May 8, 2019
Venom (2018), a recap (part 1 of 7)
Welcome to my latest patron-only recap! The full recap is available to those who pledge just $1/month on the Agony Booth’s Patreon page.
When it looked like Sony Pictures was really and truly going through with making a standalone Venom movie, the reaction from online film fans was mostly confusion. A movie about a Spider-Man villain whose origin and abilities are intrinsically tied to Spider-Man… where Spider-Man doesn’t appear, and which is completely devoid of any references at all to the Web-Slinger? How could this possibly result in anything but an Amazing Spider-Man 2-level disaster? The film even made my list of the least anticipated movies of 2018, and there was little pushback to this in the comments of that article.
And then the movie came out, proving once again that online reaction has no bearing on the success or failure of a film, and nobody knows anything, because Venom went on to make $855 million worldwide, ending up the 13th highest domestic grossing film of 2018 (just a notch below Solo: A Star Wars Story, another entry from the list of last year’s least anticipated), and it’s now the fifth-biggest opening in China ever.
I’ll admit that Venom is more entertaining than the other superhero movies I’ve recapped recently (Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, and you should read those recaps if you haven’t already), and lead actors Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams are more capable and interesting to watch than Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, and much, much more capable than Miles Teller and Kate Mara, and director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) delivers some genuinely amusing moments here. But overall, it’s a pretty middling effort, and doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen in countless other comic book adaptations. It certainly doesn’t rise to the same level of quality as the Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, and most of those movies are pretty mediocre as they are. It would seem comic book properties are guaranteed to do well these days, particularly in foreign markets, as long as the resulting film is just passable enough to not make audiences feel burned.
Venom originally appeared in 1988 in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #300, scripted by David Michelinie and penciled by Todd MacFarlane, but his origins go back years before that, to Marvel’s original Secret Wars. In that landmark mini-series, several superheroes and supervillains are drafted by a cosmic entity to fight each other on an alien planet. In the course of one of these battles, Spider-Man’s costume gets shredded, and he’s told by the Hulk (then controlled by Bruce Banner’s intellect) where he can find a machine that can regenerate his costume purely using the power of thought.