This will be a fairly short column; we just came home from VCON 42 and we’re still recovering. Although this VCON was sort of sparsely attended, it was also Canvention (the Canadian National Convention) and was, in my opinion, well-run. I was only on three panels and the Beatles Sing-Along, but I had a great time. I was able to interact with two of the three GOHs, and enjoyed meeting both of them. The Art Show was professionally run by Hing Kei, and had a very high quality of art. I was also a presenter for the fan writing Aurora (Figure 1). Part of the fun was that my old friends Larry Reid and Randy Reichardt (guitar whiz and former faned) flew in from Edmonton; Randy and Spider Robinson absolutely made the Beatles Sing-Along a success. I, as usual, hammed it up and drove everyone mad. But you know what I say: “It’s not how good you are, it’s whether you enjoy yourself!”
I heard so many comments about how bad VENOM was, “possibly one of the worst movies ever made,” that I had to see it for myself. My wife, the B&T Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, is not the world’s biggest Marvel fan, by the way (in fact, most superhero movies leave her cold. She likes SF movies), but she saw it with me. We both enjoyed it, and we both felt it had some problems common to most “superhero” movies. As far as plot, it did not follow the last Tobey Maguire Spiderman movie (Spiderman 3, 2007); in fact, Spiderman didn’t get a mention, as far as I could see. If you’ll recall, in that movie, Topher Grace played Eddie Brock.
In this movie, Eddie Brock is played by Tom Hardy, who appears to be trying to set a record for how many movies he can be in; you’ll remember him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). He was also Max Rockatansky, a role originated by Mel Gibson, in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), as well as Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). (If you missed him in last year’s Taboo, a non-genre TV series that was probably the most historically accurate portrayal of the early 19th century, as well as the bloodiest, most violent thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time—well, you missed one heck of a show!)
My point here is that Tom Hardy (and I’ve seen him in a number of non-genre shows too) is one heck of an actor. In this movie, he’s Eddie Brock, a reporter who has one of those “investigative” shows on TV, but who’s just a bit too dedicated to his job. There’s a company called Life Foundation, run by a guy (Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed) who’s kind of an evil combination of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs (okay, with a little Mark Zuckerberg thrown in), and which is responsible for a number of deaths; Eddie wants to take Drake down. His fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), is a lawyer who’s involved in some sub rosa lawsuits that Drake is kind of paying off.
Drake has a vision of adapting humanity using symbiosis to make us more resilient and allow us to colonize other planets, since we’re on the verge of making this one uninhabitable. To do so, he’s running unauthorized human trials, using the homeless and street people, using alien symbiotes (ha! I’d call ‘em parasites, myself….) that he’s had picked up on another planet with his rockets. (Let’s just ignore all the scientific veracity that all this is lacking, shall we?) Eddie gets the chance to interview him for his show—about the rockets, which Drake will agree to, for publicity—but Eddie has his own agenda, and using information he stole from Anne’s phone, ambushes Drake with questions about lawsuits and human deaths.
BAM! Drake quits the interview in the middle of questioning and tells Eddie he’s crossed a line and will be dealt with (he’s screwed, in other words). Eddie is fired and Anne throws him out of her apartment and her life. (He got her fired too, because she’s the only way he could have found out about the lawsuits).
Meanwhile, Drake continues with the alien symbiote testing—trying to find one that will succesfully meld with a human (if there’s not a DNA match, similar to Rh factors in blood, both the human and symbiote will die)… and one of the doctors involved goes to Eddie under the counter to try to get these trials stopped. Stuff happens, and Eddie and Venom meet. I’m afraid that I can’t tell you a lot more without spoilers, but you know that Eddie will be the match Venom’s been needing.
Now, since I haven’t really read much about Venom since the early appearance in Spiderman (I’ve been a very sporadic comic reader for years), I’m sure some of this stuff is foreshadowed in the comics. But for me, as for my wife, it didn’t bother me; the thing I wanted to know is, since there was a small amount of Venom itself, how does it, combined with Eddie Brock, get so darned BIG? And some of the CGI is sort of lacking; again with the enhanced characters that jump around like fleas on a griddle, can shoot metal spikes (from where?) and do other stuff. That’s all right, but it does detract a bit from the enjoyment if you’re not a giant fan and familiar with all of Venom’s ins and outs.
The storyline’s a bit stupid, but again, the actors make it work. Hardy is terrific. Williams is okay, as is Ahmed. The movie has a clichéd, but more or less satisfying ending. Overall, it was a good movie, even if I don’t rate it as one of the best Marvels I’ve seen lately. I’d give it 3: ¤¤¤
I like a good horror movie, as long as it’s not just a slasher. When I was 14 or so, my tastes would have run to slashers if they’d been available—but back then, those kinds of movies weren’t general-run films, and would have played (like Mondo Cane and Island of Cannibal Women) the “art houses,” and my parents wouldn’t have let me see them anyway. But I’m not 14 anymore, and I prefer my horror to have a bit more subtlety. I can enjoy some artistic slashing—Greg Nicotero does some very clever stuff in Walking Dead, for example, but on the whole I try to find movies with psychological horror as well as actual death, dismemberment, or even real ghosties and ghoulies (not to mention things that go bump… well, you get the picture). Saw 1 was okay and clever; I’d rather see Insidious: The Last Key than Saw 2-5. So I saw the poster for Hereditary, which looked more like what I was wanting to watch.
And it stars Toni Collette, who’s a very good actor, and Gabriel Byrne, who is likewise very good.
Unfortunately, there’s more Saw than Insidious to this movie. Parts of it build very well, and it has a fair part of psychological drama to it. There is one giant horror partway through—if you see it, involving two of the children, you’ll know what I mean—that I still can’t get out of my head. Unfortunately, the ending completely vitiates the whole film for me. At the risk of spoiling it for you, it’s pseudo-religious devil-worship stuff that comes out of nowhere. Rosemary’s Baby got away with it, but Hereditary just doesn’t do it. (YMMV, however… this is just my opinion.) I give it two, count ‘em, 2 flibbets. ¤¤
I do like comments on my column. I try to answer every one I see. You may disagree with me, but it’s just my opinion. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!