In Defense of Venom

A discussion of whether Venom was a good movie necessitates the concession to the incorrect assumption that the opposite of a good movie is a bad one. Setting aside the very fact that the definition of a good movie is subjective and thus cannot be accurately measured, the main thrust of this discussion is to rebut criticisms that seem to condemn the film as a “bad” comic movie. Here, I will argue that Venom is successful in providing what cinema should – a good performance and enjoyment. Venom may have missed some marks, but perhaps it is excessive to label the movie as lacking artistry and creativity and wholly inadequate. Indeed, it cannot be denied that the film has shortcomings. The following discussion, however, will address these issues, and attempt to defend Venom where possible.

 

Photo Courtesy of Marvel

The first point of contention is the movie’s unprecedented tone. Given Venom’s dark comic book roots, the audiences’ dismay at the campy tone of the film is understandable and justified. Subverting expectations is always a precarious move.

A 360 change is also palpable in the shift from Thor: The Dark World to Thor: Ragnarok. The drastic stylistic change works, and is appropriate to the plot of the movie as well as the character journey the protagonist goes through. In Ragnarok Thor becomes more relatable with the humour permeating the movie, as opposed to the somewhat detached sentiments audiences have with the god of thunder as he converses in fancy diction and jargon, which augments the chasm between gods and humans. Such a change in tone, in this case, helps in rooting Thor as presently one of the most beloved characters in the MCU compared to his “just there” status previously. One can perhaps argue the same for Venom. Venom and Eddie Brock are not gods or heroes; they are rejects with questionable morals. They are not the typical protagonists that audiences can easily root for. Imbuing Venom and Brock with a humorous characterization alleviates the audiences’ apprehension at rooting for and supporting a morally grey character – supporting a villain is just not a typical human tendency. The humour humanizes Venom. Admittedly, in doing so the essence of Venom’s darkness is lost. However, Venom in the comic books, too, exhibits humorous wit and shares an amusing relationship with Brock.

Photo Courtesy of Marvel

Secondly, some lament the glaring omission of Venom’s primary adversary, Spiderman. That this is a reason for hatred is baffling. The rights are owned by different companies and expecting Tom Holland’s Spiderman in the movie is pointless. Venom did what it could to create a film about Spiderman’s villain as the protagonist without Spiderman himself. This ties back to the idea that the filmmakers had to produce a film about a villain as its protagonist. Venom was conceptualized as his own character, separate from the hero that he always came second to. It would be tricky to get the audiences’ support for a villainous and evil protagonist in the first place, and without an option of a character to root for – i.e. the hero Spiderman – would eliminate the audiences’ sympathy for anyone in the film, and by extension, the movie as a whole. Capturing the audience’s sympathy is integral to garnering support and commitment to the characters and the film. Thus, the absence of Spiderman, albeit a result of movie rights issues, is effective in winning the audience’s support of Venom. This is a new take on the classic trope of the antihero.

Perhaps the film’s success can be attributed to Tom Hardy’s performance. In his humanizing and witty portrayal of Eddie Brock and Venom, audiences would find it difficult loathe him, if not root for him. Hardy’s dedication and deep understanding of Venom and Brock can be seen in the improvised lobster scene. That Hardy played Venom and Brock, arguably is the key saving grace of the franchise.

The disparity between the critics’ and audience’s opinion on Venom is stark. This highlights the difficulty of measuring a film’s worth or success. While some may champion the importance of critical reviews on a film’s standard, is it also not important to take into consideration the audiences’ opinions? After all, cinema should be for all and not just for critics. If one enjoys a movie, can one not argue that that is sufficient to label a work a good one? Ultimately, what makes a good or a bad movie is unknowable.

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