dir: Andy Serkis
In any year I’ll see a stack of films. There will be great ones, okay ones, dull ones, painful ones, but rarely will there be actively dumb ones.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of dumb scenes in countless movies, but it takes a special talent / motivation to make a good “dumb” movie. Bad dumb movies are all too easy.
Of the thoroughly dumb ones I’ve seen this year, like the Australian made Mortal Kombat reboot or King Kong Versus Godzilla, this Venom flick is somehow dumber than the rest yet not any more enjoyable because of it.
Plot points and motivations, dialogue and virtually everything people say or do don’t matter in dumb flicks. Dumb flicks skate by all of that by being fun and / or funny.
This wasn’t fun, at least not for me. Tom Hardy as the somewhat lead character doesn’t look like he’s having fun either, but he’s based a career on that, so he’s not going to start looking comfortable now. Throughout this entire flick, and throughout what little I remember of the first one, Hardy’s character of Eddie Brock looks like little more than a guy who desperately needs to find a working bathroom. Alternatively, he has the air of a junkie starting to get the shakes, but they never stop; the shakes and the sweats are eternal.
Within him is an alien symbiote they call Venom, who consistently keeps wanting to eat other people’s heads. They have a very uneasy alliance, in that they fight constantly, though I think only Eddie hears Venom’s voice.
I could wax rhapsodic about how this is an updated version of the duality of the human soul / mind, of the Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde concept, but even the thought I put into constructing this clumsy sentence is more than the level of thought that was put into the original script. I say ‘original’, because I can hear the deathly “punch-up” moments scattered throughout the lazy screenplay.
I never even knew it was a thing that existed, until a comedian doing stand up talked about being brought in to a movie’s production in order to try to insert nonsensical ‘funny’ phrases into scenes and sequences that have already been completed. They’re not there to change anything, and it can’t be something anyone responds to, so they’re just these “Don’t Go in There” or “That’s what She Said!” kind of non sequiturs that are rarely funny and stick out, to use a quaint old phrase, like dog’s balls.
There are so many, in Venom’s headache-inducing voice, that I really wonder what level of panic set in when they’d finished principle shooting, started to edit it, and turned to each other saying “it’s not that funny, is it?”
It’s no funnier after trying to juice it up a bit either. Almost nothing Venom does or says is that interesting or engaging, but I guess if there is any central relationship worth caring about, it’s between these co-dependent chaps.
Maybe the thing I found funniest is where Eddie tries to pacify the beast within by feeding him chickens. He gets two chickens, and Venom names them Sonny and Cher, and thenceforth can’t eat them. You can’t eat creatures you’ve named, eh?
Venom ate a lot of heads in the previous flick, but doesn’t get to eat many heads here. If your primary motivation for watching these flicks is watching people’s heads eaten, you might be disappointed.
If what you like watching is Woody Harrelson playing a serial killer and overacting, you should probably watch Natural Born Killers instead. Here he literally plays a character called Cletus, with a terrible ginger wig, that’s eventually replaced with an even worse wig, who kills a whole bunch of people and ends up on death row.
But there is of course the scene at the beginning that sets up a lifelong love between Cletus and a girl who can hurt people by screaming at them, and I don’t mean the stuff teenagers can scream which chills the heart and cuts your self-esteem in half. Frances, or Shriek, is eventually played by Naomie Harris, and this is a thankless, pointless role than reminded me of little more than the terrible Pirates of the Caribbean flick where she played some creepy ocean god. At least she played a god that time.
Here, well, she loves Cletus, so… I guess this is better than the previous reference, because in that Pirates flick her love interest was played by Geoffrey Rush, so serial killer Cletus is a definite step up.
Cletus somehow drinks a tiny bit of Eddie’s blood containing some of Venom’s alien symbiote DNA, which turns Cletus into another monster that wants to eat people’s heads, but instead of being like Venom, he’s red, and called Carnage, hence the terrible title. Carnage is for some reason never explained more powerful than Venom. I guess that’s how you create stakes?
Eddie, away from Venom, cares a lot about his ex-wife called Anne (Michelle Williams), but she doesn’t pine for him, having moved on. She knows, because of the first film, all about Venom, so while she might care about Eddie, she’s under no illusions about his shitty nature. She is in this flick only so Cletus / Carnage has someone Eddie cares about to threaten with death, and so Eddie can try and not look like a loser in front of his ex-wife.
It never works, because the character is a perennial sweaty loser. I don’t really see the charm of watching Eddie arguing with Venom for 90 minutes, nor did I find anything that interesting about the action scenes, which are all mediocre CGI, and pretty incoherent. I didn’t care anything about Cletus / Carnage, and waited impatiently for him to be gone, and it really wasn’t worth the wait. Venom finally gets to eat one person’s head, at least, just before saying “fuck that guy”.
Fuck that guy, indeed.
I get that these are meant to be less serious and more fun than the other Marvel bullshit or even the current Spider-Man movies, but they just have such a low rent, lazy feel to them, like, let’s get a D-quality script and get these B level actors to go all pantomime, and the nerds will lap it up. It felt like it was 10 years long even though it was like an hour shorter than most of these comic book flicks are these days.
Maybe I should give it extra points for that. I do remember that immediately after I watched this, I couldn’t remember almost anything about it, and had to watch it again just to have some of its dumber / funnier aspects stick to the inside of my skill. But it failed a second time, so I had to rely on notes I took at some point, which looked like they’d been written by someone else(?) Maybe I’m the one with the split, alien personality.
I have no doubt there will be more of these, because I guess Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams need summer houses in nice coastal areas, but I don’t look forward to them.
4 times Venom movies are bad and should feel bad out of 10
“Eddie, we should be out there snacking on bad guys! I am a predator! I need to be free.” - Venom: Let There Be Carnage