Sunday, 27th May '07

Venom and Me, a.k.a. The Long Awaited Spider-Man 3 Blog

Well at least I like to think it's long awaited. Haha. It is by me, anyway, between the lack of time since going to Italy to write it and the fact that I didn't really want to ruin anyone else's Spidey 3 experience, me having seen it so early in its run.

First off, thought, let me refer you to the best other Spidey 3 critique I've seen so far. Here's a group of intelligent fans who know their stuff. They probably know it better than I do, and I may make more mistakes that they will helpfully correct for you. I agree with everything it says about the small notes - the points on Harry Osborn, Sandman and Gwen Stacey in particular. I just have to supplement the Venom parts.

So, here I go. 3 weeks later, the memories of the movie are fading (which is already not a very good sign), but I'll work with what I can remember, in no particular order. Spoiler warning, by the way.

An overall remark is that the movie was certainly NOT a bad one. It was definitely the worst of the trilogy, but that alone shouldn't condemn it utterly because both 1 and 2 were awesome. 1 did an excellent exposition of the character and his birth, selecting the right key scenes to highlight and making sensible modifications to other parts to condense the story. The dangling of MJ off the bridge by Green Goblin (as opposed the Gwen Stacey, in the original story) comes to mind. 1 also created the iconic upside down kiss; who could forget that? 2 continued to play on the growth of Peter and Spidey, and brought in other memorable villans like Doc Ock. It opened with a gripping comic flashback sequence, and in between showed us the humanity in the villians Ock and Greenie, which (if a bit too quickly for my taste), solidifying the relationship between Peter and MJ. So 3 had big shoes to fill, especially because they decided to bring in Venom.

Venom, for Spidey fans, is a very special villian. Here, I'll say it again for emphasis: A VERY SPECIAL VILLIAN. He's not one of those tortured souls that fall into a vat of acid by accident and become physically and mentally disfigured, but now have some superpower, and are so angry that they wreak havoc on the whole world just to prove their anger / take revenge (think: Batman's Joker). He's not a simply greedy person who wants to take over the world (read: the Pinky and the Brain, or more recently Heroes' Sylar). Neither is he a pitiful little fella who just happens to be a freak of nature and reacts accordingly (for example: Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera). Venom, in the immortal words of Shrek, is like an onion. And what does an onion (and by extension, Venom) have?

Layers.

Layers, I understand, may be a difficult concept to grasp if you're simply reading the comic book at the level of a 9 year old child. So I suppose to the children, the portrayal of Venom done in the movie was reasonably accurate. He's big, black and mean, he has that oily-looking texture, he's got nasty tendrils and that mouthful of teeth that no amount of porcelain veneers or braces could make look friendly. He's basically got all the right strengths (basically everything Spidey can do, but much better), and weaknesses (a dislike for loud sounds). And they correctly set up the essential reason for Venom's hatred of Peter, specifically that Peter got him fired from the Bugle.

But you see, that's all the movie showed. Here's what they COULD have done better if they had devoted a proper amount of time to developing the character.

- They could have had the symbiote come into the story the proper way - by attaching itself to the spaceship that J. Jonah Jameson's son was on, and infiltrating the earth.

- They could have properly explained WHY the symbiote found Peter. It was designed to, by an alien force that wanted to exploit Spidey to invade Earth.

- As a consequence of that, they could have highlighted to the astute viewer that that was the reason that Spidey never had any inkling that the symbiote was dangerous. It was designed to bypass his spidersense. And that is why by the time Eddie Brock joins it to become Venom, Venom never sets of the spidersense, making him the most formidable of villians.

- They could have designed the freaking black spidersuit properly. For the first time, the costume department failed me. *sob* The movie version just looked like they took the old red-and-blue and dyed it black. It lost the slick feel of the real suit, and the large brilliantly white stylised spider motif so carefully described in all subsequent Spidey books. And worse, they totally omitted to mention that the suit morphs according to Peter's wishes. It can make itself look like civvies, and help its wearer shapshift, to some extent.

- The agression that Peter feels when consorting with the Venom suit is misrepresented. In this movie, Peter under the influence (for lack of a better term) is a little pettier than usual, at most he behaves like a jerk towards MJ. The actual influence should have been portrayed as way deeper, more psychologically upsetting - in the true story, Peter is tormented by nightmares of his two suits fighting for control of him, and comes perilously close to seriously maining and killing some of the small criminals he catches. He loses love or consideration for people around him, and is, essentially, this close to losing his whole self to the symbiote.

- The church bells scene was too abrupt. I'm not accurate enough in my recollection of the story to comment on this, but the other review make adequte reference to how it does not make a whole lot of sense. Peter ran into the church tower on purpose to drive off the symbiote, it wasn't simply a fortuitous occurance.

- Although they rightly explain why Venom hates Spidey, they forget to nuance the character. Venom in the movie appears as a one-dimensional angry villian. Bish and bash, "I will eat your spleen" threats and then Spidey vanquishes him. To that I say BLAH. Venom is a favourite villian for many many fans because he is NOT one-dimensionally evil. He loves humankind and he actually delusionally fancies himself a hero of sorts. He just sees Peter / Spidey as a villian that HE as a hero must ride the world of. You will agree with me that that is an entirely different motivation than they give him in the movie. Venom's ONLY impetus for evil is a completely focused and character-driven one, he JUST HATES PETER PARKER. That hatred drives him entirely, and for the moviemakers to forget to bring that out, is about as sacriligious as making a Caesar movie and forgetting to have Brutus stab him in the back.

- Thus far, I've been refering to Venom as "he", because I'm speaking of him in the third person. Yet Venom NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER sees himself as a single entity. That's the essence of him, really, that Eddie Brock is (even though he is a little insane), always in control of the symbiote. Brock knows that the symbiote makes him act antagonistically, and that it is a pretty bloodthirsty creature, but he reigns it in. He's well aware that every action Venom makes involves the cooperation of two (at least in mind) separate living beings, and therefore he always refers to himself as "WE". Brock made a concious choice to get involved with the symbiote and it just magnified his existing hatred and created Venom. Because of that awareness of his duality, Brock is even often able to overcome his hatred of Peter and make temporary, if uneasy, truces with him in order to deal with even more troublesome villians, e.g. Carnage. Yet again, another layer to the villian-role that was conveniently left out.

- Which brings me to my final point: I haven't decided what I feel about the omission of Carnage. Carnage to me was more of a fun villian than anything else, an almost Venom, but not quite. A result of the merger of the alien symbiote with Cletus Kasady, a total whackjob who just liked killing for fun, he embraced the symbiote so far that he referred to himself (in Carnage form) as "I". This is, of course, intentionally juxtaposed against Eddie Brocks control over the symbiote, embodied in the use of the pronoun "we". So in that sense, he was a very useful story-telling device to showcase Venom's good qualities. Carnage also became so powerful, that he was the catalyst the comics used to show the first of the Venom-Spidey cooperations. They had to join forces to beat him.

I guess I obsess with the layers matter because despite its liberal does of impressive fight scenes and CGI magic, 3 lacked the power of the earlier 2 movies to move its audience. It sacrificed the magic of the Venom story and the way in which Peter grew from it for pretty Sandman scenes and a few laughs when Peter acts stupid. It goes all emo with the MJ and Peter failing relationship bit, but somehow I find the understanding of the symbiote and Peter's relationship with Venom did a lot more for character development than all the emo with MJ every could. Plus, viewers cannot feel for a one-dimensional character, and yet the power of Venom as a character was his potential for you to both respect and hate him at the same time. All in all, I think it just did him an injustice to be misrepresented that way.

Whoo. I see I've done another unintentional thesis on a movie. It's not even as full as I'd like, particularly becasue I've only cursorily mentioned the link between understanding Venom properly and understanding Peter Parker properly. Basically if you don't get Venom, you not only misunderstand him, you also don't get his impact on Peter and hence Spidey. Venom (and Carnage) are constant reminders to Peter of the importance of remembering himself and the horror he could have become if he had stuck with the black suit. Somewhere in there, he's constantly more wary of Venom and yet has a sort of grudging respect for him. And Sam Raimi is NOT FORGIVEN for missing all these things out.

And now I can get to bed with a load off my chest.



en ying snapped a shot of life @ 03:08 am
[3 photographs developed.]


3 photographs developed.

tzozen:

Thanks for the thesis, it was actually an interesting read. I didn't however think that the black suited spidey (I thought the addition of black eyeliner hilarious) was merely more petty than his usual self. They did show (to me the spidey philistine) that he is far more violent and vengeful and generally mad and bad, and that this isn't good for Parker's mental health. But you're right in that the movie Venom was totally one-dimensional and in that sense actually far less interesting than the Sandman whom I see was actually a minor villain.

bert:

cool stuff. i never knew the background of venom. the spidey series wasnt one i avidly followed, was always more of an xmen fan big grin

en:

in a girly twist of events, i've come to realise (via facebook) that this is a really great scene. hawwwtt. james franco kicked tobey maguire's ass for acting in this one lah. a first. and SO good.





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