Venom: Are they Missing the Point?
I PROMISE I'll have a real article coming early next week. I swear! I began a new career path and it has taken up so much of my time that by the time I get around to writing I'm too mentally exhausted to do so.
Then the second “Venom” trailer dropped.. so I HAVE to say SOMETHING about it. My profile picture on this site is me cosplaying Venom, I literally have him tattooed on my back, I don't have much say in the matter. Seriously though, this isn't even my intended article, keep an eye out for that real soon.
I don't love the trailer, I don't hate it, but it doesn't tickle my fancy either. It feels like an early 2000’s throwback: wonky CG, generic villain, a main character who is too cool to be a hero, and a final battle that involves a bigger version of the protagonist. I get vibes of the first “Iron Man” and “X-Men” and (shudders) “Spawn”. Some of those are good, even great movies that helped create the landscape we have today, but they are still very much a part of their time.
I like a ton about it too. Venom and Riot, played by Riz Ahmed, both turn themselves into weapons and armor (see below) to cause massive damage while Scream uses a much more low key, precise, and controlled transformation to pull off targeted attacks. In these small glimpses we get to see the different varieties of symbiote and host interactions as well as the balance of control being exhibited. My absolute favorite scene is actually the moment when a tendril comes out of Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock and speaks to him face to face. Not only is it pulled directly out of the comics but you get to see how little power Eddie has in his relationship. Venom proves himself master, savior, ally, and captor in less than 6 seconds of screen time. It's a truly chilling moment as Venom heals Eddie’s body then states that even if he cooperates with this alien parasite that's infested his body, he might not survive.
Here's the thing though… my fear is that Sony is doing what Marvel Comics did in the 90’s and focusing on “how cool” Venom is and not how complex he is. See, I've read almost every single Venom comic and…he's a pretty dumb character. He's friggin badass and cool and totally rad, but the actual character development has clearly been left behind to focus on that coolness. To prove my point go back the last 10 years and count how many stories involve the Venom symbiote attaching to another hero or villain. Now take those and tell me how many of those stories are more than “isn't it awesome that Wolverine got Venomized”!?!?
Spoiler alert, not many.
The best Venom stories focus on the host, or the relationship between the host and this alien parasite. They're stories of addiction, PTSD, abuse, loss, and redemption. These stories focus more on the reality that the Symbiote will make the host unimaginably strong, powerful, nearly immortal, until the day it kills you, and less on the whole eating people thing.
Rewatch the trailer and tell me… Which style of movie does this look like? My fear is that the focus is so much on “how cool” Venom is that the writers, directors, producers, and actors have forgotten that Venom isn't the main character of “Venom”; Eddie is. The big, hulking, tongue, teeth, and drool version of the Symbiote is because it's attached to him specifically. When it's on Spider-Man it looks just like his normal suit. Peter Parker is focused, determined, kind and patient and the parasite reacts in kind. Only when he loses control does the Symbiote lash out. When Eugene “Flash” Thompson bonds to Venom the suit forms a military style body armor, mimicking the controlled, militaristic, strong-willed mindset of the host. Eddie's a dick-head. He's arrogant and brash, cocky and cruel, he is angry and violent and that's why when he bonds to Venom, the creature that forms is a monster.
None of that complexity is seen in this trailer. It's all muddled contradictions. Even as the stings tell us he isn't a hero, Eddie talks about only hurting “bad people” and is fighting back against the more violent of Venom's tendencies. We see a villain who talks about saving the world by… combining humans and alien slime? We get the phrase “turd in the wind” as is that's an actual statement said by humans. None of it makes any sense when you stop and think about it. The team has gone for style over substance in a spectacular way.
I first noticed it when you see Venom standing and monologuing to the criminals in the middle and at the end of the trailer. He's actually posing! Like, bodybuilder/model posing. He is standing in silhouette, one foot in front of the other, with his body twisted at the hips to face the bad guy. If you don't know what makes this a “pose”, stand in front of the mirror, feet parallel to the mirror, and flex. Now, step your left foot back a foot and turn your hips and waist back towards the mirror. Flex again. You should notice that your waist looks more narrow, your waist, chest, and shoulders expand in that classic “V”-shape, and you overall look bigger. THAT'S WHAT VENOM IS DOING!!
Venom is scary because he's an alien, he's scary because he's a parasite, he's scary because he eats humans and slowly poisons his host. HE IS NOT SCARY BECAUSE OF HIS IMPRESSIVE SHOULDER TO HIP RATIO!
My worry is, this movie is going to be cool, but dumb. I don't want that. I want something with substance. A genre movie like a slasher, or a character dive of a bad man trying to do good or vice versa. As we ramp up to this movie I'm going to put out a few more pieces, including the movie I would have done as well as a deeper dive into why Venom doesn't need Spider-Man to work. Keep an eye out for those in the coming months.
(When I told my fiance’ I was going to write this she impressed upon me her displeasure that the Symbiote moves weird on his body. She feels Venom should ooze across the skin, almost like blood, and solidify after coverage is complete. She HATES that it travels up and down his body as if is an external armor of sorts.
She also hates that they call it a sym-by-ote when EVERYONE (including Marvel Comics) calls it a sym-bee-ote. She plans to boycott the film until they change it.)