I was dubious about Venom, because I knew Spiderman/Peter Parker couldn’t even be mentioned because of Sony’s deal with Marvel. I felt that you could probably make a Venom film without Spiderman, but I couldn’t figure out how you’d make an Eddie Brock film without Peter Parker. Because it’s Brock’s obsession with Peter Parker that leads to his downfall. He fixates on Peter to try to hide his own shortcomings from himself. Hating Peter Parker becomes his raison d’etre.
The film worked round this in way that was quite clever. First, they have an unspecified New York incident move him away from Peter Parker, the Daily Bugle and events in New York, then they move his knee-jerk dislike to Carlton Drake (or I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Elon-Musk*), and finally, they actually have Eddie admit his faults. I actually liked Eddie Brock!
A good chunk of that was due to Tom Hardy, who appeared to be having all of the fun. He’s got charm enough to burn, and can do lovely but feckless so extremely well. And he’s good enough to sell you on Eddie Brock’s repentance. Which is just as well, because some serious repentance is required. And I like that. The film makes it clear that Ann is right to be angry with Eddie. It’s a film where actions have consequences, no matter if those actions come from good or bad intentions.
I also like that Doctor Dan is a good guy. The minute he sees that Eddie is ill, he immediately tries to help him. All hail Doctor Dan.
Other actors who seem to be having all the fun include … Tom Hardy as Venom. Venom’s alienness makes the occasional FX weakness easier to take, as does the way Tom Hardy makes Venom completely different to Eddie Brock (and I wonder if that challenge was how they got him to sign up for a minor superhero film). The other interesting thing about how they do Venom is the sound just before he appears, which is (probably deliberately) reduced as Eddie and Venom get more used to each other. The falling sensation some people experience as they’re drifting off to sleep that catapults them awake is called a hypnic jerk but some people get sounds as well/instead. Mine sound just like the noise of Venom’s appearance. Which led to an interesting if peculiar cinema experience. I know it’s coincidence but I’d love to know why that particular combination of sounds was chosen.
The end fight, although weak as tends to be the case in minor superhero films, had some enjoyable details in the lead up to it, like Venom using a dog as his way to get out of hospital, and then Ann letting him use her to bodysurf to Eddie. I also liked that Ann:
1 – remembered stuff
2 – did fight dirty. She got that Drake/Riot had to be stopped, by any means necessary.
Basically, I just liked Ann.
As well as finding the end fight underwhelming, I didn’t like one of the two end credit scenes. Not “Into the Spiderverse” which looked amazing, but the Carnage one. I think it’s because that’s not what Cletus Kasady sounds like. It’s not Woody Harrelson’s fault. He’d make an excellent Cletus Kasady given the opportunity, but they seem to have told him to play it that way.
So in short, Venom was good, stupid fun and far better than it had any right to be.
*I know Drake is a scientist in comics, and it’s not Elon Musk’s fault that a lot of his plans sound like supervillain schemes, but … it’s a remarkably close portrait.