Why 'Venom' is the best comic book movie in years

Publish Date
Monday, 15 October 2018, 3:27PM

By: Karl Puschmann

I'm just gonna come straight out and say it; Venom is a really bad movie. A turkey. A stinker. And you should definitely go see it.

I don't want to oversell my position but I think it might even be the antidote to the protracted bout of superhero fatigue I've been suffering from.

Venom, it's good for what ails ya.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. First let me tell you a little about this big dumb film before saying why it's worth watching.

The story is about an evil billionaire - is there any other kind? - who imports an alien species to earth on his rocket ship. These aliens, called symbiotes, look like big puddles of slippery intestines and they can only survive on our planet by assimilating into a human host. Sadly for everyone involved most humans explode when these aliens snatch their bodies.

Cue gory medical experiments in the billionaire's medical lab as he first tries to find a profitable cure for cancer before an abrupt pivot to embracing global warming and masterminding an alien takeover of the planet. Why? Dunno.

Meanwhile Eddie Brock, a rogue journalist - is there an other kind? - starts sniffing about the lab and doh!, he accidentally gets himself infected with one of these symbiotes, the titular Venom.

Why didn't he explode upon contact like the other poor saps in the lab? Dunno. Why is the alien called Venom? Dunno. How does Venom know the English language? Dunno. And how does Brock morph into a 7ft tall, lizard-tongued monster and then back again with nary a tear in his clothes? Dunno.

These are all questions the film wastes no time asking, let alone answering. And if you find yourself wondering about any of this stuff then you are most assuredly in the wrong movie.

The movie morphs into a buddy/action flick as Brock/Venom bicker for control over their now shared body, and fight the billionaire, as they attempt to save the day.

Venom is everything Marvel's constant bombardment of big budget, blockbuster, comic book movies are not. Namely, good. And it's bad in a totally different way to DC's relentlessly "dark" films.

As comparison, even the worst Marvel movie is watchably competent. I've entirely forgotten everything about the recent-ish Ant-Man movie but I remember it was pretty good at the time. Marvel's best, such as the Taika Waititi helmed Thor: Ragnarok or the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie are exceptional mass entertainment.

But after a decade of pumping these movies out at pace, 19 over the last decade, their formula is showing. They hide it well and their output is reliably good. Precisely why I find them all, well, boring now.

Despite everything wrong with Venom - and to be brutally clear that's just about everything - the one thing it's not is boring.

A lot of that comes down to its star, Tom Hardy. He's an actor who makes bold and often puzzling acting choices and here he really goes all in on his duel roles, bringing almost Nicholas Cage levels of crazy to his portrayal of infected journo Eddie Brock and a strange, non-asthmatic Darth Vader voice to the CGI Venom.

Which brings us to the CGI. Gawdamn it's awful. I haven't seen CGI this bad since the mid-90s. Holy moley, is it hokey. Especially whenever Hardy transforms into the hulking Venom. The best CGI leaves you not believing your eyes. Here, you won't believe what you're seeing. But not for the right reasons. But this is fitting because Venom reminds me a lot of those big dumb 90s action movies.

So, after all this, why then am I recommending seeing this movie?

Mainly because it is so thoroughly and enjoyably bad. It asks Marvel and DC, "why so serious?" before going nuts. It's what comic book movies were before they demanded to be taken seriously.

You'll roll your eyes as the atrocious dialogue, you'll wonder why the story is lurching around so haphazardly, you'll groan at Venom's juvenile and lame gags and you'll stare disbelievingly at just how shonky the action is.

But you also won't notice the time fly by. And it really does. I was shocked when I later learned the movie was almost 2.5 hours. This means that you also don't notice yourself enjoying every last, lousy minute of it until you leave the cinema.

It's easily the best worst film I've seen this year and I have a sneaky suspicion it could become a future cult classic. Truly, a film this gloriously bad deserves to be seen on the big screen.

If you want to see something good, see something else. If you want to see something fun... well, this is it.

Venom is refreshingly b-grade and infectiously entertainingly. Just not in the way the filmmakers intended.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.

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