Garrett and Carson swing by to talk about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is truly something special. It is innovative, clever, funny, and extremely entertaining. This movie does so many things right, that pointing out anything that it could improve seems petty. Spider-Verse hits the nail on the head. It is a Spider-Man movie that both fanboys will be proud of and newcomers will enjoy.
Disclaimer: I am a huge Spider-Man fan. I grew up reading the comics and watching the cartoons. I have seen and forced myself to enjoy each movie that has been made to date. Even though deep down I was disappointed in the casting, execution, and unnecessary changes to Spider-Man lore. Then finally, we got to Tom Holland (who is a fantastic choice as the web-slinger) in Homecoming which is a worthy installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I felt very satisfied with the current interpretation of Spider-Man that we have. I thought Spider-Verse would be a fun “aside” story. A way to introduce kids to all the Spider-People Marvel has to offer to see if anything sticks. But that ultimately it would be a forgettable experience. I was very wrong.
From the get-go Into the Spider-Verse hits you with an unexpected style. Even after seeing the trailers, I was not expecting to be fully immersed in a visual masterpiece. It was a comic book come to life, and I say that with the highest praise. The music is done beautifully throughout and cannot be ignored. Still, I have not yet reached the peak of my admiration.
That goes to the storytelling. It made me so happy to see Spider-Verse tell each character’s background “comic book accurately.” It also did so in a manner that took no longer than 10 seconds each. Live-Action movies should take note that it can be done without boring the audience with origin stories that monopolize the entire first hour and a half. Spider-Verse was able to stay true to the comics, but still tell a new story of it’s own.
The world of animation is where Spider-Man truly belongs. Into the Spider-Verse is unquestionably the best Spider-Man film to date and is the best animated film of 2018. And amazingly enough, should be in the discussion for best superhero film of all time.
Leading up to the theatrical release, everything about Venom was on a downward trajectory. The buzz peaked early with the announcement of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom. But then came the disappointing trailers, the PG-13 rating, and comments from those involved that there would be no ties to the existing Marvel universe. Quickly, Venom went from feeling like the dark, villainous, anti-hero of fanboy’s dreams to “uh oh is this Spider-Man 3?” level worries. No matter where you fell on that hype spectrum, it was clear that Venom was going to live and die on the back of Tom Hardy.
Credit to Hardy, it is clear that he is doing all he can to single-handedly carry the film. But even he cannot overcome a miserably boring and generic character introduction that runs the first 20 minutes of the movie (18 minutes too long). It takes half of the movie to get to the meeting of Hardy’s Brock and the symbiote Venom. Not surprisingly, this is the first time the film is able to have any sort of decent action or fun. The nature of the relationship between Venom and Brock allows Hardy to really ham things up in a Nic Cage over-the-top fashion — but in a good way. It takes too long for the host/parasite duo to hit its stride, but when it does, the back-and-forth dialog between the two characters feels like a solid odd couple/buddy cop pairing. In the hands of a lesser actor, this lone bright spot may not have existed.
Outside of Hardy’s performance, things are quite messy. Riz Ahmed is neither scary nor sinister as the main villain. Michelle Williams seems wholly disinterested and unsure of what her character’s purpose is (I don’t blame her for either). Every single character’s motivations are flimsy. The explanations of Venom and the other symbiotes’ origins opens far more plot holes than it does answer questions. Lastly, the CGI effects top out at average but bottom out at terrible in a few key sequences.
Venom is a movie that is in the right place, but the wrong time. It feels cut from the same mold as cheesy 90’s entries such as Darkman and Spawn. Without a doubt, it would have fit perfectly in the mediocre early 2000’s era of Raimi’s Spider-Man and Singer’s X-Men. But we are in the age of the Marvel cinematic universe and cheesy mediocrity is not what audiences have come to expect from comic book movies. Especially those with any sort of Marvel label.
Before walking into Venom, you must remember that while this is a Marvel movie it is not a Marvel Studios movie. This was made by Sony. Sony has struggled mightily in the past with the superhero genre. And while they are getting better, the struggle remains.
Getting Tom Hardy to star as Eddie Brock was a definite win for this franchise. Riz Ahmed was another key addition for Sony to turn their fortunes around. However, enlisting the same screenwriter that brought you Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Dark Tower, and The 5th Wave was probably a poor choice.
Venom is a franchise that needs an R rating. Venom not only kills people, he eats people. That’s what he does. “Kid Friendly” and Venom do not mix. Something was missing in this movie, and I can’t help but think it was all the scenes that were removed to make this a PG-13 version.
With the exception of the slow first 20 minutes, everything seemed to be a bit rushed. Most importantly, the relationship between Venom and Eddie. More time exploring their new situation could have brought more depth to the movie and the characters. The computer generated images were not great, but were tolerable and necessary for this character to come to life. This is by far the best version of Venom we have seen to date, which isn’t really saying much. (Looking at you, Topher.)