Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Venom.”
The Movie: “Venom”
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A failed reporter is bonded to an alien entity, one of many symbiotes who have invaded Earth. But the being takes a liking to Earth and decides to protect it.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30 percent
Brown: After a month of sports movies, capped off with the ever-depressing “Foxcatcher,” we need some JOE-DOWN comfort food.
So, a comic book movie seemed like a good idea.
While we’re at it, why not a comic book movie with JOE-DOWN stalwart Tom Hardy?!
And with my well-documented love of Spider-Man, this week’s pick was almost too easy: 2018’s “Venom.”
I remember owning a Venom comic in my early teen years, which I think was the second comic book I owned after a random X-Men comic that had Dark Phoenix and the Silver Surfer in it. Between the black suit and the anti-hero attitude of Eddie Brock before I knew about The Punisher, Venom was a badass. I also remember playing a lot of the Spider-Man/Venom game on the Sega Genesis, “Maximum Carnage” (with music from Green Jellÿ because LOL ‘90s).
So, a movie on Venom should be awesome, right?
Welllllll… we’ve already seen one shitty movie with Venom, so why not watch another shitty Venom movie?
As I try to wrap my head around how a fired reporter can live in a posh San Francisco apartment like Eddie Brock, give me your initial take, Froemming.
Froemming: This was the weirdest Spider-Man movie I have ever seen. Spidey does show up, in the post-credit scenes for “Into The Spider-Verse,” which made me wish I had watched that instead. Basically, this is a Spider-Verse movie with no connection to Spider-Man. Which raises all sorts of questions I will be throwing at Brown this review.
It is also weird because I cannot tell what is going on with Eddie Brock’s accent. He sounds like a New York Australian, which just made things more baffling to me. Thank God I got some familiarity with Tom Hardy having shit over his face like in “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” That was the only thing that gave me comfort in this.
Brown, as I ponder why the screenwriters felt it would make sense to have Riot escape at the start of the movie rather than Venom, because that would have made the second act make much more sense, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: This movie begins in Tim Curry’s favorite place: SPACE!
Only, our trip to space doesn’t last long as we see a spaceship on its way to a fiery crash. It’s a probe from the Life Foundation, which is the laziest name for an organization that we’ve seen on the JOE-DOWN since Rip had his Sports for Kids charity in “No Holds Barred.”
While trying to find new habitable worlds for mankind to go to one day, the Life Foundation came across a comet and harvested four symbiotic lifeforms. But while coming back to Earth, one of the symbiotes broke free and caused the spaceship to crash in Malaysia.
… Pretty convoluted “Space Oddity” opening, movie.
Froemming: Look, you know your movie is in trouble when the cast cannot find common ground on pronouncing “symbiote.”
The Life Foundation, which I imagine also runs the charity The Human Fund, finds out they still have three specimens, but the fourth has gotten away.
Remember when our biggest worries were aliens on our planet due to corporate greed rather than today with a virus on our planet due to poor government leadership? Those were the days.
Brown: Yeah, I got infinitely sad when I saw a bunch of people in hazmat suits because 2020 is a tragedy.
Also, not for nothing, the ship crashing in Malaysia and resulting in the death and takeover of many Malaysian lives really made me feel for our old college pal Kai. Although I feel like Froemming was Kai’s symbiote, turning that kid from a soft-spoken foreign exchange student to a hard-drinking journalist.
Anyway, we see what is called Riot sneak off and attack some poor EMT in an ambulance, and she steps out looking like she is on a mission to find John Connor. I swear, this music should have played at the moment she steps out of the crashed vehicle.
Brown: The woman had broken legs and was WALKING on them. You want a way to make me instantly throw up, do that.
Froemming: Now we are magically whisked away to San Francisco, where we meet Eddie Brock and his fiance living in a multimillion dollar apartment in downtown San Francisco (I visited there a few years ago. Beautiful city for rich people. They kicked out the hippies, thank God). Granted, Anne is a corporate lawyer so I can see her maybe swinging that. Eddie Brock, who we find out was fired from the Daily Globe (in Worthington, Minn. in my head canon), not so much.
Brown: Now, love is love and I hope everyone finds someone in their life. But if there’s one person I could NEVER imagine a journalist with, it’s a corporate lawyer.
Froemming: Really? I find imagining things to be the easiest thing in the world to do.
Brown: It’s someone that’s made to sniff out bullshitters bumping uglies with a bullshitter. I just don’t see it.
Anyways, Eddie Brock seems like he’s as much a journalist as the guys who “report” news on their cell phones for Breitbart or InfoWars. Or, if you were following the Minneapolis Riots, I think Eddie Brock is Unicorn Riot. Just show up to an event with a cell phone and commentate on what you see, you’re a reporter!
Now, to be fair to this movie, Eddie and Anne are kind of adorable… when Eddie isn’t violating her trust by breaking into her computer to see details on Anne’s case defending the Life Foundation. It turns out that at the same time Anne is working on this lawsuit, Brock is being forced to do a puff piece with Life Foundation CEO Carlton Drake about the spaceship crash. But Eddie Brock doesn’t play those games! So he snoops into his girlfriend’s emails, calls out Drake on what is really going on… then proceeds to get fired AND dumped within the span of, what, 10 minutes?
Froemming: I feel like this was another installment of…
Brown: Also, let’s not gloss over the fact that one of the head scientists at the Life Foundation is (REDACTED) Mona Lisa Saperstein!
Froemming: Makes sense why she pronounced “symbiote” all weird in the trailer.
Now, after Eddie mumbles his hard-hitting questions and is kicked out of the building, we learn that not only was he fired from his job, but got Anne fired too, since he stole info from her personal computer. Which is a real dick move, if you ask me.
And six months go by.
And Eddie, now jobless, still lives in one of the most expensive cities in the US to live in. How? Who the (REDACTED) knows. He was fired, so unemployment is a bit trickier to get. I bet even his dive apartment costs more a month than what Brown and I make in six.
Brown: Right?! I mean, he was a TV reporter so he was making more than we would, but it couldn’t be THAT much more unless he was this world’s Anderson Cooper or something. It didn’t seem that way, though.
With that pesky reporter off his back, Drake can go back to messing around with the alien symbiotes, which he believes is the key to the long-term viability of humans once we destroy Earth thanks to our own greed and arrogance.
Which made me think: Is Drake a dumb bad guy? I ask this because he’s very hands-on with all this, to the point that he’s the one doing the shady parking garage deals to get the symbiotes. You’re a CEO, man. You pay underlings to do that kind of business so you don’t get squeezed by the cops. Do you not watch mafia movies, sir?
Froemming: I am getting tired of movie villains being based off Steve Jobs. Down to the stupid black turtleneck.
Also, little does Drake know, these symbiotes are a lot like Astro Zombies: Prime directive is to exterminate the human race.
This should be apparent since his studies are finding the symbiotes are basically eating and killing all these homeless people they got to sign wavers saying it is OK to kill them. This sounds a lot like how Ronald Reagan dealt with the homeless as well.
These experiments are not sitting well with Mona Lisa, so she decides to find Eddie Brock and sneak him into the lab to take pictures and learn about all this. I mean, it would probably be easier for her to do that, but logic is not a comic book movie’s strong suit.
Brown: Plus, Mona Lisa didn’t give Eddie the best piece of advice she could give while committing a crime:
So Eddie is taking cell phone pics all over the Life Foundation lab and comes across a homeless woman named Maria who, earlier in the movie, sold Eddie a free tabloid for $5 because Eddie A. doesn’t know how money works or B. this is a magic world where money isn’t real. Case in point: Eddie’s post-firing apartment.
Only now, Maria is infected with a symbiote that makes her incredibly violent, attacking Eddie and transferring the symbiote to him.
Froemming: Brown, was that sex and how it works?
Brown: I’m no expert but I don’t think so. I think that is how COVID is spread.
Froemming: Well, not as real as…
Eddie now finds he has super goo powers that allows him to destroy some hired goons and make his escape in *checks notes* dense wooded area of San Francisco…
Now, before I saw this part, you brought it up during one of our Drunken Sad Zoom Meetings For Journalists (real thing people) and I didn’t believe you when you said you got flashbacks to “Twilight.”
How wrong I was.
Brown: Oh, you mean how we were whisked away to the woods of (REDACTED) Forks, Washington? Because that’s EXACTLY what it looks like happens as Eddie escapes the Life Foundation.
Important question: So after Eddie escapes, the hunt is on to find who stole Drake’s symbiote and how the thief got into the building.
… … Wouldn’t a high-tech lab with a bunch of shady stuff going on have an obscene amount of security cameras? Or something like, I dunno, the lab to have power across the city like the Hawkins National Laboratory in “Stranger Things?”
There apparently wasn’t a single (REDACTED) camera this place checked because it takes a long time before they find out it’s Eddie.
Froemming: Eddie is having problems of his own. He comes barging home like he has been on a three-day bender and eats raw tater tots and rotten food from his trash can, then passes out in his bathtub.
That brings me back to college.
Brown: Are we sure that Eddie didn’t have a tapeworm? I wrote in my notes that Eddie had “the hunger” like Dee and Charlie did in “Always Sunny” when they thought they ate human meat.
As Eddie continues to go more out of control, he does what anyone in a life spiral would do: crawl back to an ex. Eddie runs into Anne as she wraps up a date with her new boyfriend Dan, who happens to be both a doctor and a fan of Eddie’s reporting.
Froemming: I would not trust this doctor’s judgement.
And this is a bonkers scene as Eddie is acting crazy in this restaurant and proceeds to sit in a water tank and eat the heads off of lobsters. If anything, this movie gave me that.
Brown: I would describe this scene in the movie as Cage-ian.
Froemming: Dan is a good guy and brings Eddie to the hospital, where he tries to run an MRI on the poor son-of-a-bitch. But the sounds from the machine makes the symbiote go all crazy on him. I think this was also a thing in “Spider-Man 3” but I have chosen to black that movie out completely. At least this Eddie Brock isn’t some idiot who needs a foot in his ass.
Brown: Yeah, this movie absolutely did not want a Topher Grace-like Eddie Brock. They take a sharp 180-degree turn by casting Hardy in that role. But, “Venom” doesn’t take the time to make us empathetic toward Eddie to truly understand what the symbiote is doing to him and it makes for another blah interpretation of the character.
Now, I agree with you on Dan; he’s a good guy. But he’s a shitty doctor because immediately after putting Brock through the MRI, Dan tells Anne everything about Eddie’s condition. And he does this multiple times in the movie. Apparently HIPAA doesn’t exist in San Francisco medicine.
Also, Mona Lisa meets her bitter end when Drake finds out that she led Brock into the lab to expose the operation and lost the symbiote in the process. With all her time around scientists, I’m shocked Mona Lisa lived this long without burning down the lab because they took too long and she got bored.
Froemming: If it seems like we forgot about Riot, don’t worry, the filmmaker did too. Riot somehow arrives in San Francisco in the old woman, meaning it was wandering aimlessly for half a year. Then it transfers into a little girl for some reason.
This little girl finds her way to Drake’s lab.
Eddie is also having quite the time, hearing voices and eating tots like Napolean Dynamite. This chaos does lead to a scene I did enjoy: Venom scaring the bejesus out of the loud guitar playing neighbor.
This is a great tool to have with loud neighbors.
Brown: First thing I thought of with that part was the story on how Megadeth bassist David Ellefson met guitarist/singer Dave Mustaine. Ellefson was playing the opening bassline to Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil” when Mustaine screamed at him to shut up and hit Ellefson’s A/C unit with a ceramic flowerpot.
Now, I like the idea of that scene, but the execution with the bad CGI face morph is the wrong kind of cheesy.
This is followed by more spotty CGI as Venom FINALLY makes an appearance in this movie by attacking Drake’s hired goons while also being a voice inside Eddie’s head.
And here’s my biggest problem with this movie… know what could have made this part stand out? By ratcheting up the violence and making this an R-movie. At its core, “Venom” is trying to be a B-movie with a high budget but it CLEARLY had so much studio interference that it never fully commits to it and it ends up being kind of boring. Scenes like this and the corresponding motorcycle chase scene really make that apparent.
I dunno, but am I off-base there, Froemming?
Froemming: No, given the source material, this should have been a hard R movie. Venom eats people for crying out loud. He is an anti-hero at times, straight-up villain at others. In an era where “Deadpool” and “Logan” could come out with R ratings, it made no sense why this could not either.
Also, there is the elephant in the room here with how Venom looks. My understanding was he looks like that after Spider-Man used it for his black suit, hence why the character looks kind like Spidey.
Brown: Correct. It’s also why, in the comics, Venom can use Spider-Man’s powers and has the ability to evade the Spidey-sense. And Eddie’s inner anger, Venom amplifies it. It’s a symbiote, after all: it takes from what it feeds on.
And this movie completely threw that out the window like Tommy Wiseau’s TV.
Froemming: So this chase ends up at Brock’s former studio, where Venom comes out and eats some heads off-screen. And Eddie and Venom have more chemistry than Bella and Edward in the “Twilight” movies, which made sense to me.
Brown: It’s around this point where it dawned on me that Eddie and Venom are basically in their own buddy cop movie. This is when I hit you up on Facebook chat and said this goddamn movie is stupid.
Froemming: I didn’t need to see this to know that, Brown.
Well, Anne gets a call from Dan with more unethical information about a client that is not Anne and she rushes to find him…at the station he was fired from? Am I wrong, am I confusing things because that makes zero sense to me.
Either way, Eddie has a friend in Venom and Anne wants him to get help. From Dan, who is borderline worse than Dr. Spaceman.
Brown: I think it’s here as well that Venom gives both a “we’re not so different, you and I” talk to Eddie. And, Venom is all “I like Anne” and starts giving Eddie advice on how to talk to women. An alien lifeform is being Dr. Ruth…
Froemming: Eddie also spills the beans that Venom’s one weakness is:
And they blast some so the symbiote leaves Eddie and is a pile of goo that slobbers around. Free of Venom, Eddie wants to get the hell outta dodge. Forget Drake, forget it all. The man wants nothing to do with any of this.
I don’t blame him.
But Venom is not done with Eddie, and slithers away through a vent and attaches itself to Anne’s dog.
Up to this, we have been told it has to be quite the match for one of these symbiotes to connect with a host, what with all the dead homeless people in Drake’s lab and all. Venom apparently has zero effort with this because it takes over a dog and then Anne with NO PROBLEM AT ALL.
Seriously, (REDACTED) this movie’s logic.
Brown: Sans Venom, Eddie is captured by Drake’s hired goons and finds out that Riot attached itself to Drake. But it’s here where Drake FINALLY acts like a crime boss and makes his underlings do the dirty work by having the goons take Eddie out to the woods to kill him.
They’re not alone, though, as Anne-as-Venom starts taking out the hired goons.
So we have a Lady Venom. And Venom reattaches itself to Eddie by… making out… with Eddie.
This makes more sense than what I just typed.
Froemming: Was that sex? Is that how sex works, Brown?
Brown: I mean… sex results in a symbiote living in a woman’s body for around nine months, right? That was basically porn.
Froemming: With Venom back, the symbiote admits it has taken a liking to Brock and Earth and wants to help stop Riot from bringing back more of these things to destroy the human race. Venom also admits that on his world, he is a loser. I don’t know why, but I enjoyed that little nugget of information about this weird alien being.
Brown: I thought it was goddamn stupid.
Know what I want out of an anti-hero? A badass.
What did we get? The loser’s club from “It” without the charm.
Froemming: Christ, I forgot I was dealing with Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons.”
Brown: Just because I have Comic Book Guy on my keychain does NOT make me Comic Book Guy…
Froemming: Anyway, we now head to what the filmmaker thought would be an epic battle between these two alien beings. But like that episode of “Game of Thrones” everyone hated for being shot too dark, we get a battle between two dark figures at night in the dark for some (REDACTED) reason.
Brown: Venom eventually stops Riot’s plot to get into space by damaging the ship, causing it to explode.
I wrote in my notes: “Oh, good. Riot died via Challenger explosion.”
Eddie/Venom also are sent crashing into a body of water like the intro to “Skyfall.” I was waiting for Adele to hit the soundtrack so I could think for a second I was about to watch a good movie.
Instead, Eddie is alive and it appears that Venom perished. But hold on! Because Venom is still giving relationship advice again because this movie is a goddamn train wreck.
Froemming: A train wreck that was a box office hit that got a sequel I never want to see.
Anyway, Eddie teases he got a big interview and in the mid-credit scene, we find he is interviewing Woody Harrelson in a bright red Ronald McDonald wig, which was a very odd scene to me.
Brown: Seriously, how hard did you jaw hit the floor when you saw Woody looking like the dad of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor?
Froemming: I was deeply disturbed. Of course, Wikipedia tells me this is sequel bait and that is some doofus named Carnage or something.
Brown: Yeah, Carnage is basically the ultraviolet Venom. And the guy the symbiote takes over, Cletus Kasady, is basically the Joker.
So Sony, what we’re trying to tell you is if you don’t make the sequel an R movie, you’re doing it wrong.
*Sigh* They’re going to do it wrong. This is me coming to that realization.
Froemming: I have no intention in seeing another one of these movies. Let’s ride our motorcycles down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Venom became an advice columnist in this movie… Of course I’m not recommending this tripe.
Froemming: No. This was just not a good movie and I doubt an R rating would have made it any better.