‘Venom’: The most pleasantly unironic Marvel adaptation in years

The consensus on Venom (among those over the age of 12) seems to be that it’s a throwback to the early 2000s era “when most comic-book movies were bad”. The words I would use is “distinct”. Yes, for every Hellboy there was a Catwoman, but at least both of those films are individualist in tone and concept; not simply televisual flavours of the week as Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox’s recent output has been reduced to. Venom is not a cynical film, nor a snarky one, nor does it wear any degree of self-awareness. It is a relic from a pre-postmodern time and it’s — despite being utterly daft — something to be treasured.

Coming in at just over 90 minutes minus credits and stingers, Venom is gleefully throwaway, neither a part of a preexisting cinematic universe nor really attempting to start one. It tells a simple, coherent, standalone narrative briskly, operating at maximum silliness. And then it’s over, and can be forgotten, because nothing that happens in Venom will matter in any other movies except — at a stretch — Venom 2. Who would ever have expected this simple concept for a comic-book movie to be so rewarding?

But Venom isn’t simply an Amazing Spider-Manesque emo spin on a superhero property; it’s got a ton more humour than those movies, be it a very bizarre and naive type of comedy rooted in Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy)’s conversations with the alien parasite that’s infected his body. Oh, Eddie and Venom have a hell of a time. Venom is effectively the Hormone Monster from Big Mouth but talks less about masturbation and more about eating people’s heads. When Eddie is chatting to his girlfriend of no consequential name nor characteristics (multiple Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, wat u at girl?), Venom is encouraging him to talk dirty. You can imagine how it goes.

Venom has arrived on earth courtesy of Riz Ahmed’s evil Elon Musk type, a role Ahmed relishes in. There are no secret government organisations or political decrees in the way of the fun: there’s just a journalist hero, his lady, a villain and a bunch of sticky cannibal goo. This is how you have fun at the movies.

The action and exposition never overstay their welcome — not that anything of either is particularly memorable — and the fighty-punchy third act that would last ~40 mins in a Marvel Studios joint is done with in a gentleman’s 15. The movie is profoundly, intensely, almost indefensibly stupid and visually unappealing, but it’s so fast-paced we are never given pause to dwell on its flaws. It just happens, and then it’s over, forgotten forever. Completely harmless. A perfectly fine three star experience. A template for what more formulaic comic-book movies should be like (the key: follow the formula).