I am worried. Well, not worried. But… concerned. Yes, concerned. We have all had fun with the VENOM movie this past week or so. The voice. The “turd in a wind line.” The “I’m sorry about Venom line.” The tater tots. It’s been a gas.

But I’m concerned that many of you might…actually…

Ok, wait for just a sec. I just want to be clear here. I care about all of you. Really, I do. I am not trying to be hurtful here. This is just a place where we can be honest, okay?

Okay. So here we go again…

I’m concerned many of you might actually think VENOM is, you know, good.

So, I know this is going to be awkward, but we need to talk about VENOM.

VENOM: Eddie and his moto
Tom Hardy is confused by your positive feelings towards VENOM. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

I Am Not Saying VENOM Isn’t Fun

This is important. I am not trying to tell you VENOM is not fun. I’m not made of stone. I’m not a killjoy. Well… not entirely. I get it. Honest, I do. I like HOW DID THIS GET MADE and I love love LOVE THE FLOP HOUSE, two bad movie podcasts. VENOM is probably the first movies in a long time that I think THE FLOP HOUSE should absolutely watch and will likely achieve the coveted “Good-Bad Movie” ranking. VENOM is the kind of movie that is excellent for many friends over to laugh and yell at the screen bad movie night.

The scene with the fancy restaurant that culminates in the lobster tank dunk is a bit of glittering gold. I defy anyone to watch that scene without a giggle. More likely, though, any viewer will let out a guffaw. It is wild, whirling, and utterly over the top. In a less enlightened time, one might label it “insane.”

Much of Venom and Eddie’s conversations are similarly funny bone tapping. The way the voice rumbles out of nowhere, actor Tom Hardy’s bug-eyed reaction to it, the way Hardy seems to respond as Eddie in this kind of little kid caught doing something wrong cringing whine? It made me laugh nearly every time.

Obviously, I could go on, but you get the idea. VENOM is fun.

But it is not ‘good fun’ if you understand.

VENOM: Carlton Drake and Dr. Dora Skirth
Riz Ahmed and Jenny Slate can’t believe the message threads saying VENOM is good. (Courtesy of Sony Films)

The Name Of The Game Is Unintentional Humor

You know what movie makes a lot of people laugh? That many who watch it would describe it as “fun”? THE ROOM.

You know a movie no one on Earth would try to define as good? THE ROOM.

My point here is not to drag THE ROOM, but to point out that a movie can be fun without being good. It happens a lot, truth be told. It is why bad movie podcasts like WE HATE MOVIES and MOVIE FIGHTERS exist. Without at least some fun but not good movies, those casts would quickly shrivel up and die.

The difference between a good fun movie and a not good fun movie? The intentionality of the humor.

VENOM certainly has some intentionally funny moments. The bit with the neighbor playing his guitar too loud until Eddie Venoms out the first time? That’s intentional humor.

The giggle you cannot help but let out when Michelle Williams, Academy Award-winning actor and once in a lifetime talent, says plaintively, “I’m sorry about Venom?” That is unintentional. The screenwriter, the director, the actors, hell even the Best Boy, did not film the scene with the intention of making a full stadium seated dark theatre laugh in unison. There are moments between Venom and Eddie that are intended to make you laugh as well.

The “put your hands up” scene for one. The infamous “pussy” line for another. However, the part where Venom confesses it used to be a loser too but now intends to help Eddie save Earth? That’s scripted as pathos friends and foes, not as a joke.

VENOM: Half Mask
We caught Tom Hardy half costume change during a scene from VENOM. So embarrassing! (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

The Acting In VENOM

Poor Michelle Williams tries to find a way into Anne Weying, attorney at law and Eddie Brock’s ex-fiancée. For moments here and there she even manages it.

The date night scene manages to find a weird sort of chemical energy between Eddie and Anna and exploits it. It definitely feels kind of off but it also feels lived in. Like if you were friends with that couple, you might often find yourself going home after a party admitting to your partner, “They are so weird with each other but they seem happy.”

Mostly though, Williams has no character on the page and cannot summon the alchemy necessary to breathe dimensions or charm into her. She tries, oh how she tries, she tries all the time, but some tasks are beyond even Michelle Williams. The other prominent woman in the film, Jenny Slate’s Dr. Dora Skirth, fares similarly poorly.

As the mole inside the Life Foundation, she could have been a very brave conflicted character. Instead, she mostly comes off as, well, kind of dumb? Moreover, the movie kind of just tosses her away at one point without any kind of echoes in the story. Riz Ahmed is pretty underutilized. He has one great moment of humor, “Long journal entry about that tonight,” but otherwise is just sort of vaguely disconnected from humanity and evil until he’s covered in symbiotic goo and then he’s eviler and somehow even less interesting.

All praise to Tom Hardy though. His Eddie Brock ends up being a madcap highwire act that I cannot imagine any other actor making the “proper” choices to make work. Without Hardy, I don’t think we even could call this movie “fun.”

VENOM: The Break Up
“Tom,” Michelle Williams tells Mr. Hardy, “VENOM just isn’t good. I’m sorry.” (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

The Special Effects of VENOM

The symbiotic goo and Venom himself are, in my opinion, very good. Venom does not come across as the most expressive of chaps, but he can show off his teeth and loll out that tongue — the one we all want know what it do tho — with the best of them.

The action scenes though? Almost to the one are disastrous. For a community that complained that parts of BLACK PANTHER looked too rubbery, I find myself demanding, “Is there your special effects masterpiece?” (That’s a BLACK PANTHER reference. It was kind of a meme thing for a while. Look it up. There are some good ones.)

The smoke filled fight scene between Venom and SWAT? If you ever complained about the fight choreography or editing in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT films, you damn well better have hated this!

The climactic Riot on Venom battle for Earth? Mostly swirling blobs of similar colored goo punctuated by the occasional slo-mo shot that revealed Hardy and/or Ahmed CGI faces? I have not seen a climactic fight that bad or bland since INCREDIBLE HULK and that was a decade ago. Also, it still looked better.

Also, the explosions? When did VENOM stumble onto the Universal Spectacular Stunt Show of my youth?

VENOM: Gassed
Venom knows what that mouth do, is keeping it to themselves because they are a gentleman. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

I Don’t Care, I Had Fun!

That’s awesome! Really, I mean it. The movies should be a place to have a good time. There is a movie coming out this weekend that is an early Oscars favorite that I’m about to bang for being, well, sort of boring. I can’t say which one but it rhymes with Mirst Fan. So I agree that movies should not just be a slog, that they need a spark of something.

If that is all you want from your filmgoing experience, I’m cool with that, too. It’s not my only reason for going to the movies, but hey, different strokes, different folks, right? So I support you going ahead and declaring how VENOM was. Heck, I agree it was fun. I will support that review.

VENOM: A Chat
“We’re not good!” whined Tom Hardy. “But we’re fun, Tommy,” replied Venom. “Is that enough?” Hardy whispered. Venom nodded, “Tim says it is.” (Courtesy on Sony Films)

Where Does That Leave Us?

However, it was not good! (Come on, you knew that had to be coming!)

We agree that there is nothing wrong with only wanting to see fun movies. I think we can also agree, therefore, that there is nothing wrong with being a person who wants more from Hollywood than just “fun” movies.

And if we can agree to that, and I think we can, we can agree that critics should, in reviewing movies, call it as it is. In other words, critics were right to predominantly refuse VENOM a good review. It is not a good movie!

That said, they should have also admitted what is so obviously true. It is a bonkers, bizarre, wild bit of filmmaking that will almost certainly make you laugh whether it meant to or not.

If we agree to all that — please tell me we can agree to all that — then we, as a movie-going community, can admit VENOM is, as a piece of filmmaking, bad. And we as a critical community can respond in kind agreeing that VENOM, as an experience, is frequently fun and funny.

Thus, harmony will be achieved in our time.

Now pass the damn tater tots.

4 Comments

  1. Maureen Welch

    Maureen Welch

    October 14, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Those first paragraphs written like someone who has run therapy groups

    Reply

  2. Craig Guyette

    Craig Guyette

    October 11, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    So you’re saying it was good! Awesome.

    Reply

  3. Dan

    October 11, 2018 at 8:23 am

    The most sense I’ve read about the movie yet. Nicely put.

    Reply

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