Behind the Symbiote…
Host: Eddie Brock
Abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, and agility, ability to cling to most surfaces, organic webbing, limited shapeshifting and camouflage, symbiotes autonomous defence capabilities, undetectable by Spider-Man’s spider senses.
Weaknesses: Fire and Sonic waves
Team Affiliations: Sinister Six, Revengers, Savage Six
Love Interests: Ann Weying (She-Venom)
First Appearance as Venom: The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988)
Created by: Marvel Comics
“What started out as a replacement costume for Spider-Man turned into one of the Marvel web-slinger’s greatest nightmares!”
Venom is a sentient alien symbiote, that requires a host, usually human, to survive. It is an amorphous liquid-like being that bestows its powers upon its host. It was first introduced as a living alien costume in The Amazing Spider-man #252 (May 1984), Spider-Man was ‘Venom’s’ first host, but managed to separate himself from the creature. This lead to the symbiote merging with Eddie Brock, it’s most infamous host to date and led to the creation of Venom, one of Spider-Man’s nemesis, first appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988).
Who is Eddie Brock?
In the original comic, Eddie Brock was a journalist who exposed the identity of a serial killer but later found out that Spider-Man caught the real killer thus he had implicated the wrong man. As Eddie was a disgraced journalist, he came into contact with an alien symbiote that was shunned by Peter Parker, they became Venom and pursued Spider-Man – their mutual enemy. The term anti-hero applies to Venom because as much as he goes to battle with Spider-Man, he serves as a hero, albeit a violent one, searching to only save those who he classes as innocent.
The film plot differs slightly as Sony has adapted the original plot to fit a larger target audience, but it still follows a similar storyline. In San Francisco, disgraced journalist Eddie Brock comes across a classified document from his fiancee Anne Weying, a lawyer representing The Life Foundation and its notorious founder Carlton Drake. He uses this to try and salvage his career by investigating Drake, but when confronting Drake he is banned from the research facility and decides to break into the laboratory to get evidence. When searching for this evidence he comes across a test subject and while trying to rescue her from an alien symbiote (using the girl as a host) transfers from her body to his… introducing itself as VENOM. These symbiotes can bond with hosts (humans) and can change personalities, influencing their darkest desires and wants, giving them superhuman abilities. Now working as one, they agree that Venom will spare Eddie
from the symbiotes plans to possess and devour the inhabitants of Earth and Eddie gets to save his career by turning in evidence of Drakes experiments. Brock begins to enjoy the superhuman abilities he gains from Venom and in turn Venom begins to have sympathy for humans, deciding rather than to devour it, he will help protect it. The ending of the film includes another symbiote, Riot, who takes possession of Drake and tasks him with helping to collect and bring other symbiotes to Earth. Venom damages the probe and all seems to be back to normal with Weying believing that Venom was killed while saving the earth, but secretly they remain bonded, protecting the city from criminals. And of course, with all Marvel films, we are treated to a mid-credits scene to set up a possible sequel, ensuing ‘carnage’ to follow.
It’s fair to say that there were high expectations for this film when it was released. When writing this review we did hear about the critics being overly harsh and that it has not lived up to the hype of it being the ultimate comic horror, starring one of Marvel’s most notorious anti-villains. Marvel/Sony has done an excellent job with the special effects and action scenes (we think anyway), Venom is scary – have you seen those teeth! The way the directors/writers have portrayed Venom is probably what is lacking somewhat to how it/he comes across in the comics. Purist Marvel fans were hungry for an R-Rated film that is separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and instead, were given a film more humorous and audience friendly. This isn’t a bad thing in our view as having a charming and polite villain is quite funny and works well with the idea of Brock and Venom being like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Venom’s character to some needed to be more violent and hone in on torture and trauma (which it still has in some parts) but the focus of a ‘buddy comedy’ theme works well and the directors have certainly played up the dark humour of this. Hardy does a fantastic job of playing Eddie Brock, he makes the character realized and his own. Delivering enjoyable moments through Brock and Venoms interactions gives the story a different twist on the original. Hardy himself believes that the world has too many superheroes so Venom is a welcomed change to the genre.
Michelle Williams known for starring in more independent films takes the bold decision to star in a big budget comic book (expected) franchise. She gives a good performance of the ‘typical’
superhero girlfriend but we feel that there is so much to explore with her character if the franchise continues. In the film she allows Venom to take hold of her to save Eddie, thus becoming She-Venom, this we feel, is a nod to where the franchise could go in the future. It would be a shame if Williams did not get the ‘challenge’ of portraying a torturous symbiote and in the comics, we shall have to wait and see! The other most well-known actor is Riz Ahmed. The Emmy award-winning actor plays Carlton Drake, founder of the Life Foundation, who then turns into the symbiote Riot, who gives Venom a run for his money. Ahmed gives a compelling portrayal of the typical villain but lacking in making the character his own as Hardy did with Venom. This becomes even more apparent when Riot takes over Drake as there was no sense of tragedy with the ‘takeover’, it’s very blunt, gives nothing to the character and is a stark contrast to how synced Brock and Venom are – Drake and Riot are not. This is a shame as Ahmed is a great actor, but it is obvious all eyes were supposed to be on Hardy as Venom and no one else was allowed a slot. This could also be improved and explore other characters in more detail if the franchise goes ahead. Some have argued that this was slightly hinted at during the mid-credits scene with Brock back in action as a journalist, visiting San Quentin State Prison, to interview an inmate that has requested the meetup. Spoiler alert coming up… inside the cell is dangerous criminal Cletus Kasady. Played by Woody Harrelson, he wears a curly red wig which is a direct link to the character in the comic and has written ‘Welcome Eddie’ on the wall in his blood. In the conversation, he vows to escape prison and says, ‘there’s gonna be carnage!’ This is clearly a set up for the sequel promising to bring the Venom/Carnage story to the big screen!
Although the ‘buddy comedy’ works this movie has some kinks to work out, namely more character development for supporting characters, Williams and Ahmed are two fantastic well-established actors, yet their characters seem hollow. Hardy may be the protagonist of the story but this movie features other great characters and the writers had a catalogue of comics to use for inspiration, it seems wasteful not to allow these other characters to share in some of the spotlights. However, we do think Hardy has done an excellent job as both Eddie Brock and Venom, creating a more humorous portrayal than many were expecting. The main complications for this movie were always going to be the PG-13 rating, to create a more ‘family friendly’ version of the Venom story, was always going to risk a backlash from the true Venom fans who enjoy the violence and gore of the original story. However, coming at the story as someone who isn’t as clued in on the dark comic book story, it’s an enjoyable action movie with plenty of humour. It also provides some excitement into a sequel with its teaser at the end introducing Woody Harelson and his very ominous warning! But don’t just take our word for it, see below for some critic’s responses before you make your mind up…
- “The story is aided by having top-notch acting talents like Hardy and Williams. There is also plenty of action and humour. The formulaic plot has its problems, but overall, this is an entertaining movie.” – Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope
- “Mostly bad-bad, with a splash and dash of fun.” – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
- “Venom may not be the greatest comic book movie of all time, but it has its moments and isn’t quite as bad as you may have been led to believe.” – Matt Hudson, What I Watched Tonight
- “Is it a comedy? Is it an action film? Venom makes no pretence of being anything more than a superhero film” – Kate Gardner, The Mary Sue
So there we have it, it’s a very mixed bag for reactions to the movie, but don’t let that sway you, go see it and make your own mind up! Let us know what you thought about it in the comments below!
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