26 April 2018

Venom Trailer

Two big things here at Norwegian Morning Wood - totally giving up on weird obtuse post titles that totally obscure what the article is about (even I don't know what "White Guys, Black Chicks, and White People in Space" referred to. Although I'm still really proud of "Beauty and Hank McCoy"). We've also really trended towards only "Road to a Blockbuster" posts where I just ramble about whatever's going on in movie culture that week, loaded with franchise context and anticipation. We've kind of gotten away from random, spur of the moment articles. Well, here's one.

Let's talk Venom (2018). The trailer dropped this week, and in a sea of pretty lame, forgettable trailers that fail to elicit a good feeling for what the movie is about, this one's a goodie:

So, first of all, I still actually don't quite believe this movie is being made. I'm still not there. Venom seems like such a fan film, one that could only exist in some parallel universe. Like, SONY couldn't even make a new Spider-Man movie work, how is Venom taking off?

This fan service concept has been stealthily refined over the past few years. Recent Marvel movies along with basically just The Flash TV Show have been slowly just giving fans what they actually want, and finding confidence in portraying spandex in a live action medium. It's less apologizing for their source material and embracing that silliness is what the fans love about this stupid shit.

This all got me thinking about that period in the middle of the last decade where a bunch of films seemed to lurch towards the ridiculous, making these Internet-worthy moments of sheer audacity. I think of Yoda flipping around in Attack of the Clones (2002), or for some reason hanging out with Chewbacca on Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith (2005). It was as if they just wanted to smash their biggest novelty characters together. My mind races towards "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), and the entire existence of Snakes on a Plane (2006). It's this sort of novelty turned real that was enjoyable as a joke, but not necessarily one that the studio was in on. We laughed at the fact that they were included in these major motion pictures, not for any merit that they actually had.

Entire Spider-Man 3 (2007). Now, I have defended this shit, and I think people get irritated at Dancing Peter because it's this misplaced sense of novelty, but to me, that was always exactly the point. He's not acting himself, he's acting how he thinks cool people act, but Parker is so lame that it comes off weird as hell. There's this little moment in Spider-Man 2 (2004) where these cute girls give him fuck me eyes on the street which I always liked, but in 3 he bursts with confidence and all the girls think he's corny as hell.

This is all a roundabout way to talk about our first introduction to Venom, which probably could have used a little more focus, but their interpretation of Eddie Brock worked really well for the particular narrative they were getting at. That movie was just so jam-packed that they didn't have time for all the fun Venom brain-eating humour they could have had. It was also caught up in finishing the Green Goblin story, which while necessary for the Trilogy, was the biggest element that could have been excised to give the third film its precise focus. It's pretty fun then to get another chance at this, especially with Tom Hardy in the title role. Of course, where it gets weird is that this iteration seems wholly divorced from Peter Parker.

This is something that momentarily struck my nerd chords. Venom's major powers are all derived from Spider-Man - his agility, strength, and web-slinging all came about because of the symbiote's original bond to Peter Parker. Taking that away seems really weird. That forgoes the idea that Eddie Brock's entire motivation to become a brain-eating vigilante stems from his hatred of Parker. That's why his bond with the symbiote was originally so strong - both the suit and Eddie really really hated Spider-Man.

Not only that, but on a thematic level, the whole point of Venom's existence was as this dark doppelganger to Spider-Man (Yeah, Spider-Man has a ton of doppelgangers, including Doppelganger). He's an inverse, a look at Parker when he indulges his worst instincts, and becomes a lethal protector instead of a friendly neighborhood Spider-fellow. Soo...on a physical, personal, and narrative level Venom only exists alongside Spidey. Why do I not really care?

The trailer almost seems to effortlessly pivot a few of these points. The powers seem to focus more on classic symbiote powers - lethal tendrils, shape-shifting, monster teeth, similar to the Ultimate incarnation of Venom. That's fair enough, and I think leaping and super-strength are common enough powers that you don't need that Spider-Man base to be on board. A lot of Marvel movies, from X-Men to the Avengers use Ultimate backgrounds because they're less based on 1960s idiocy. That's really fair. It looks like it's avoiding his white chest spider logo, which is cool, also similar to that Ultimate version. Thank you, Ultimate universe.

As for Eddie Brock, the film is clearly painting him as the reasonable half of this partnership, and I'll admit I actually got some chills when he referred to them as "we" for the first time. It's spot-on. Despite ignoring Spider-Man and making Brock into more of a competent reporter than the knucklehead bro he was in the comic books or the sleazy murderer he was in "Truth and Journalism," that bond is spot-on. There always seemed to be something deep, weird, and unseen when the symbiote latches on, and that voice in his head, the talking to themselves, the struggle between brain-eating and protecting the innocent is all really evident.

Thus the film finds a narrative beyond relying on Spider-Man. It's a superhero origin story where the protagonist needs to figure out his powers, but it's not a slow development. It's an alien goo that knows its capabilities full well and wants to kill everything and a human trying to balance and focus that for some good. There's even potential for some deconstruction here, which is really cool.

There's lots of other great comic hints here. The main antagonist seems to be the Life Foundation, which in addition to doing all kinds of nefarious human-symbiote experiments, is also the group who hung out with The Jury, which is like a bunch of Iron Man knock-offs, and also created a ton of other forgettable symbiote spawns that were big jerks. Maybe we'll see some of that here. Rumours are that the main villain will be Carnage, and not seeing him here along without seeing Woody Harrelson has lead a lot of suspicion that he's teed up for that. I'm not sure I see that. Kletus Cassidy is basically Jackie Earle Haley and no one else.

It's harder than it looks to take everything integral to a character, toss it out the window, and find some other facet to highlight. It looks like this film is really diving into the hypocritical conflict at the heart of Venom, along with the torture that is his daily existence. I'm a little ticked that Michelle Williams is brushed to the side as another one of an eternally long list of superhero girlfriends, but it's also not like the story of Eddie Brock has ever had many girls in it. Just make him gay.

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