Monday, April 03, 2006

Venom is a dumb-ass?

So, I’ve said before that I have issues with the symbiotes, specifically Carnage. And this is certainly true, I do have issues with them. I enjoyed the idea of Venom early on, the dark mirror of Spider-Man was a fascinating lens, and the evolution of the character was great.

At first.

Then we got heroic Venom and Carnage and the further insanity from there. And I became… less pleased. My decision to come back to reading Spider-Man is partially colored by the fact that the Venom symbiote is now on someone else, and Carnage got ripped in two.

Therefore, I was very happy when Sam Raimi said that he had no intention of using Venom in the movies. Good, I thought, there are lots of classic Spider-Man villains. We can stay away from that option.

Time passed, and we had two really good Spider-Man films. Sony began preproduction work on Spider-Man 3, and rumors about casting and the heroes and villains began to fly. Of course, the biggest mystery, and the one Sony is remaining tight-lipped on, is what role James Franco will play. Harry is clearly going to do something with his father’s equipment, but whether he will be hero or villain, Green Goblin or Hobgoblin we don’t know.

Then they said they were casting Thomas Hayden Church. Early speculation for Church leaned towards Sandman, and it didn’t take too long before Sony confirmed that. I have to say, he manages to make the sweater not look entirely stupid. And if The Mummy showed us anything, it’s that there is a large realm of possibility for digital sand effects.

Then we learned about Topher Grace. To date, Sony hasn’t confirmed that he’s playing Eddie Brock, but everything suggests it. The new blonde hair, the black costume in the poster, and Kirsten Dunst’s slip, it’s hard to imagine anything else at this point.

I’m apprehensive, I’ll confess. There is so much possibility for it to go badly. But Raimi hasn’t let me down yet. And I do think that Topher Grace makes a good counter to Toby Maguire. They share similar builds and slightly geeky looks. And I think Topher Grace is a better actor than anyone gives him credit for.

And hey, when Brock meets MJ, at least Grace is used to acting opposite hot red-heads.

So, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they keep it simple, I think it'll work quite well. As long as they don't go into the ridiculous aspects fo the relationship and keep it close to rthe feel it had in the beginning, it could even be really good. I remain hopeful. (Plus, I am with you 100 percent on Grace's acting chops.)

-Os

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This film has got me nervous. With Spider-man 2, all the choices they were making sounded pretty good and the results were spectacular. The choices they're making now like the inclusion of Venom are making me nervous. I trust Raimi, but this is the franchise that defines how superhero films should be made and I don't want to see them drop the ball.

--Matt

1:48 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Matt,

Hmmm, I don't know that I thought the choices made for 2 were all that great until I saw them. Doc Ock has always been one of the geekier Spidey villains, so including him made me nervous at first too.

Oddly, I found them changing his appearance and personality to be even more potentially dangerous, but they made it work.

So, while I don't like the fact that they're using Venom, that alone doesn't make me worry.

But I'm curious about your statement that this is the franchise that defines how superhero films should be made. Do you really think that? I thought that X-Men redefined the standard, but I honestly think the standard was set with Superman. I also don't think that a bad third film will make people say "Oh, bad superhero movies are fine." Dropping the ball here will hurt Raimi, Maguire, Dunst and Sony, but I don't think it would be bad for superhero movies as a whole.

Now, Catwoman and Elektra, those movies hurt the genre as a whole. And moviemaking as a whole. Heck, the creation of those films just kind of hurt humanity as a whole.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaron,

I agree with you that Superman set the original standard for superhero films. I still think Christopher Reeves performance sets the standard for the acting performance needed for the main superhero role because he captures both the essence of Clark Kent and Superman, yet doesn't merge the traits of those two roles as a lot of actors end up doing when playing superhero parts.

Yet the Superman movie has a definate dated, almost Silver Age of Comics, feel to it. Comics entered the Modern Age and the medium for how comic book stories were told changed. Heroes became a bit more troubled, villains became a little darker, and everyone gained psychological depth. A new standard for comic book movies had to be set.

X-men did a good job at setting a bar. The story was good, the casting was decent, and the most of the characers were well developed, but it lacked a few things to be the standard. The first was a complete origin story plot. While we are introduced to the conflicts that surround the X-men, we never see Xavier going around and forming the actual team.

The second and perhaps more important element the film lacks is an epic feel. The conflict between Magneto and the X-men feels like an opening salvo and that will pave the way towards the epic final battle that will be shown in a sequel. It's a good introduction film to a franchise, but it feels like the opening film to a franchise.

Spider-man met (if not exceeded) the bar set by X-men in terms of story, casting, and character development while incorporating the two elements the X-men films lacked.

First was the origin story. Instead of given a speech about what the conflict is and being thrown into it, Raimi uses the origin story as a starting point to spin a web of conflict around Peter's life as he chooses to become Spider-man. The origin part of the tale feels essential to the film and the series as a whole instead of a tacked on bit that we need to know (like the origin in the film version of Daredevil) or an overly lengthy drama that takes away from the superhero tale (like in the film version of Incredible Hulk).

The film also felt epic. Perhaps this was due to the sense of finality in the climatic battle between Spider-man and the Green Goblin. Unlike X-men, you knew the conflict would end between these two characters after the battle was over and they wouldn't be treading this path again anytime soon if at all.

These factors are why Spider-man sets the standard for modern comic book movies. Most comic book stories need to lay down a origin story for how the hero came to be, seem epic, and have good casting, a good story, and good character development. I think Spider-man has done the best at doing this so far, and a lot of other people from comic geeks to people who only know the comic characters from onscreen portrayals think so too. For some reason, the Spider-man movie is the standard most comic book movie conversations always come back to when evaluating how good a comic book movie does.

Spider-man 2 showed how to do a successful superhero sequel. It took all those strands from the original web of conflicts from the first movie and started expanding upon them. Some of the issues were resolved, others expanded upon, and some new threads were formed. The movie did what a well written Spider-man comic does: expand upon the established while engaging in a new conflict and leave the audience wanting more. Again, X2 did a good attempt, but could not Spider-man 2 set the standard of how it should be done higher than the X-men film achieved.

Of course, the Spider-man franchise is not infallible. I suspect if Spider-man 3 flops, the effect will be much the same as Superman 3. The franchise's foundation will crumble, but there will still be another film after that before the franchise goes under for a decade or two.

As for the general impact on comic book movies, a flop would be a blow for the genre. It wouldn't end it, but the Spider-man films have been the most profitable ones and film makers and movie studios would deinately take note. Production of comic book movies would not halt all together, but I think it would probably slow as the studios questioned the profitability of comic book films.

--Matt

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt's final comments. I wouldn't say that if Spider-Man 3 is unsuccessful, then comic book movies are done. However, it could probably signal to producers (who would of course interpret it incorrectly) that interest in the genre is cooling, thus spurring their desire to end of this cycle of superhero movies.

My reasons for why Spider-Man in paricular probably differ with Matt's though. The reason I don't think it will be X-Men 3 is because Superman Returns will come out shortly thereafter, limiting the impact of any failure it may (but probably will not) have.

-Os

1:19 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I see what you're both saying. I still don't know that I agree with the importance of Spider-Man though. I think that both Batman and Superman were more visible superhero films.

Also, the Spider-Man films have been phenomenally successful as far as money. No other superhero film has even come close. Yet the "poor" performance of the other movies hasn't hurt the large number of superhero films being lined up.

The other thing is that the whole introduction of Venom to the series may upset the hardcore fan, but films don't make the kind of money that Spider-Man did solely by appealing to the hardcore fan. So, it may suck, but still rake in tons of money.

(Oh, and please stop signing in anonymously. You can hit the "Other" identity, and then actually input a name.)

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so worried that the movie will drop the ball by upsetting the hardcore fans. Hardcore fans always find something to gripe about in a comic book movie no matter how good it is. I'm worried because Venom is a character requiring a very complex origin story.

In all the Venom origin stories I'm familiar with (616, Ultimate, and the Fox animated series), the Venom story goes through the following steps.

1. Spidey and Brock meet and interact
2. Spidey gets the sentinent costume
3. Spidey realizes the senitnent costume is dangerous and influencing some control over his actions
4. Spidey rids himself of the costume
5. Brock, who has by now had some sort of a falling out with Spidey (if they were ever on good terms), gets the costume and becomes Venom

The hows and whys of how these events come about has varied from universe to universe, but that is the essential storyline that is always followed for the Venom origin. This origin is what gives Venom a lot of his popularity as a villain because, as you pointed out in your latest entry, Venom shows Spidey what he could have turned into if he only kept wearing the costume.

That origin story is a lot to fit into a movie, and the fact its being combined into a movie with a plot involving another villain and plots involving complications in Peter's life makes me nervous that they might drop the ball on this one. I'd be less nervous if they were going to develop Venom over a couple movies, but all news I've heard so far indicates Venom will be showing up in this film.

I trust Raimi. Maybe he'll be the first to break from the standard Venom story format in some way so that he can fit it all in. I'll be interested to see what he comes up with.

--Matt

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Os said...

You both have excellent points. I guess it leaves at a "wait and see" kind of moment.

4:49 PM  

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