I had a weird sense of deja vu while watching Venom Thursday night, and it didn't take long for me to figure out why that was.
It's not that it's derivative of other superhero or comic book movies, which of course it is. It's not even that it shares things in common with many other trainwrecks that I've seen, which it does.
It's that there was a far better movie with many of these same elements earlier this year, called Upgrade.
And Upgrade's not even all that great, so if it's far better than Venom, you know how bad Venom must be.
For starters, let's take the stars of the two movies.
Upgrade stars Logan Marshall-Green. Venom stars Tom Hardy.
If you're not familiar with Logan Marshall-Green, you may know him as that guy who looks almost exactly like Tom Hardy.
There are no fewer than 516 side-by-side shots of Hardy and Marshall-Green on the internet, but I find this one probably the most illustrative of their similar appearances:
Bonus points to you if you know which one is Hardy and which one is Marshall-Green.
Then you've got what's happening to their characters in these movies. Both come under the control of a parasite of sorts that bestows them with super powers. For Marshall-Green, it's a computer chip that helps him walk after he's paralyzed in a car accident -- and also run really fast and kick a lot of ass. For Hardy, it's an alien called a "symbiote" that merges with him, causing him to shoot tentacles out of his body to defeat foes, and turn his head into a black mask with rows of sharp teeth.
In both instances the symbiosis is initially played for comedy, as the hapless host looks on in semi-horror as his own body does things that his brain is not telling it to do. Oh, and these parasites both speak inside the heads of their hosts, though only the hosts can hear them.
The conventional wisdom would have been that Venom was the contender and Upgrade the pretender, as Venom has the bigger star, the better known director and the muscle and brand name of Marvel behind it. Yet this movie is shit and Upgrade is actually kind of clever, though ultimately preposterous.
If you haven't seen Upgrade, do it! Why not?
If you haven't seen Venom, you're lucky.