Venom might as well have been titled Tom Hardy, because he’s basically the only reason to see it.
That “basically” encompasses a few exceptions:
- Michelle Williams continues to showcase how to add some character to the bland caricatures that often double as female characters in studio flicks. I maintain that her deliciously off-kilter turn — that voice! — in this year’s dismal Amy Schumer unspectacular spectacular I Feel Pretty should contend for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination; Williams damn near excavates an emotional arc from the material’s dismal sludge.
- No offense to Eminem, but Run the Jewels are responsible for the best new song in Venom…both of which should’ve been used in the film proper and not simply over the end-credits; why commission such talented musicians and then relegate their work to an afterthought? The same can be asked of Marvel’s Black Panther and Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther; there’s a reason “Opps” should be a leading contender for this year’s Best Original Song Academy Award, as damn near the only track from the soundtrack that underscores, and thus enhances, an actual scene. There are obviously, and obvious, exceptions to this pejorative of a generalization, such as Bruce Springsteen’s credits-contribution to The Wrestler that perfectly caps the thematic tone, an essential component in the movie’s overall impact (but, of course, the Oscars snubbed it of even a nomination because, well, Oscars gonna Oscars). All of which is to say: Run the Jewels’ “Let’s Go (The Royal We)”, a title that evokes the multiplicity of identity intrinsic to Venom, would be my vote, so far, for this year’s Best Song played over the end-credits. And yet, it’s still not deserving of a nomination, because the importance of its effect in relation to the whole movie is peripheral at best. Voters should evaluate the category by judging a song with respect to its context in the movie, and not only along the lines of “the best new song that happens to be in a new movie”; why not favor those that accomplish something more than just accompanying the audience’s walk out of the theater?).
- Screenwriters Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel (three is a lot for any sane outing, but it’s in fact less than most superhero adventures; maybe that’s why the script feels more cohesive than most!) make the most of Tom Hardy losing his mind, which is quickly becoming a genre in itself thanks to how much his oeuvre delves into such terrain.
And that’s the thing: Venom is most interesting when viewed through the lens of Hardy’s entire career. He basically always finds a way to mask his “real” face and voice, by any means necessary. Taken together, the totality of his work can be seen as an ever-deepening examination of the nature of 21st century performance, through the lens of deconstructing the primary tools movie stars usually wield in their arsenal: their mugs and their pipes. How can the voice create, change, and rearrange a character’s arc, deprived of the usual connective expression that comes with a face?
If I was being particularly pedantic…er, MORE pedantic…I could argue that Venom‘s premise is a potent allegory for all actors tasked with squeezing real art out of the corporatized green-screen that pervades cinematic caped crusades. Hardy’s being taken over by a CGI monster, and he fights to be seen through these visual effects until he ultimately realizes how to harness his newfound friend to his advantage, finding a balance between the two.
What a metaphor!