Venom. 2018. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Screenplay Kelly Marcel, Jeff Pinkner, & Scott Rosenberg.
Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson, & Peggy Lu.
Marvel Entertainment/Avi Arad Productions/Columbia Pictures Corporaton
Rated PG-13. 112 minutes.
Father Gore is admittedly not a huge fan of comic book movies, but a huge comics lover. A few of the Marvel movies are downright fantastic (ex. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a favourite) whereas some others are just a series of set-pieces with CGI designed to usher audiences from one movie to the next on a factory line. Often it’s the movies willing to be different, even weird, which stand out.
Venom is, at its worst, incredibly messy, though at its best it’s fun, slightly horrific, and an accidental slice of superhero socialism. Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock is less morally sketchy than in the comics, allowing the character, and in turn the story, to take a definitively moral stance against the slick-talking, meek-looking banality of evil that is late capitalism. The screenplay takes a dollop of Marxism and adds it to societal fears about outer space, cramming everything into a strange comic book flick.
Listen, if you were looking for a site to either trash this movie or put it up on a pedestal: keep looking. Father Son Holy Gore is a place for critical theory. Many of the articles here aren’t ultimately about movies being objectively good or bad. This wasn’t an amazing movie in a lot of ways, though it has exciting things to offer.
Venom‘s story – the screenplay written by Kelly Marcel, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg – encompasses our fears of what space exploration could reveal. Namely we’re concerned with being top of the universal food chain. Symbiotes represent the possible terror that venturing into space will irreparably change us on a fundamental level, symbolic of human narcissism in believing ourselves galactic apex predators, untouchable by all other species’. The symbiote attaching itself to Eddie acts as an element of body horror confronting these anxieties in our postmodern world. Suddenly what’s outside our world becomes a part of it— what was alien becomes us. Because the symbiote can’t survive on Earth without a human host, its essence suggests there’s an element of its monstrosity not actually alien to us after all. The animalistic, violent, and uncontrollable aspects of the Venom symbiote posit these are innately human aspects buried deep below our seemingly evolved surface. Several great moments between Eddie and Venom are shown similar to the relationship between a schizophrenic and the voices speaking to him, and they’re hilarious. They double as unsettling moments illustrating Eddie’s reluctance to accept this dangerous and volatile part of human nature. When the symbiotes are deliberately used for villainous purposes, other societal fears emerge.
“There’s a lot of fake news out there these days.”
Likewise Carlton Drake’s (Riz Ahmed) exploitation of the symbiotes is representative of the Venn diagram where capitalism and technocracy collide. Again the postmodern state of a Western capitalist society drives our fear. Drake uses economically disadvantaged people tossed to the wayside of society – namely the homeless – for “human trials” in the name of “scientific breakthrough.” Drake, as Brock puts it, has built an empire on “dead bodies.” He’s the embodiment of capitalism at its nastiest core: using the lower classes to make capital, their blood providing the grease to keep the world’s wheels turning.
Carlton fittingly mentions fake news to Eddie, before turning around and ruining the journalist’s life over truthful allegations. It’s not hard to see the Drake-Brock rivalry as a reflection of the current sociopolitical climate with President Dementia in the White House. Drake is (figuratively) scarier because he’s a technocapitalist – an actual smart man – posing as someone looking to help humanity make scientific advancements when he’s only concerned with making money and moulding himself in the image of God. In one scene, Drake’s overseeing a test subject’s body receiving a symbiote, which he hopes will create an entirely new species. He sees himself as God, only better, remarking to a lab tech how humans were made with “such poor design.”
Eddie’s body horror struggle with Venom is a perfect microcosm of the working class struggle, in that the symbiote causes him to become alienated from himself— exactly what Marx saw as one of the effects of capitalism. In the beginning of the movie, Eddie represents the many casualties mowed down genuinely trying to affect change an unjust world. Although he becomes alienated from himself, he’s able to embrace the symbiote – in a sense, one of the Life Corporation’s means of production – and defeat him.
“We are Venom”
Venom‘s body horror and its outer space/technological thrills pull together all the anxieties we face living amongst a postmodern society in which corporations control space travel and its advancements, human beings are experimented on in the same cruel way as poor animals are today, and every level of society’s rotten with corruption. In order for Eddie to regain any sense of control/power, he must ironically give his mind and body to the symbiote. Drake, as capitalist, literally becomes a monster because of his heartless manipulation of other humans, whereas Eddie’s able to retain his humanity and co-exist with the symbiote.
Lots of people will roll their eyes. Fuck ’em. This is a fun movie, giving in to its darker themes while never losing sight of its foolish excitement, either. Hardy’s a huge reason why this is so enjoyable. If not for his charisma and the obvious fact he’s having a blast acting as Eddie+Venom, this wouldn’t be half as engaging. Plus, there are wonderful, if not accidental socialist themes that creep in through a critical engagement with the screenplay. Others are going to think it’s crazy. Such is the subjective journey through cinema everybody takes on their own. You’ll never convince Father Gore one of the screenwriters isn’t a fellow Marxist. (Yeah, you read it right.)