I criticized the last Venom trailer for, well, an absence of Venom. Without the titular creature, the film looked like just another bland sci-fi thriller, or in other words, a Cloverfield spin-off. Now that we’ve finally seen the creature’s face in full , we can rest assured that he looks badass. But now, there’s a much bigger concern – the writing.
“The guy you work for is an evil person.” This is Tom Hardy’s first line of dialogue in the trailer, and I’m amazed he managed to say it with a straight face; Hardy really is a damn fine actor. It sounds like a line from the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and as the trailer progresses, the blatant exposition confidently continues.
My personal favorite is Hardy’s hard-bitten reporter asking the tough questions, like: “What about the allegations that you recruit the most vulnerable, for tests that end up killing people?” In case you haven’t figured it out from this trailer, Tom Hardy’s character is good, and Carlton Drake is bad. You might even describe him as an evil person.
Venom’s script comes from Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter behind the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey. Ouch. But in all fairness, we can’t really blame Marcel for that cinematic atrocity, as original author E.L. James reportedly didn’t allow a single line of her Twilight fanfiction to be changed in the adaption to the big screen.
And who knows, perhaps E.L. James also had a hand in Venom; it would explain all the tendrils shooting out of Hardy’s body (and weirdly, straight through his clothes), which look almost like tentacle erotica.
But the slimy tendrils are a necessary compromise, because this version of Venom doesn’t exist in the same universe as Spider-Man, and thus, didn’t inherit any of his cool web-slinging powers. His chest will presumably be devoid of any logo, and his major nemesis, not a superpowered do-gooder, but that that “evil person” Carlton Drake.
I do quite like the internal struggle for control, and the conversations going on between Hardy and his “inner anti-hero.” It’s like Birdman, without the terrifying descent into mental illness. But something else that seems to be lacking is Eddie Brock’s dubious morality.
From what the trailer tells us, this Brock is a genuinely nice guy, completely devoid of the violent rage that fueled the Symbiote (also, they pronounce Symbiote weird). That was kind of the point of Venom, no? That he walked the line between good and evil, between Spider-Man and Carnage.
In the typically black and white world of comic books, he was quite a relatable figure, representing what many bitter, jealous people would do if they were suddenly imbued with superpowers. His struggle with the Symbiote was really a struggle with himself, not just an inner demon that has a will of its own.
And the rumors flying around a few weeks ago that claimed that there was very little Venom in the film, are starting to look accurate. Strangely, the trailer practically confirms them; the Symbiote seems to be expressing itself mostly through the tendrils, and I suspect the full-face transformation occurs toward the end, when Brock finishes his arc by finally accepting Venom into his psyche, seeing as he refers to himself as “we” at that point in the trailer.
At this point, I’ve got a very cynical attitude toward a film I haven’t seen, which is a shame, because I really like Venom. His character is more interesting than his monstrous appearance suggests, especially when he became less of an “anti-Spidey,” and more of a conflicted hero.
He really didn’t work in Spider-Man 3, but I attribute that to Sam Raimi’s lack of love for the character (he originally wanted Vulture to team up with Sandman, not Venom). And from what we can see so far, Venom looks to have very little to do with the original character. This looks like another stepping-stone leading to a cinematic universe, populated by Spidey-villains. As we’ve seen many, many times before, this rarely works out well.
And if Venom fails in theatres again, he might not get another chance to succeed.