It’s time to lower your expectations as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out a couple of lesser comic book movies, the much derided Venom and the worst film in the original spider-trilogy.
Directed by Rubin Fleischer (2018)
Originally based on a fan-submitted idea (for which Marvel paid $220), Venom was formally introduced in 1988 in issue #300 of Amazing Spider-Man. Eddie Brock was a former Daily Globe reporter and bodybuilder, who lost his job and blamed it on Spider-Man, then bonded with an alien symbiote able to replicate Spider-Man’s powers. For the next 30 years, Venom vacillated between outright villain and vigilante anti-hero, spawning a bunch of copycat characters (Carnage, Antivenom) along the way.
This version of Venom's origin story doesn’t have anything to do with Spider-Man, which seems like an odd choice considering the recent success of Homecoming, but theoretically allows the movie to succeed or fail on its own merits. And fail it does, although perhaps not as badly as you might have heard.
On the upside, Tom Hardy is more intelligible than I’ve ever seen before, with at least 80 per cent of his dialogue being vaguely coherent. Of course, he also mumbles and grunts a lot, but it wouldn’t be a Tom Hardy movie without mumbles and grunts. Michelle Williams seems less comfortable as love interest Anne, but she really doesn’t have very much to do other than look concerned. Some of the action sequences are decent, although the constant forced humour detracts from the tension.
On the downside, the dialogue is awful, the bad guy (Riz Ahmed) is uninspired and the special effects look particularly ropey for 2018. Director Fleischer seems determined to replicate the horror comedy success of 2009’s Zombieland, but misses the mark by a fair margin. Where Venom should be a borderline psychopath with an occasional conscience, we get a whiny loser talking to himself about why he can only bite the heads off “bad people” and only then off-screen. Oh, and (minor spoiler) who the hell thought casting Woody Harrelson as Carnage was a good idea?
Directed by Sam Raimi (2007)
If I were in the habit of ranking franchises, I’d place Spider-Man 3 slightly above The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a movie which suffered from many of the same problems as this one. This pair of duds would be at the very bottom of the list, lower than the campy 1977 version, which should tell you exactly what to expect from this movie.
Telling the next chapter in newspaper journalist Peter Parker’s somewhat repetitive life, Spider-Man 3 sees Peter fighting with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst in one of the most unforgiving performances ever. It’s pretty clear Dunst doesn’t want to be there and put in the barest effort to look in the right direction when the big third act CGI fight kicks in. More committed to the silliness are the villains, notably Thomas Haden Church as Sandman and Topher Grace as Venom, but even they can’t make up for the crappy script and over-stuffed plot.
Spider-Man 3 is only 11 years old and has already aged terribly. To be fair, it wasn’t great to begin with, but while some viewers may be able to appreciate the weird dance sequence from The Breakfast Club ironically, I haven’t met a single person who didn’t hate the extended “emo dance” conducted by Tobey Maguire late in the second act. You see, Spidey gets possessed by an evil alien symbiote that makes him a bit of a dick and also a fan of jazz music. When he finally breaks free of the symbiote, it goes off to find Parker’s work nemesis Eddie Brock, transforming him into the monstrous Venom.
The biggest problem with Spiderman 3 is that it doesn’t have the confidence to back a single bad guy. Instead, we get three for the price of one, with James Franco returning as the Green Goblin to join Sandman and Venom. Due to the preponderance of characters (and the fact that not much happens until the final act) none of the villains get a decent character arc and you’re left hoping that someone, somewhere might make a decent movie with Venom in it.
In a battle between Venom and Spider-Man 3, there are no real winners.
If you’re willing to watch Venom with the lowest of expectations, divorcing it entirely from the awesomeness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in your mind, there’s a chance that you might find something to like. The cinema I watched it in was more than half full and there was no shortage of laughter scattered through the screening. It’s also pretty family friendly for a movie about a monster who bites peoples heads off.
At this point, Spider-Man 3 should only be watched ironically, perhaps as part of some sort of drinking game where you take a shot every time something cringeworthy happens. On second thought, don’t do that, as you would surely die from alcohol poisoning well before the end of its interminable 2 hour 19 minute running time.
Venom — 3/10
Spiderman 3 — 1/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Venom. A movie that no one on the IA team endorses.
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