“See we didn’t forget to put Venom in the movie!”
That was Tom Rothman’s defiant boast from the stage of Sony’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas. A couple months back his film studio put out a Venom teaser which was bereft of any actual shots of the titular anti-hero. This time around, the new trailer saves that particular reveal for the money shot.
There you go. Now we’ve all seen what Venom is going to look like in this movie. It’s at least a more convincing look than what Sam Raimi’s team ran with for Spider-Man 3. So, there’s that.
All cards on the table: I’ve never read any Venom comic books. I only know him from kids cartoons and, obviously, Spider-Man 3. He means next to nothing to me as a character.
So, I’m actually more intrigued to finally see Jenny Slate and even more of Michelle Williams, both of whom have more than earned the right to have a bit of fun in a movie like this. Plus, at this stage comic book movies, at least those not made by Marvel Studios, really need to work extra hard to give us something we haven’t seen before. A modified body possession angle where Tom Hardy (playing clearly terrible reporter Eddie Brock) is fully conscious, can hear Venom in his head, but seems to have no control over what Venom actually does ticks a certain “I haven’t seen that before” box.
To be fair, Young Justice did something similar with Blue Beetle, and the shots of Venom spouting out of Eddie’s body to either attack or cushion a fall vaguely reminds me of Spawn‘s cape and chains having a mind of their own. But those are both examples from animated TV shows. Live action, however, well congrats, Venom. You’re doing something kind of new. Granted, there’s also JARVIS always talking in Tony Stark’s ear, but that’s not really the same as what Venom is doing. So, good of them.
As for the rest of the movie, meh. Evil corporation has symbiotes. Reporter botches a gotcha move during an interview and gets infected. Strange shit happens. Early 2000s action movie chase scenes ensue. Not one but two oddly time-filling establishing shots of the city. Lots of night scenes because the special effects were probably easier to pull off that way. Tom Hardy doing his best but maybe reminding us why Nolan likes to hide him behind masks.
Ultimately, I am more intrigued than I was after the teaser. At least they’re taking a big swing with Tom Hardy talking to the Venom voice in his head, even tempting fate by staging one such scene with him walking down a crowded city sidewalk (maybe he’ll pass an emo dancing Peter Parker). But there’s still a certain “blah” quality to this film. It doesn’t look bad, necessarily. It more looks entirely disposable.
What do you think? Am I underselling it? Or perhaps overestimating the novelty of putting an anti-hero’s voice inside Tom Hardy’s head? Let me know in the comments.
Venom is due Oct. 5.