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The ‘Venom’ Exit Survey

Over a bag of frozen tater tots and a nice glass of live lobster meat, the Ringer staff discussed Tom Hardy’s level of commitment, Michelle Williams’s lack of sound decision-making, and the best Good Bad movie of the year

Marvel Entertainment/Ringer illustration

On the weekend that A Star Is Born was released, who knew that the movie about Tom Hardy being infected by—and eventually becoming buddies with—an alien parasite would be the most entertaining film released? There’s a lot to get to—symbiote roasts, symbiote makeout sessions, symbiotes loving Ore-Ida tater tots—so without further ado, the Venom Exit Survey.

1. What is your tweet-length review of Venom?

Austin Elias-de Jesus: Venom: What if All of Me (1984) but action and also tater tot–loving aliens?

Miles Surrey: If we quantify movies by how much fun we have while watching them, Venom is the best thing I’ve seen this year. (And I saw A Star Is Born this week.)

Donnie Kwak: Impressively bad, but I still enjoyed it more than I did A Star Is Born.

Andrew Gruttadaro: HUNGRY (for a sequel).

Sean Fennessey: We don’t understand the tone we’re going for. We were sliced and diced in the editing suite. We should have been R-rated. We are a corporate investment. We’re hungry.

Zach Mack: We had 11 years to learn from the mistakes of Topher Grace and Spider-Man 3. 11 years.

Micah Peters: Upgrade was a better and less expensive movie about the same thing more or less, but Venom is going to have more oral histories by its 10th anniversary.

Nicole Bae: Me: [whispering to my date while watching Venom] That’s Dan Egan from Veep.


“Sir, this is a McDonald’s …”


2. What was the best moment of the film?

Bae: [extremely Venom voice] So many best moments, so little time.

Fennessey: The first time Venom and Eddie Brock make eye contact. Normally the excruciatingly dull 40 minutes in a superhero origin story that comprises the lead-up to our protagonist discovering his or her powers concludes in a satisfying burst into the second act. In this case, Venom’s first appearance, 40 minutes in, is a euphoric affirmation that this extremely strange film is only going to get weirder.

Peters: It’s a toss-up between Brock head-butting Surly Bald Private Security Guy and his conversation with the symbiote about there being virtually no way for them to stop Riot, because they’re both losers.

Gruttadaro: The entire sequence in the fancy restaurant was unbelievably good: a dripping-in-sweat Hardy ripping into a steak and yelling “THIS IS DEAD;” Hardy eventually settling into a lobster tank and making a face as though he’d found a bathroom just in time; Michelle Williams acting through it all; Dan from Veep (who’s also named Dan in Venom) being there. What an experience.

Kwak: Those intensely sweaty moments after Tom Hardy’s character is infected with the symbiote but he has no idea what is going on inside his body are magical and hilarious.

Mack: What about that sweeping shot of San Francisco while “Super Hyphy” by Keak da Sneak creeps into the background though? The truest of nods to the Bay. OK but seriously, the back and forth between Eddie and Venom had its moments.

Miles: Anything is fair game once the symbiote enters Tom Hardy’s body and he begins convulsing his way through scenes like a man with uncontrollable diarrhea (or a man infected by an alien parasite; tomato, tomahto). I’m not sure there’s a funnier moment in a movie this year than Tom Hardy interrupting a lunch between Michelle Williams and Reid Scott, flailing around the restaurant, diving into a lobster tank, and eating a live lobster.

My second choice for this answer is the best line reading of the movie, when four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams tells Hardy, “I’m sorry about Venom.”

Yoo: The chase scene was good and fun. Tom Hardy shines as he’s experiencing the symbiote’s full strength for the first time in a scared, eventually childlike manner. Throughout the chase you felt the build-up to Venom’s full reveal and when it finally happens you immediately forget all the corny lines that led up to that moment. The capper for this scene is when Eddie returns, and the first thing he says is, “My legs were broken, now they are not.” That’s the good stuff.

Elias-de Jesus: When Tom Hardy did an impression of E.T., or when Tom Hardy poured a bag of frozen tater tots into his mouth, or when Tom Hardy did absolutely anything.

3. What was the most inexplicable moment in the movie?

Gruttadaro: So wait, Eddie Brock was a successful video journalist and at the end of the movie he was pivoting to print?! Has this guy read one story about the industry he works in? NEWSPAPERS ARE NOT DOING WELL, MY GUY.

Yoo: The montage/reel of Eddie Brock’s career was a whirlwind. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Tom Hardy speak so much in such a short amount of time.

Peters: I had to think long and hard about this one but I’d say Anne and her insanely affable new boyfriend Dan calmly, over Chinese food, explaining to Eddie that he is likely being eaten from the inside out by a sentient, necrotizing goop thing from space.

Mack: So wait, what exactly was Eddie and Venom’s motivation at the end of the day? Venom betrayed his own species because he’s “kind of a loser” back home and would rather stay and hang? And Eddie was down to keep Venom around despite the fact he killed a bunch of people and that symbiotes slowly (or extremely quickly) devour a host’s organs? Honest questions.

Kwak: After tracking Eddie down at Mrs. Chen’s deli, Dora breathlessly tells him about Drake’s wicked scheme, revealing a company secret which compromises not only her job, but also her safety. Her next move? Bringing Eddie straight to Drake HQ and letting him roam the laboratory on his own. Great plan, Dora. (Honorable mention: The bald security guy who worked for Drake was basically a superhero in his own right. He took a lot of punishment throughout the film but showed nary a sign of injury and never once stopped snarling.)

Bae: I have a hazy memory of someone in the movie briefly explaining what Carlton Drake wanted to do with all the symbiotes once they found hosts, but I legitimately still do not understand why he was so obsessed with them.

Elias-de Jesus: It’s not one specific moment, but Riz Ahmed’s character’s go-to outfit of a zip-up funnel neck sweater with a blazer on top of it was a TOUGH look.

Fennessey: Everything Michelle Williams’s character does is confounding, but her plaintive “I’m sorry about Venom” line reading at the movie’s end is haunting.

Surrey: When the symbiote tells Eddie Brock, “ON MY PLANET I AM KIND OF A LOSER, LIKE YOU,” to explain why he’s going to help his human host save mankind from his own species. I’m glad Venom is so concerned about seeming cool that he … saves humanity?! Man, this movie rules.

4. Finish the sentence: “Tom Hardy was …”

Kwak: … as Tom Hardy as Tom Hardy has ever been. Which is to say: overdelivering, delightfully, at every turn, in every accent.

Yoo: … a big, goofy, talkative oaf and it was awesome.

Gruttadaro: … committing SO HARD.

Fennessey: …. overconfident but admirably in service of some higher power, or cocaine. It takes guts to be this sweaty and twitchy and to so badly misplay a character. I was impressed.

Elias-de Jesus: … so good and it’s a shame he was surrounded by people who didn’t match his charisma.

Bae: … the perfect actor to play Eddie and Venom. Our guy had an “epic foul-mouthed meltdown” on set, insisted on jumping into a lobster tank, and respected his 10-year-old’s input when making the movie. If that’s not passion, I don’t know what it is. Imagine being a crew member and hearing, “Yeah, you guys got to figure this out, but Eddie’s going in the tank.”

Mack: … doing Tom Hardy things (for better or worse). He did a weird voice. He covered his face. He looked great, but [Bane voice], let’s not stand on ceremony here: This script was bad.

Surrey: … a mad genius that single-handedly saved this film from being forgettable superhero fare. (He also voiced Venom, and sounds like a baritone singer going through a heavy metal phase.)

Peters: … the only person in Venom who understood that it was supposed to be hilarious.

5. What is Venom’s sickest burn?

Kwak: “Pussy.”

Peters: “JUMP! ... Pussy.

Gruttadaro: I mean, the “Pussy” comment had to have cut pretty deep.

Yoo: Venom calling Eddie a pussy because he was afraid to jump off a skyscraper garnered hearty laughs in my theater.

Fennessey: “On my planet, I’m kind of a loser, like you.” It’s the Joker’s “You’re just a freak … like me!” for a Gamergate generation.

Elias-de Jesus: “Like a turd … in the wind.”

Surrey: I’m not sure when he got a grasp of the English language, but Venom has the maturity of a 12-year-old.

6. Who had better chemistry: Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, or Tom Hardy and Venom?

Peters: Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams had the chemistry of coworkers or, like, people passing each other in the frozen goods aisle at the supermarket, so Tom Hardy and Venom, easily.

Bae: The only answer is Tom Hardy and Venom. The first scene with Tom and Michelle was so cringeworthy that I had to erase the details from my memory.

Yoo: Hardy and Venom had the best chemistry. Just two buddies lovingly shit-talking each other.

Kwak: Tom and his symbiote, without a doubt. Though Michelle Williams at least had better chemistry with Tom than her normie doctor dude. Why was she in this movie again?

Surrey: Maybe it says more about Tom Hardy than Michelle Williams that the dude had more sexual chemistry with Venom once the symbiote began denigrating him. Venom-Eddie is the masochistic relationship we need in a post–Phantom Thread world.

Mack: Well, there was this beautiful moment when all three of the characters were one.

Gruttadaro: Tom Hardy had better chemistry with anyone who wasn’t Michelle Williams. He had better chemistry with Mister Belvedere the cat for chrissakes.

Fennessey: I’d like to write in a vote for Riz Ahmed and Jenny Slate, doing yeoman’s work as Elon Musk and Marcel the Scientist, respectively.

7. What do you think happens in Hardy’s favorite 40 minutes of Venom, which were cut from the movie?

Kwak: Well, we saw him tearing into burnt tater tots, devouring discarded chicken bones, and chomping into live lobsters. So maybe the discarded footage is just 40 more minutes of him eating disgusting food?

Yoo: After eating live lobster and destroying a fancy restaurant, Venom continues that trend by terrorizing all the best restaurants in downtown San Francisco. I really believe Hardy loved nothing more than running around like a lunatic eating food off people’s plates.

Bae: I’m guessing scenes in which Brock had to resist Venom taking over his body with a ton of insults. Lots of frantic eating from the freezer and garbage. Lots of shots of Tom making strained faces. Lots of middle-school-level insults. Good stuff!

Peters: Forty minutes of Venom and Hardy yanking each other around San Francisco, discussing stuff like frisbee golf and why they should ride the streetcar even though scaling skyscrapers/controlled falling is technically faster. Can you really say you understood Venom’s change of heart about Earth and the human race after two conversations with Anne, frozen tater tots, and garbage chicken?

Fennessey: It’s just a 40-minute sex scene between Eddie and Venom.

Elias-de Jesus: Thirty-five minutes of Eddie Brock and Venom fighting for control of Eddie’s body to the point where it looks like Leonardo DiCaprio crawling to his Lamborghini in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Surrey: To answer this somewhat seriously: I’m sure Hardy’s favorite bits pertained to some of the more violent aspects of the script. Venom should’ve had a hard-R rating—it’s ridiculous that a movie with a main character that enjoys munching off human heads was deprived of campy gore. Deadpool and Logan both showed that R ratings don’t preclude huge box office sales!

8. Why did they do Jenny Slate like that?

Bae: Don’t want to talk about it. I’m still upset.

Yoo: That was unnecessary! #JusticeForDrSkirth.

Kwak: Dora Skirth deserved better—or, as I like to call her, Dora “Skrrrt Skrrrt Skrrrt.”

Elias-de Jesus: This part of the movie enraged me. Jenny Slate is perfect in every movie and I don’t know why they gave Michelle Williams’s character’s boyfriend—a sentient Brooks Brothers mannequin—more screen time. Also, did anyone else notice that Jenny Slate’s character is basically her character in Zootopia except with a better sense of morality? And, you know, she wasn’t a sheep in this or whatever.

Peters: Somebody had to be the source, but also, did the source need to be motivated by a veiled threat to kids we never see and killed off without even a single joke?

Mack: Jenny Slate sacrificed herself—much like Isaac in the Bible—so that Carlton Drake could cure pancreatic cancer, and begin to solve the world’s ails of climate change and overpopulation by flying rich men to space wearing alien suits. Noble cause.

Surrey: The real question is: Why the hell did Jenny Slate’s character believe she could trust Riz Ahmed’s Elon Musk after she witnessed him killing off a plethora of homeless people in cruel human experiments? Get outta there and leave a negative review on Glassdoor!

Fennessey: I’m Team Slate in perpetuity, but I wish her character were smarter. At one point, when explaining to Brock why she’s come to him rather than the police, she says that Ahmed’s Carlton Drake is a very dangerous man. So … her plan is to bring a disgraced journalist with no social grace and some curious personal grooming habits to a super-secret lab that almost certainly is filled with security cameras in the middle of the night to … take photos?

Gruttadaro: I thought her name was Doris Girth for the entire movie so, yes, I agree.

9. Is Eddie Brock a good journalist?

Peters: In a word … no.

Kwak: I mean, he scribbles furiously into a little reporter’s notebook, so he must be.

Gruttadaro: After, like, three softballs, tops, Eddie bombards Carlton Drake with a bunch of “so what about da people who got moydered” questions. A very tactful journalist. Print media is lucky to have him.

Bae: I appreciate his passion for reporting, but if he was going to break a story on the Life Foundation, aren’t there, like, a few more steps in between breaking into his girl’s computer and interviewing Carlton? And why aren’t there any publications that wanted to scoop him up after he was fired? He had to resort to looking for jobs in the newspaper instead of using, ahem, ZipRecruiter, like people in 2018 usually do.

Elias-de Jesus: Putting aside the questionable ethics and fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes evidence and facts, any journalist who has a show in which the opening credits feature said journalist riding around a city on a motorcycle must be a good journalist.

Yoo: Is he even a journalist? He’s more like an investigative YouTube star.

Mack: What Eddie lacks is a good editor. It’s difficult to cover stories, break news, and keep track of ethics when the news corporation he works for seemingly has him reporting directly to the CEO. I take it the guy in the three-piece suit who sits in a corner office with a view atop a San Francisco high rise shouldn’t also be the guy pitching stories and fact-checking sources.

Surrey: The guy can barely speak in coherent sentences and he’s apparently the biggest on-camera personality in the greater San Francisco area? I would watch the shit out of The Eddie Brock Show—doubly so if Venom was still inside him making him twitch a lot.

Fennessey: Is Venom a good symbiote? EXACTLY.

10. So … your thoughts on a sequel?


Bae: Give this man a sequel. He deserves one.

Peters: Venom 2: Veni Vidi Venom: You Only Ketosis 2wice

Kwak: Bring it—just make it rated-R for chrissakes. A Venom movie with limited profanity and minimal gore is driving with the hand brake on.

Elias-de Jesus: More Eddie Brock–Venom scenes and Woody Harrelson as a bloodthirsty serial killer with a hilariously awful red wig on? Release Venom 2 and I will devour it with the same vigor as Tom Hardy when he poured that bag of frozen tater tots into his mouth.

Mack: I’d be more excited if they just announced that they were hitting the reset button with the exact same cast. Tom Hardy as Venom, Michelle Williams as the love interest, Riz Ahmed as the charismatic yet callous Silicon Valley tech villain, and Woody Harrelson as Carnage. I would see that movie!

Fennessey: Sure. What dignity do we have left anyhow?

Surrey: So I know they’re setting up Woody Harrelson as Carnage for Venom 2, and while I’d be very down for any kind of Venom follow-up, I think Sony should be thinking about how The Eddie Brock Show can play into this. Imagine: Venom meets Spotlight. Can Venom 2 become the first motion picture to win and Oscar and a Razzie?

Gruttadaro: My god, can you imagine Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson overcommitting for two hours (and probably making out at some point)? I already bought tickets.