Just Films & That take on the critics and run to the defence of Venom

The film podcast team, based in Liverpool, are dedicated to celebrating underrated and underseen films.

Infantile. More of the same. A knock off. Too basic. These are just some of the things that film critics have said about Venom (2018). But I would argue that, maybe, this is all a bit harsh.

Welcome to the Just Films & That Podcast. We are a film podcast based in Liverpool, and we are dedicated to celebrating underrated and underseen films. Basically, we like to look at films that people have been really mean about, and find the good in them.

For this episode, we’re talking about Venom. And be warned, this review contains some spoilers.

The film

Venom is a Marvel character. The film follows journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who uncovers an evil, dastardly plan by the film’s villain, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) that involves infecting vulnerable people with alien symbiotes. Whilst trying to uncover the truth about said plan, Eddie becomes infected with Venom. But this isn’t all bad! Venom essentially gives Eddie superpowers and they, uh, become the best of friends, sort of.

The reception

On IMDB at the time of writing, the film has a score of 6.6 out of 10. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience give it a big juicy 80% out of 100%, while the critics give it a pretty rotten 30%. This is the main reason I wanted to revisit Venom, because 30% from the critics would suggest that it is a bad film.

Why it isn’t all that bad (according to Alice)

The two main characters in this film are Eddie and Venom. Eddie is played by Tom Hardy and Venom is a CGI creature, voiced by Tom Hardy. This means that for quite a lot of the film, Hardy has no one to act alongside. Many of his interactions are with himself, and I feel like the skill and effort that has gone into acting in this way has gone completely overlooked by the critics.

Riz Ahmed plays a brilliant villain in Carlton Drake. He embodies this modern, mad scientist type. He looks manic behind the eyes and his presence is menacing, even before he himself gets infected with a symbiote.

Eddie Brock is pretty disgusting. After he gets infected with Venom (so, what is meant to be his "glow-up" into superhero-dom) he becomes really sweaty and gross, his appearance is disheveled and dirty, he eats questionable food, he appears manic and unreasonable. As a protagonist in a "superhero" movie, this is so far removed from the polished, proud, shiny happy people type of character that we get in someone like Captain America or Thor. And I find that quite refreshing.

Tom Hardy on stage at the fan screening of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Image: Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sony
Tom Hardy on stage at the fan screening of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Image: Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sony
Tom Hardy on stage at the fan screening of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Image: Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sony

Some of the CGI is pretty impressive in my opinion, especially around the symbiotes. They have managed to make them look creepy and unnerving, and much of the time they are coming out of a body. Venom’s head will often come out of Eddie and look at him. This must have taken a great deal of work to be animated so fluidly. It does not feel jarring or clunky when the symbiotes show themselves.

Listen, I know that this film is flawed. For all the brilliant CGI, there are actually some weaker moments (see the background when Eddie is riding on a motorbike). Some of the script is a bit basic and predictable, and there are plot points that I feel could have been handled better and in a more sophisticated manner. But I am confident and happy in defending this film against the 30% score the critics gave it.

But that’s just me...

Here’s what Josh had to say

I was quite interested to get cracking on this episode when Alice chose Venom. I’m a big fan of a lot of comic book properties, Venom being one of them. However, when I first saw the film in 2018 it left me feeling a bit cold and full of cynicism about why you’d make a Venom film without a certain Wall Crawler with whom he is intrinsically linked.

Well… money. This film almost grossed a billion dollars. So, we know it’s safe to say it’s not underseen.  But is it underrated? Well, it sits with an average of around 58% but with a whopping 80 % audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, perhaps that tells you all you need to know that this is indeed a crowd pleaser.

I still don’t think it’s a masterpiece but I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around. As he usually does, Tom Hardy owns the screen with a performance that becomes more gleefully grotesque as Eddie and Venom bond. The CGI is pretty good and there are some decent action set pieces too. Not a patch on some other comic book films but it’s not without its redeeming qualities I’d say.

But that’s just what we think. How do you feel about Venom? You can get in touch with the podcast on social media. Let us know your thoughts on the films we have covered, and even suggest a few underrated ones of your own. You can find us on all the usual platforms by searching Just Films & That.