmares.
So did Let There be Carnage get me to bond with the movies or did I yet again reject them for not being what I wanted them to be?
Let’s find out...
The film opens with a young Cletus Kasady watching powerlessly as his girlfriend Frances Barrison being removed from the St Estes Home for Unwanted Children to the Ravencroft Institute (basically the Arkham Asylum of the Marvel world). Frances has the power of sound manipulation and attempts to escape by using a sonic scream but is shot by the young officer transporting her. The officer Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) believes he killed her, but she survives and is taken to a cell that nullifies her powers.
In the present day Kasady, now a convicted serial killer, requests to see Eddie Brock. Brock is the only one Kasady will speak to due to the interview Brock carried out the year before (the post-credits scene in the first film). Venom is able to deduce where Kasady buried his victims, through the scrawls and scribbles on Kasady’s cell wall. Brock breaks the story, and receives a huge career boost in the process. Following the discovery of the bodies, Kasady is put on death row and requests to see Brock one final time. Brock goes and whilst he is being taunted by Kasady Venom lashes out, drags Brock to the cell where Kasady bites his hand. Brock leaves as Kasady licks Brock’s blood off his finger as he demands to know why Brock’s blood doesn’t taste like real blood.
Meanwhile Brock and Venom’s relationship is becoming increasingly strained with Venom demanding to know why Brock won’t let him consume bad guys, and Brock getting fed up with Venom constantly whispering in his head. During an argument Venom separates from Brock with each deciding that they will be better off on their own.
The day of Kasady’s execution arrives and as he is strapped to the table to be killed by lethal injection, however as the poison begins to enter his body the symbiote that has been born within him violently emerges. The red monster goes on a bloody rampage through the prison freeing inmates and devouring guards. The symbiote introduces itself as Carnage and the pair make a deal. If Carnage helps Kasady find and free his girlfriend from Ravencroft, he will help Carnage to destroy Brock and Venom.
With Carnage’s abilities it is easy for Kasady to find and break Frances aka Shriek out of Ravencroft, and the three of them set their sights on destroying Brock and Venom...
Now the interpretation of this version of Venom is not one that I like, to me removing Spider-Man from the equation is like saying that the terminator is still a terminator even if it not a machine, it is pretty central to the character. The separation of who and what Venom is, has been further distanced in this instalment with Venom and Brock acting as more of an odd couple. Venom is more upset about Annie getting engaged that Brock is, and he is goaded into attacking Kasady when Brock is not really concerned by what Kasady is saying. As the film goes on this only gets worse with one of the greatest enemies Spider-Man has ever faced going to a club and basically “coming out” to a room full of people. It seems that Venom doesn’t grasp what will happen if his existence is discovered, Brock found him in a lab in the first film, and is scared they will both end up back there is Venom is found to be alive. So in one respect you have an alien organism that can quite easily deduce the scribbling of a serial killer to discover where the bodies are buried, and yet doesn’t understand what will happen if the government realise that Eddie Brock is host of an alien organism. When the two separate Venom jumps from host to host, but as he cannot bond with anyone else, his hosts end up, at the very least incapacitated but most look dead. Venom and Brock are almost a stereotypical odd couple, and watching the two of them interact is not especially interesting when you take into account what Venom is supposed to be.
Okay, so if Venom himself is not scratching the itch that the Venom in The Animated Series did, is Carnage better? Well, yes and no. Now Woody Harrelson is a great actor and I don’t think that he gives a poor performance in any film that he is in, and Let There be Carnage is not exception. I think that his iconic role in Natural Born Killers (a film I have maybe only seen once) made me think that what I’d be seeing is a serial killer that was caught and once he gets the Carnage symbiote would resume his murderous ways with the police unable to stop him and Venom being the only one that could. Sadly this was not the case. Kasady is focussed on reuniting with his lost love, and that is pretty much it. One the plus side Carnage does look amazing and is as every bit as terrifying looking in live-action as he was in The Animated Series. Sadly whilst he looks the part and Harrelson seems to be having fun portraying the serial killer Kasady, he is not really given a huge amount of stuff to do, with the focus of the film being Brock and Venom’s odd couple relationship.
Regrettably for film in which the main antagonist is in the title Carnage is not given much screen time, nor is he allowed to truly create the carnage that he desires.
Carnage and Kasady go to Ravencroft, break out Shriek and then we go through the usual motions of kidnapping someone Brock cares about, Brock and Venom realising that they need one another, and confronting Carnage. Also Carnage is the name of the symbiote, not the name Kasady gives it, or what they become when bonded. So Kasady’s forbidding “There’s going to be carnage” line was actually just a massive coincidence as he could have said “There’s going to be trouble” or “There’s going to be hell to pay” and it would have meant the same. Plus unlike the previous version of the character I have seen, Kasady and the symbiote don’t bond to the point where they effectively become a single entity. I know I am banging on about this but once he gets the symbiote in Spider-Man The Animated Series Kasady almost never appears in human form again. In Let There be Carnage Kasady is in human form most of the time and Carnage is only allowed out during moments of massive destruction. Kasady in The Animated Series did not have a girlfriend, he just wanted to cause chaos, and a character setting the world alight just to watch it burn can be done to spectacular effect, just think of Heath Ledgers phenomenal performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. So why the donkey bolloking hell couldn’t Kasady have gotten the symbiote and gone after everyone that wronged him? Naturally we learn that he became a serial killer and murdered his family because they abused him as a child, but why not have had his family getting away with abusing him? They could have called him a liar, no one believed the boy, they disowned him, and his view of authority is so messed up that he became a serial killer? That way he is seeking revenge for their treatment of him, or acting out against people in authority, and as the only one strong enough to challenge him Venom has to take him on. Could we not have had Carnage trying to appeal to Venom to join him, arguing that if he takes over Brock completely the two of them (as in Carnage and Venom) can cause as much mayhem as they want. Brock won’t let Venom eat people (even if they are bad guys) which frustrates the symbiote so wouldn’t it have been interesting to see Venom being given the chance to be free of Eddie and do what he wants all the time? I don’t know about you but I think that film could have been amazing, not just a rehash of the tired old story in which the villain threatens hero’s loved ones so hero has to face them to save the ones they care about.
Oh yes, and remember when I said that Kasady’s girlfriend can manipulate sound and create a sonic scream. Well, guess what one of the things that harms a symbiote? Yep, loud and intense sound. I rolled my eyes pretty hard when that was shown because Frances’ power just happens to be something that can fatally harm the symbiote Kasady is playing host to. It is contrived reason for there to be conflict between the host and symbiote which, surprise, surprise happens.
This may seem like a random thing to mention but when they escape from Ravencroft, Kasady gifts Shriek with a car he stole. A car she is immediately able to drive like a professional racing car driver, but hasn’t she been incarcerated since she was a teen, so when did she learn how to drive a car? If I don’t get behind the wheel of my ship for a few weeks, I’m a tad rusty with the controls, so how can she drive a vehicle that at best she hasn’t driven for over a decade or at worst has never learned how to drive in the first place??
I get that I am ragging on the film a lot which may make you think that I hated it, but in truth I really didn’t. The performances of all the cast members are good with Tom Hardy able to look bewildered whilst Venom is seemingly controlling his limbs without his conscious control. The special effects are pretty good with the line between CGI and reality becoming increasingly blurred. The tongue-in-cheek humour also works pretty well and if you forget what Venom is meant to be, his interactions with Eddie are some of the highlights of the film, especially when we are hearing Venom’s monologue inside Eddie’s head whilst other characters are unknowingly talking to them both.
The biggest issue that the Venom of this film has is that he is not the Venom of the Marvel media that I am familiar with, which begs the question of why he is even called Venom. The answer I feel to that question is rooted in the fact that (as far as I know) back in the 2000s Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy so sold the rights to some of their most famous characters to other studios. Which lead to the Toby Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, and the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man movies, both of which were made by Sony. Blade was sold to New Line Studios and featured three films with Wesley Snipes in the titular role with there being two Fantastic Four movies plus an attempted reboot (I forget which studio produced those). I am not expert on copyright law but as I understand it, as New Line Studios hasn’t made a Blade film since 2004 the rights to the character have returned to Marvel which is why Blade will soon be appearing in the MCU. However, as long as Sony keep making movies which feature characters from the world of Spider-Man (so Venom, Morbius, and I’m pretty sure a Kraven the Hunter movie is in the works) then they retain the copyright. This in turn means that they basically have Marvel and the MCU by the balls when it comes to the character of Spider-Man and all the characters that are part of his world. Everything above is what I have heard so how much of it is 100% accurate I don’t know, however, it would all make sense. If this had been a film about a guy who becomes the host to an alien organism than I might have liked it better, sadly because it carries the name “Venom” it has to meet expectations that go with that characters name, which it sadly doesn’t.
When all is said and done Venom Let There be Carnage, which by the way, I have started referring to as Let There be Garbage just fails to live up to its potential. If Sony want to have their own Sony Spider-Man Universe then fine, they own the rights to the character so they can if they want, I just wish they would stop giving us the diet-coke versions. In these films Eddie Brock is basically a flesh sack with Venom being the funny one, the strong one, the one who actually seems to have a character to him whilst Eddie is just the disguise Venom is forced to hide in.
All in all, the film is just a bit of a mess. It doesn’t remain true to either of its titular characters, and the plot is tired and boring. Give me a film about a serial killer that has the powers of the symbiote, and the only hope for mankind being another alien symbiote. Not this garbage, I get that the most effective monsters can be the most human, but this is not that. This is a comic book movie and should have gone full balls to the wall with Venom Vs Carnage, not the odd-couple Venom and Brock, estranged lovers Kasady and Shriek, with Carnage kind-of thrown in there as well.
My dislike of wasted potential is well documented on this site and this film just is not what it could have been, which is a real shame. There are good things in it, but the sight of two monsters having a punch up has been done before, it has even been done before when it was Venom Vs Riot in the first film and now Venom Vs Carnage in this one. Whilst this film is not bad and did keep me entertained enough I sat there just wishing it could have been more than it was.
I think that as my first thought was it should have been called Venom Let There be Garbage when I left the cinema, means that the first impression I was left with was not good, and so I have to say that my Thumb is Down. There is a glimmer of hope in the mid-credits scene which does leave the future of this franchise open to a new universe of possibilities. However, I said the same thing when Cletus Kasady did his cameo at the end of the first film so that final scene might be writing checks a third film (which apparently Tom Hardy has signed up to do) may not be able to cash.
6/10 – My advice is wait until this film is on Netflix or Disney+. If you have no prior knowledge of Venom and really liked the first film then you’ll like this one because it is basically more of the same. As for me, I was disappointed, and the glimmer of hope I had for this second instalment in the Sony Spider-Man Universe is already beginning to fade.