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Non-Review Review: Venom

Transformative trauma is a cornerstone of the superhero genre.

Sometimes that trauma is emotional; the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the loss of Uncle Ben, the explosion of Krypton. Sometimes that trauma is physical; having piping hot metal coated over your bones as your memory is wiped, physically mutating into something unrecognisable as human, having your entire body turn to trauma. To misquote Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.” More often than not, it also comes with great suffering.

Back in black.

In its best moments, Venom seems to realise this. At the core of Venom is the traumatised character of Eddie Brock, who has watched his entire life fall apart and who suddenly finds himself sharing his body with a murderous alien entity with monstrous appetites. Brock is played by Tom Hardy, one of those rare actors with both immense physical presence and incredibly vulnerability. Unshaved and scruffy looking, with faded tattoos and wearing clothes that look like they haven’t been washed, Eddie looks like he’s been through hell even before his transformative experience.

There are moments when Venom almost plays as a weird psychological thriller about a character experiencing a real-time break from reality, a reporter who is losing his fragile grip on reality after suffering one too many personal and professional setbacks. As the situation gets worse, Eddie starts hearing voices in his head and losing control of his body. He finds himself in a situation where terrible things happen, but he is able to disassociate himself from the brutality and violence. Venom never quite commits to this idea, but it simmers through the story.

Wall’s well that ends well.

The first two acts of Venom are ropey and uneven, suffering from a fuzzy lack of detail and no strong focus on any of the film’s central ideas. Nevertheless, the film survives largely on the strength of Tom Hardy’s performance and the weirdness of the concept. However, things fall to pieces in the third act. Part of this is because Venom feels the need to transform into a regular superhero movie as it reaches its conclusion. Part of this is because Ruben Fleischer cannot direct action. Part of this is because of collision of clumsy exposition and muddled computer-generated imagery.

Venom loses what little control it has of itself as it reaches its climax.

MRI are we here?

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Venom: Circle of Four (Review)

If you had told me that I would enjoy a Venom collection quite this much, I would have laughed. I picked up the oversized hardcover collection of Circle of Four after enjoying Rick Remender’s Venom issues tying into the Spider-Island crossover. Which, I guess, is one of the benefits of such spin-offs and crossovers, I suppose. Anyway, intrigued by Remender’s take on the character, I was curious enough to take a look at this collection, featuring a crossover between Venom, Red Hulk, X-23 and the new Ghost Rider. Of course, two of those books had been cancelled by the time the crossover rolled around, so the whole “mini-event” was rolled up into Remender’s Venom. While Circle of Four isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking comic book storyline, or even a truly exceptional event, it does demonstrate that even the most conventional premise can work well in the right hands.

Back in black, baby!

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No Venom Intended: Thoughts on the Inevitable Amazing Spider-Man Spin-Off…

Apparently Sony is pressing full speed ahead with this Spider-Man license. I suspect they looked at the massive success that Marvel, Paramount and ultimately Disney have had with their series of Avengers films. Releasing a series of relatively independent superhero films that all tied together proved to be quite the financial success, becoming one of the biggest earners of all time. It’s easy enough to understand why other studios might want to follow the business model. The problem? Sony only really has the license to Spidey and his supporting cast. How do you build a multi-character franchise when you only own the rights to one admittedly iconic? You spin-off his supporting characters, of course. In this case, it’s the villain Venom, who is reportedly getting a film from director Josh Trank, who made quite the impression with his début directing Chronicle, and possibly tying into the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man.

He’s coming right at you!

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Non-Review Review: Take Me Home Tonight

There’s something strangely charming about Take Me Home Tonight. I say “strangely” because I’m not blind to the movie’s many awkward flaws. I can spot the predictable plotting, the douchebag entitled protagonists and the shallow “high school crush” romance. None of these are any less conventional than the plot’s attempt to conceal saccharine romanticism with cheap lowbrow humour. I can see those problems with the film, but for some reason I think it works well in spite of them. I think the strongest aspect of Take Me Home Tonight is not the eighties setting (though that helps), but the sense that Topher Grace may have finally found his niche.

We can dance if we want to…

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Ultimate Spider-Man Collection (Hardcover Volumes #1-3) (Review/Retrospective)

In 2000, Marvel did something genuinely bold with one of its pop culture icons. Of course, the early part of the last decade saw a breath of fresh air at the House of Ideas, with iconic and influential (and occasionally iconoclastic) runs on books like New X-Men, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Statix, Punisher and other titles like Daredevil or Alias. However, the formation of the Ultimate line of comics was perhaps the most significant creative gamble taken at the time. The idea was simple, and the timing perfect. With Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man around the corner, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men proving that superheroes were the stuff of summer blockbusters, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to launch a line of books that would be easily accessible to new readers, free from decades of tangled continuity and plot developments.

And, appropriately enough, the character chosen to spearhead this new line was arguably Marvel’s most iconic character, Spider-Man.

spidey

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