Category: maev does film crit

The Personal History of David Copperfield

*spoilers*

(But the book is almost 150 years old, so you know, I’m not going to worry too much about this).

Bearing in mind that I am not familiar with the book (I have tried to read a Dickens, but the sentences are so, so long, it causes me pain), I came out of the cinema with two thoughts:

1. Iannucci is definitely a theatre person

2. He was in a mellower frame of mind on this one.

I say the first due to the casting. I was slightly thrown off at first, because I think I was expecting the casting of Dev Patel – and the other actors of colour – to be of significance within the plot. That is, I was expecting this to be David Copperfield re-interpreted in light of Indian colonialism or something.

But the way Iannucci uses colour-blind casting is far more in line with British theatrical tradition, where the casting doesn’t signify – ie a black woman can play a white man’s mother and it doesn’t matter, it’s not intended to represent any specific fact or intepretation of the text.

I will be quite curious how American critics will handle that aspect of the film, being used to race, and racial mixing, being presented as being of immense political and moral significance. (They may not react at all, of course, but I would expect it to be jarring).

Dev Patel is perfect for the part by the way. Partly it’s a physicality thing – he has what I can only describe as a funny walk (he seems more elastic than most people) – and partly I think it’s his eyes. No other actor I can think of can seem simultaneously so hapless and confused and vulnerable and geeky, while also being clearly charismatic as fuck.

Seeing Hugh Laurie play a benevolent fool was heartwarming – he’s just a o, so good at it! It brought to mind his roles in Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster in the best way. And watching Tilda Swinton and Gwendoline Christie’s performances – I feel like Iannucci has been waiting his whole life for an opportunity to cast them, they are such perfect fits for his style (especially Swinton). I also really liked the actress who played Agnes, though I don’t think I’ve seen her before (I have seen one of the actors who played a minor role in the school scenes…somewhere, on stage, and it’s going to irritate me until I remember where).

Capaldi is also clearly having the time of his life as Micawber – he’s particularly fun watching play off the young David. But Aneurin Bernard – I’ve seen him in a number of things now, and he seems to have the kind of good looks that make him eternally destined to play the villain.

I have to say that I came out of the film with only the vaguest sense of the plot – what happens when and what the significance of the various moving pieces are – but the actors are so clearly enjoying themselves that it mostly doesn’t matter.

There’s a tenderness in how the characters are treated – sympathy for the feckless and downtrodden and mentally ill – that I think re-emphasises my idea that Iannucci is a moralist as well as a satirist. David’s London is a cruel place, and a hard place in which to succeed, and Iannucci might be less enraged by that fact than he was in say the Death of Stalin, but that same sense of the fundamental indecency of the ways in which people are forced to live is still there.

It’s not totally surprising that this adaptation is mellower than any of his other work – Dickens was a fairly sentimental writer, even at his best, and I don’t get the sense that David Copperfield as a story lends itself to satirical savagery anyway. Veep or the Thick of It this is not.

I should also say that I am 95% certain that I came across this being filmed in London about a year and a half ago, which is nice.

Definite spoilers, (beyond the standard spoilers for a book that is more than 150 years old, I mean).

(Under a cut, because it’s long)

What I liked:

Actually there’s a tonne of things I liked about this film – the post would be too long if I listed them all.

1. Restructuring the story.  The first half of the book is quite episodic, and by structuring it the way she does, Gerwig gives those first, innocent, passionate interactions their emotional heft.  We feel the intensity of Jo and Laurie’s connection much more when we see how hurt they both are by its severing.

2. Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in particular.  Saoirse Ronan is Jo, in a way that Winona Ryder didn’t manage – passionate and impossible and exhausting and so fully herself that she remains loveable even in her worst moments.  Meanwhile Florence Pugh (an actress I have rated since watching her in Outlaw King) gives some delightful touches to Amy.  In particular, I love the way in which her Amy has so clearly been influenced by Jo – sure, she likes her pretty dresses and being well thought of, but her clarity of thought and incisive argument is as much a product of her sister as either of her parents.

3. I spent most of this film all but sobbing, and it’s because Gerwig nailed the emotional beats of the story.  While I’ve said before that I don’t think Little Women is Alcott’s most accomplished work (Rose in Bloom is a far more artistically balanced), Beth’s death has always struck me as one of the most upsetting in all of literature – not so much because of Beth herself, but how clearly agonised Jo is after the loss.  I can never read that section of the book without crying, and I have tried.

4. That they preserved the conversation about Marmee’s anger.  It reminded me of that moment in Caryll Churchill’s Escaped Alone when the protagonist (for lack of a better term) rambles about how living as a woman means “terrible rage, terrible rage, terrible rage.”  It’s a moment that has lived with me much longer than the actual play – and you see it quoted on theatre twitter all the time.  I have often thought that if men truly understood the depths of rage that women are capable of, they wouldn’t mock feminism nearly so much.

5. Everyone’s clothes. I love the range and depth of autumnal colours – the way their clothes seemed to tie them into their home and the landscape.

6. Timothée Chalamet makes a better Laurie than Christian Bale, precisely because (to me at least) he’s so much less charming.  Christian Bale and Winona Ryder had the kind of sexual chemistry that jumps off the screen – it simply wasn’t credible that Jo didn’t have those kind of feelings for him – whereas Chalament and Ronan played them as an adorable pair of children, enraptured and entertained by each other…but much less romantically credible.

7. I loved the ‘have your cake and eat it’ ending – quite possibly the only way you can complete Little Women’s story satisfyingly is a bifurcated ending.  And I love the cheekiness of how it plays with Hollywood conventions.

What I…found questionable:

1. I really liked the changes they made to Amy. Most of her dialogue comes direct from the book, and what doesn’t (the marriage as an economic matter monologue) can be fairly inferred as Amy’s actual thoughts.  But… the more interesting and complex you make Amy, the less satisfying her relationship with Laurie becomes.  In the books, I can’t help but suspect she was in for a tough time – Jo remains his emotional focus as an adult in a way that doesn’t really shift over time – and in the film…it feels like she’ll wake up in two or three years, and realise just how infatuated she was with Laurie and how lacking he is in qualities that make him her equal.

2. I cannot help it – I still can’t forgive her for burning the book.  Everything else (even getting the Europe trip) is recoverable…but burning the book is such a horrendously cruel thing to do, I can’t view it in the mildly comic light Gerwig wants me to.  There was a voice in my head the entire time saying “but she just lost so much work, years of work that can be reclaimed…”  I may be too much of a writer to judge this fairly – it upsets me on a visceral level.

3. There’s a scene late in the book where Jo talks about how she might have been tempted into accepting Laurie if he asked her again – because she missed him and Beth so much she couldn’t bear it, basically – but she understands that it would have been a bad choice for both of them.  I can’t help but be…peeved that Gerwig turned this fairly low-key scene in a kind of “love that came to late” and makes Laurie Jo’s ‘one that got away.’  I can’t help but think it undermines Jo’s character too much.  It’s ramping up the emotions in a film that really doesn’t need the additional intensity.

What I didn’t like:

1. There were a few points at which the score felt quite intrusive, as though I was being told what to feel.

2. Friedrich’s feedback on Jo’s writing was so unconstructive as to be ludicrous.  Being in a writing group with him must be hell.  Who in their right mind starts their feedback to a writer with “I don’t like it,” and doesn’t include a single comment on anything the writer is doing well.  You don’t have to drown her with compliments, but no wonder Jo was so upset afterwards.

Last Christmas

This is not a good film. It really, really isn’t.

But I think I’m going to have a soft spot for it all the same.

Because whatever about the love story, the film is nothing less than in love with London the city. And not just the bright shiny Covent Garden parts. The camera lingered almost as lovingly over the Jamaican foot shops and cheap food markets and overground rail signs and council houses overlooked by skyscrapers as the London Eye and Regent Street.

The plot twist is massively predictable and the character beats unfold in exactly the way you expect – Emilia Clark is very, very pretty, but I’m not sure she has the…spark needed for this kind of part on screen. She seems like a lovely person though.

And Harry Golding. My goodness. Somehow I missed him in Crazy Rich Asians – I think he was overshadowed by Michelle Yeoh being amazing (and there’s no shame in that) – but he is so handsome here it’s almost hard to look at him. I predict good things for his future.

Review: Terminator Dark Fate

*spoilers (but only thematic ones*

When they re-released the original two Terminator films, I went to see them in the cinema. It was an interesting experience.

The original Terminator holds up incredibly well. Yes, there are a few moments of ropey special effects, but only a few, and it must have one of the leanest, tightest scripts in all of cinema. If I was teaching a “how to write films” course, Terminator would be high on my least of much watch films – sure it isn’t deep, and sure the characters are thin, but my god it’s efficient. On the level of craft, I can think of very few films that do anywhere near as good a job at conveying a complicated premise or delivering exposition.

The second film loses out a bit in comparison. Partly because – look, I don’t go after child actors. I’m sure Edward Furlong was a very nice young man who tried his very best, and all power to him. But in comparison to the first film, it really stands out just how often the script gives makes him say his reaction, rather than, you know, acting it.

And once you notice it there, you notice it everywhere – there’s so much fat on the script, it’s like Cameron didn’t trust the audience to get it. That said, the three central performances – Linda Hamilton, Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick – are strong enough that it doesn’t really matter.

With that in mind, here’s what the new film gets right:

1. It knows that Sarah Connor has always been the hero of the Terminator series, and restores her to her rightful place at the heart of the story. I damn near fist pumped in the cinema when she walked on screen.

2. Casting Gabriel Luna and Mackenzie Davis as the time travellers get their performances exactly right. This isn’t a franchise that rewards subtlety, but that doesn’t mean actors should be bombastic. It is down right refreshing just how much the film allows Davis to carry herself like a soldier, first and foremost, allowing her to present herself as a weapon rather than a Sexy Lamp (and since they got this so very wrong in Terminator 3, they had a lot to make up for). Luna clearly studied Robert Patrick’s performance, but if anything, I think his moments of studied affability were even more unsettling (maybe because Luna is younger and better looking? He looks like he could be in a boy band). A more informed commenter than me would be able to explain how the Terminator manipulates ‘code-switching’ to navigate a racist system, but I’ll just say that I found it an interesting character note.

3. Implicitly rewriting the sexist story of the first Terminator film (I won’t give details as to why).

4. There were so many scenes where there were multiple women on-screen talking to each other. Other filmmakers should take note – it really isn’t that hard!

5. It also remembers a very important action film rule – fight scenes where your super-powered lead has to protect someone who’s, you know, normal, are almost always more interesting to watch than ones where they’re by themselves. On the most basic level it means our hero is doing two difficult things – fighting a superpowered badass and keeping track of where an easily squished normal is – when their adversary is only doing one, and that makes the scene more interesting to watch, because it gives them a perpetual handicap.

What it gets wrong

1. There was at least one action sequence where I couldn’t work out what the hell was happening or who it was happening to. It reminded me that one of the strengths of using physical performers rather than special effects is that you’re restricted to filming things that can actually happen in reality, making it easier to follow for the audience.

2. It fell foul of what I call the New Hope vs Phantom Menace rule. Which is “never slow down your chase film for a long section of exposition.” (In A New Hope Leia is on the run from the beginning of the film, Luke from about 20 minutes in, and the film doesn’t let up for exposition or an emotional moment for more than thirty seconds at a time, which makes it exciting to watch. In Phantom Menace the chase is interrupted by the ship breaking down on Tatoinne, and the long segment that follows drains the narrative of all urgency). Again, the first Terminator film gets this absolutely right – even when Kyle delivers long stretches of exposition, he does most of it while he and Sarah are on the run – the action doesn’t pause so he can explain things to the audience.

3. Mackenzie Davis’ character has a weakness that crops up with a degree of convenience I found rather questionable. Or, put it another way, the weakness never emerges at a point where it puts the characters in immediate jeopardy. I’m not mad at it, but I also didn’t really buy it as a result.

4. Maybe because we had three women on screen, it really stood out that they were all of the same, extremely rare body type – extremely slim. The only difference is that one of them is much taller than the others.

Like, yes, obviously there are women out there with that body type, but if you took a random sample of any three women it would probably be a safe bet that none of them would look like that. It really is that uncommon.

In other words, my kingdom for a film that acknowledges women with thighs exist.

Black and Blue

*spoilers* (but only thematic spoilers)

This so, so wanted to be a good film.

It’s painfully apparent in all the detail – the attention that’s paid to the environment of New Orleans – the complex political issues that are invoked – the sense of injustice…

And yet.

Put it this way, I absolutely see why all the actors involved signed on. This is the kind of film that people mostly don’t make any more – it is unequivocally a film for adults, a film that wants to exist in the messy world of political problems and economic strife and unsatisfactory compromises. The kind of film, essentially, that I really do want to support.

It’s just that this is also a film that is heavily inspired by an entire genre of Cop in Peril films, and that inevitably shapes the narrative in unhelpful ways.

One of the things the Wire gets absolutely right is that no criminal within half a brain wants to run the risk of shooting a cop – to do that is to run the risk of a backlash so severe, that it is a serious threat to their business. (And career criminals have to have half a brain – without it, they won’t last long).

So, the idea that organised crime routinely bumps off police, or that police are operating under a perpetual threat of lethal violence…it just isn’t true. (I haven’t seen figures for deaths of police in the US, but I’d stake a lot on that wager. The incentives just aren’t there for criminals). And beyond that…given the impunity with which cops have shot people in the US, it seems downright dangerous to me not to critique that message more.

Anyway, as a result the entire last act, when a block of flats descends into a ruthless gun battle, feels kind of ludicrous. And poor Naomie Harris – who deserves to be in much better films – gets saddled with some truly astonishingly clunky lines of dialogue. At least when Mindhunter had Holden monologue that “race shouldn’t matter” the writing mocked him for being so naive.

But at the same time…the opening section, where Naomie Harris’ character visits a market, sets off an accidental confrontation, and has to be ‘rescued’ by Reid Scott (who plays her partner – and it is always fun to see him play a snivelling coward) felt incredibly well-observed. When I realised he had put his hand on his gun the moment he saw a black woman speaking in a loud voice…well it gave me chills. And I think it was intended to.

The problem is, as soon as the film leans into its genre roots, it loses all nuance. Individual black characters are treated with dignity – but in groups, black men are filmed…well, it reminded me of nothing so much as a zombie film.

And then of course there are moments when the film defies genre expectations – there’s a character who spends almost the entire film talking about his family and looking at pictures of his family…and he doesn’t die. That was genuinely the biggest surprise in the entire film.

It’s definitely worth a look – but I walked out disatisfied, because it could have been so much more. (Also, the entire plot of this film couldn’t exist if New Orleans had a decent public transportation system and Naomie Harris could have taken a bus to where she needed to go).

A film everyone loves but you hate?

I don’t know about everyone, but I know a lot of people who really, really like Magnolia, which I think is one of the most shallow and self-important films ever made. My eyes had started to roll out of my head well before the rain of toads.

There’s just something particularly irritating about nonsense that presents itself as deep – and Magnolia takes itself so very, very seriously, while conveying about a teaspoon’s worth of actual meaning.

The only other example I can think of is ET – a film I love now, but which I really disliked as a child. I just didn’t get why everyone kept crying – but as an adult I absolutely get the emotions at play in the story. And the moment where ET and Elliot fly across the moon in his bike is pure cinema (it helps that the music is wonderful).

I also found that Raging Bull leaves me cold – don’t get me wrong, I can see that it’s beautifully made and shot and acted, I wouldn’t criticise the craft of it. But it somehow didn’t speak to me, whereas I love Goodfellas. (I do wish Scorsese would challenge himself more in terms of theme – his adaptation of The Age of Innocence is brilliant, and yet he’s rarely strayed into similar territory since).

The Hustle, Booksmart, Late Night

*spoilers* (some – not many).

I saw all three of these films in the last month, and wanted to talk about them together, because they have one quality in common.

All of them are about relationships between women. The central drive in each of these is the love – or hate – between two women, and the most interesting scenes in each are the ones where women interact.

I mention this because it is so rare – still – so painfully rare, to see scenes (in film or television) where women talk to each other, and where those conversations are treated by the narrative as dramatically important. Even in BSG – a show I loved for its depiction of complex, fascinating women – the female characters almost never spoke to each other, they were always primarily interacting with men. The idea that women can have bonds and loyalties between them that aren’t mediated by a man seems to be a very hard one for Hollywood to grasp.

So:

The Hustle

This is the most straightforward of the three – it’s not really trying to say anything, as such. And what it shows, in some ways, is how unrevolutionary it can be to remake a film with two women.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is also the perfect vehicle for that exercise, because while it’s a good film, it’s not iconic. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson (who are clearly enjoying themselves) can cut loose without having the spectre of the indelible, unforgettable performances of Michael Caine and Steve Martin hanging over them.

I do wish someone would cast Rebel Wilson in a part that isn’t about her looks – it really shouldn’t be news at this point that men might be attracted to a charismatic, pretty, plump woman with great hair. To assume it’s in any way startling does the male sex a disservice.

I always enjoy seeing Anne Hathaway get to be funny – I don’t know why she isn’t given the opportunity more, because she’s clearly good at it. It’s actually very similar to her performance as Selina Kyle, but just pushed a little further into absurdity. Her costumes are also fabulous.

Finally, it can’t be said enough times – Timothy Simmons is a very good sport. The costuming department alone owe him apologies for the short they put him in.

Booksmart

I have the least to say about Booksmart, probably because I thought it was the best written and the best executed of the three films. It absolutely deserves to go into the pantheon of iconic teenage films.

I actually cried watching it, because I genuinely cannot remember ever seeing…well, anything, that captured the warmth and intimacy and humour of friendships between women. I mean, I loved The Favourite, and will defend it to the death – but its depiction of dysfunctional female relationships is in some ways less radical than the way Booksmart accepts a simple truth – women love each other, and that love can form one of the most valuable and nourishing relationships in a woman life.

It shouldn’t be so unusual to see the reality of that acknowledged, and yet…

(That said, I wish the film didn’t normalise sex education via pornography. There are so many problems with that I don’t know where to start).

Late Night

I think this is probably the most ambitious of the three, and it suffers (very, very slightly) for it.

Mostly because…it’s a film that struggles with genre expectations.

And I say this, knowing I am going to do something that will seem out of character, and criticise a romcom with Reid Scott in it.

The problem to my mind is that film shows us the relationships between Molly and Katherine and Molly and Tom, and in many, many ways…they are effectively the same. Each plays out in a very Pride and Prejudice way – privilege meets scrappy underdog, and they both educate each other into being better people (it’s a classic narrative for a reason).

The problem, I think, is that because Katherine gets so much more screen time, and because she’s played by Emma Thompson at her most heartbreaking and charismatic (she is fantastic in this – I can’t remember the last time she got a part this meaty, which is a real time), Molly’s relationship with Tom feels shallow in comparison.

We get confirmation – in the final moments of the scene – that they are now together, and yet, because the development of the relationship feels perfunctory, in comparison to the relationship between Katherine and Molly, it ends up feeling…like the film is putting them together because that is what happens in films.

And because the film has invoked some big – big – issues, about sexism and class and race and how all three can intersect – that last second retreat to genre conventions feels oddly disappointing. The “romcom” aspect of the film is far and away its least interesting element. (My fix for this, as a writer, would be to use that flash-forward sequence to show Tom pining for Molly somehow, or asking her out, or something like that – establishing it as a relationship in potentia, rather than one that has occurred offscreen. It would also show us his redemption, rather than presuming it took place).

The way the film plays with how discourse is manufactured and mediated (largely by incredibly privileged individuals) is incredibly cutting – especially as it’s light enough on it’s feet that you never feel like you’re being beaten over the head with it.

The cast is also fantastic – with Amy Ryan and Hugh Dancy playing against type (as an evil corporate type and a callous womaniser respectively) – and Mindy Kaling as Molly gets to wear some truly great outfits. (I love her tweedy coat) and hook up with Hugh Dancy and Reid Scott (I might be more jealous of the fashion, but both are pretty great).

Its depiction of a particular female longing for mentorship and actually getting it from another woman feels pretty damn unique to me.

Always Be My Maybe

1. Goodness Randall Park is talented. Every time I saw him in Veep he made my hands itch with the desire to throttle him, but he’s so charming and charismatic in this that I almost forgot what an asshole Marcus was (at times)

2. This is being added to the select group of films that I enjoy more than I should, purely because they’re set in San Francisco. Such a beautiful city.

3. I wanted more shots of the GOOD food. If you make a film about a chef there should be proper food porn, that’s just the rules.

4. I’ve been pining for a decent romcom for ages. This isn’t a classic, but it certainly fills the craving – the relationship between the two leads certainly felt filled in and real (while I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians, I definitely felt it fell down in this area – Michelle Yeoh acted her son almost off the screen). That said, I think I felt the chemistry more in the “friendship” scenes than the ones where they edged towards a relationship – which is probably natural for how they felt about each other, but sucked out some of the tension.

5. I do wish it had been funnier – aside from the Keanu Reeves section, a lot of the jokes felt…mild-mannered.

6. I appreciate the role reversal of the guy following the girl for once.

Widows

I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum. But I loved this film so there will be much gushing.

Steve McQueen is easily the filmmaker I find must interesting artistically working today. Which isn’t to say I have always enjoyed his films – I used to describe as making wonderful films that I never wanted to watch again.

He is incredibly interested in the line between beauty and ugliness, and how often one can actually be the other, just looked at from a different angle. Which is why I found Shame the hardest of his films to watch – Hunger and 12 Years a Slave both show greater intensity of human suffering, and their protagonists go through the most gruelling experiences (mentally and physically) one can imagine. But slavery IS ugly – a human being purposefully starving himself to death IS ugly – sex shouldn’t be.

Shame took a human experience that should be joyful and pleasurable and a reminder of all the best parts of being alive in a physical body…and showed how it can be turned into nothing less than torture.

In any case, Widows isn’t anywhere as near as brutal a watch, but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that is a less impressive achievement. And his fascination with that line has not gone away – it shows in how he frames his images, how he constructs his scenes, how the characters interact.

It is that rare thing – a heist movie where, despite being well-executed, clever and twisty, the heist is honestly the least interesting thing in the film.

Widows does something that not many films I can think of have been able to do – in fact I thought about the Wire a number of times while watching it – which is that it made Chicago feel like a real, lived-in place, full of jagged, ugly political compromises. The possible construction of a subway line is a crucial plot point, and one of the things McQueen does (that so many filmmakers never do) is focus on how people GET to places – there are constant scenes of conversations in cars or on subways, characters running for the bus or considering getting a cab.

McQueen has also become a great actors director. From what I have heard Fassbender and Cunningham to an extent directed themselves in Hunger, but there are some great performances in this film. Daniel Kaluuya is terrifying, no other word for it, and I have never seen Colin Farrell perform so well while having to do an accent. He is unnerving good at ‘playing’ a politician – all politicians have to be two-faced to at least some extent, but the worrying aspect of Farrell’s performance is that he doesn’t SEEM to be giving one. There are no give-always of insincerity, even when we KNOW he is being completely insincere.

Viola Davis is so good she doesn’t need praise, but her fellow widows also get chances to shine. Elizabeth Debicki has a moving transition from a victim to her own woman (and whoever suggested her as a possible casting for Diana in the Criwn was on the money) and I feel like this is the first time in years Michelle Rodriguez has been given the opportunity to do some proper acting. Cynthia Erivo is brand new (to me) but she more than holds her own. (I will say, this is an improbably beautiful group of women, but whatever).

The story is based on a 1980s Lynda la Plante BBC television series, but has been transplanted to an American setting, but in a way that genuinely works (unlike House of Cards). McQueen uses the new location and all its associated racial and historical baggage to just…break your heart at the emotional climax.

Venom

I went to this film in an attempt to stave off jet-lag (another two hours before I can sleep), and because I thought it would have lots of pretty shots of San Francisco. Vague thoughts below.

1. Riz Ahmed is the best thing in the film by some distance – he managed to make his paper-thin mad environmentalist/social Darwinist caricature into something that almost felt like a character (but only almost) (with writing this thin there really is only so much even the most talented actor can do).

2. Michelle Williams’ wig makes me tired. Michelle Williams is easily the second best part of the film, but her wig is incredibly distracting and obviously ‘wiggy’ all the way through. And the only reason to force her to wear it is a depressing assumption that she will not be ‘hot’ enough for the presumed male audience with her normal short hair. (If I remember her comments in interviews correctly, Heath Ledger should disagree). I wish more film-makers could get this into their heads – if your hero is a thoughtful, intelligent, decent man, he is not going to be attracted to his love interest primarily based on her looks. That doesn’t mean she can’t be beautiful, but that force of personality counts for an awful lot (see Peggy Carter or Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel Dawes, or, going further back, Marion Rawenwood). If the love interest is vapid or primarily decorative, it winds up undermining the hero as a character quite severely.

3. I’m not sure Venom is the potential franchise the producers clearly think he is. The special effects are really pretty damn gross, and the script never actually manages to dig into the aspects that could make the character compelling – Venom as a power fantasy for a supposedly disenfranchised media personality whose woman done left him could be quite a cutting concept in the right hands, but I don’t think they do anything interesting with it.

4. The central love triangle is dumb, Dumb, DUMB. Who does Michelle Williams choose? The questionably-stable ex who indulges in cannibalism, lives in a mancave, ruined her career, and dresses like a teenage boy with a limited understanding of personal hygiene – or the talk, dark and handsome doctor who is so faultlessly selfless he would never even dream of questioning whether she has feelings for the ex she just spent six hours chasing around town. (That said, I don’t think Michelle Williams had much in the way of chemistry with either Tom Hardy or Reid Scott, which doesn’t help).

5. Nitpicks: if Reid Scott’s character is a surgeon, why does he spend all his time in the MRI room / doing pastoral care? Why does he share Eddie’s private medical information with his ex-girlfriend (ETHICS)? If carrying the symbiote had such terrible effects on the carriers, why didn’t Michelle Williams or Riz Ahmed’s characters show any symptoms of illness whatsoever? Why are we supposed to think Tom Hardy is a great journalist when he barely seems to understand how sources work or the concept of deep background? Also, Riz Ahmed’s character started off as a cancer researcher and then got to work on space exploration? Scientists don’t change fields like that, no matter how brilliant they are.

6. I feel like somewhere there is a dark, smoke-filled bar where scientists go to weep and drown their sorrows over the repeated abuses of evolution as a concept in popular fiction. This film repeats a popular garbling – that a well-educated scientist would imagine it humanly possible for one individual to redirect the course of human evolution (it isn’t).

7. In some ways I think Tom Hardy was the perfect choice for the part – he’s always been a very physical actor, and there’s a looseness to his performance as Eddie in the action scenes that works really well. But good lord his American accent is TERRIBLE.

8. The whole thing is weirdly emotionally…flat. Part of that is the love triangle that isn’t really (which, again, if Williams and Hardy had blazing chemistry wouldn’t be such a problem), and part of it is…we get no explanation for why Venom decides to save the Earth after all. He just…does. There’s vague threads indicating some fondness for Eddie – and more suggesting that Venom too is in love with the Michelle Williams character – but they don’t go anywhere dramatically. As a result the finale is at best inert.

9. It’s worth mentioning, the three characters we’re meant to on some level like (Hardy, Williams, and Reid Scott) are a journalist, a lawyer and a doctor respectively. Those are elite professions, requiring many, many years of expensive education and/or access to the right contacts to build a career (the attempt to imply Tom Hardy’s Eddie is blue-collar doesn’t really work). Class analysis is something that fandom is not, as a whole, terribly good at, and in American context class and race are often treated as though they are synonymous, which can have a distorting affect. Which is why I point this out – white characters are vastly overrepresented in popular culture, that’s obvious. But so many of them are placed in these kind of backgrounds, with huge cultural and economic capital, that they may well feel completely alien to someone who’s working three jobs just to cover rent and health care.

On the most basic level, Tom Hardy’s character is unemployed for sixth months, in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities on earth, and can still afford his own apartment (albeit a pretty crappy one). When vast proportions of the population lack anything in the way of savings, his lifestyle represents a kind of privilege that is completely unattainable for most people.

10. It was just plain weird watching Reid Scott playing a character named ‘Dan’ who was genuinely and consistently kind! In some ways he provided more emotional comfort to our hero than his supposed love interest. (I feel like the writers must have had the first Ant-Man film in mind when they wrote the character). (Also the shot where Tom Hardy – who is very handsome, but not especially tall – lifts Scott up by his neck must have involved some interesting camera trickery to make work).