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Warning: Spoilers follow for Venom. Come back after seeing the movie!
I'll get this out of the way: I was not a fan of Venom. The movie is no trainwreck, but it's so generic and by-the-book that it fails to impress in a meaningful way. The majority of critics seem to agree on this, but audiences are divided. Despite negative reviews, Venom now holds the No. 1 opening in October history and ranks at B+ with CinemaScore. For the most part, audiences seem to like the movie, and while there are are a few reasons for why the film had such a successful debut (practically no competition; A Star is Born is not appealing to anywhere close to the same demographic), I can't deny that Venom isn't without its bright spots.
On the whole, Venom is not a great movie, but that doesn't mean that it can't do a couple of things right. Director Ruben Fleischer and actor Tom Hardy give this film some weird energy that comes in sporadically, which fuels some of the more memorable scenes. I'm not entirely sure that I'll ever fully understand what about Venom propelled people to the theater last weekend, but the film does these three things pretty well, and it likely stopped the movie from becoming a big mess.
The Relationship Between Eddie Brock and Venom
You might think that the central romance in the movie is Eddie Brock and his ex-fiance Anne Weying (Michelle Williams, who was nominated for four Academy Awards), but that's incorrect. The real romance is between Brock and Venom, and it makes for the more intriguing and interesting moments in the film. It's no coincidence that once Venom starts talking that this movie begins to pick up steam. Brock and his symbiote are an underdog duo, with Brock as a prisoner of his own body. A lot of times the interactions between the two are fun, with Venom heckling Brock while the journalist tries to keep the symbiote from biting off heads. It's a bizarre Odd Couple situation, but the film is usually better when it focuses on that. Plus, they just straight up make out with each other, which will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
It Doesn't Try To Set Up Other Movies
One of the top reasons that cinematic universes fail is because they try to do too much at once. For example, Tom Cruise's recent The Mummy tried to fit in multiple setups to other films in a yet-to-be-launched Dark Universe, but this all took away from the movie's own plot, making everything feel forced and irrelevant. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is also guilty of this. With Sony developing numerous films in its Spider-Man universe, like Morbius, Nightwatch, Black and Silver, and Silk, there was a good chance that Venom would make the same mistake. Well, it looks like Sony has been paying attention because Venom doesn't worry about anything but itself, allowing it to tell a straightforward story about alien goo. Sure, it sets up its own sequel, but that's a much easier and less distracting pill to swallow then if Eddie Brock was drafted into a war with vampires, or something similarly out of left field.
They Let Tom Hardy Go Nuts
Tom Hardy has been in a lot of good movies, and if there's one thing that can be said of his acting, it's that this guy goes for it. He's known for his wild performances and near indecipherable voices, but for Venom, Hardy was let off the leash. The Oscar-nominated actor is the best thing about this movie because he is giving 100% of his effort. Once the symbiote enters the picture, Hardy's performance gets super weird and sweaty, and you can tell that he is having a ball eating chicken from the trash and jumping into lobster tanks. The funniest scene in the movie is Hardy improvising! I'm not exactly sure if Hardy's performance is good, but it picks the film up whenever it begins to feel stale, and you have to admire the guy for putting the work in when just about every other actor is coasting.