Venom | 2018
The next addition to the Marvel Universe has its moments, and Tom Hardy is clearly having a ball, but it can’t escape the ‘been here, seen this before’ feeling – the crazed billionaire (who isn’t Elon Musk) conducting iffy experiments which end up endowing a regular guy with extraordinary powers…
The ‘East Malaysia’ crash site where a returning spacecraft accidentally releases an alien lifeform, is the woods near Atlanta.
The ‘Malaysian’ village was built on a dirt lot at Rex Mill, Mill Road alongside a bridge over Big Cotton Indian Creek, about ten miles southeast of Atlanta. After Georgia Power Department cooperatively turned off all the street lamps, the set was illuminated with hundreds of traditional night lanterns.
The old wooden mill, dating from 1830, and its grounds, are used as a frequent film and TV location.
Later, when the infected woman is wandering around the lounges of 'Sibu Airport, Sarawak', and passes her precious gift on to a little girl bound, inevitably, for San Francisco, that ‘airport lounge’ is actually the Georgia World Congress Center, 285 Andrew Young International Boulevard NW, Atlanta.
The Center soon crops up again in another guise.
The space programme is being run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) from his huge 'Life Foundation' facility alongside the Golden Gate Bridge overlooking the Bay on Hawk Hill on the Marin Headlands.
It’s all CGI of course, but the entrance and lobby is that of the American Cancer Society Center, 250 Williams Street NW, Atlanta, alongside Centennial Olympic Park, and designed by neo-futurist architect John Portman.
The Georgia World Congress Center, again, provides the Foundation’s subterranean tunnels.
But it's unmistakably San Francisco when we see the apartment TV reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) shares with girlfriend Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). It’s 1151 Montgomery Street near Green Street toward Telegraph Hill, which happens to be just across the road from the apartment of Det Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) in Basic Instinct.
When Eddie and Anne enjoy a romantic dinner at the foot of the Bay Bridge in the Embarcadero District, the restaurant is plainly meant to be classy seafood restaurant Waterbar, 399 The Embarcadero.
That distinctive interior though is steakhouse STK Atlanta, 1075 Peachtree Street NE. Surprisingly, the amazing ‘tentacled’ wall sculpture which seems designed to foreshadow the alien parasite is a real feature of the restaurant and not dreamed up by the film’s art department.
Eddie is seen whizzing round the city’s landmark sights on his Ducati Scrambler – Port of San Francisco, Pier 9 – for his TV show The Eddie Brock Report but, when he crosses the line in an interview with the powerful Drake, he finds himself unemployed.
Not only that, his filching of confidential material from her computer also costs Anne her job. The entrance to her workplace, where she gives Eddie the heave-ho, is the familiar California Bank & Trust Building, 465 California Street, in San Francisco’s Financial District.
Eddie drowns his sorrows, “Ever feel like your life is like one monumental screw up?” in the Edinburgh Castle Pub, 950 Geary Street, between Larkin Street and Polk Street, in Lower Nob Hill. It’s a Scots-style pub with not only a good selection of beers but also decent fish’n’chips for ex-pat Brits.
However, we’re soon back in Georgia. The Chinese grocery store in which Eddie sees the unfortunate owner having to pay protection money, is J&C Foodmart, 68 Peachtree Street SW, Downtown Five Points, Atlanta.
It’s outside the grocery store that the homeless Maria (Melora Walters sells him a free newspaper and he’s approached by Life employee Dr Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) who’s concerned about Drake’s increasing megalomania.
Reluctant at first, Eddie can’t resist the lure of a good story and Skirth manages to smuggle him easily into Life Foundations laboratories.
For a massively secret alien-human breeding programme, frankly, I’ve seen better security in a local library. While Eddie is busy wandering around freely, taking pictures of the goings on, he comes across Maria (who’s gone missing), and suddenly finds himself hosting the alien symbiote.
In fact, despite developing a ravenous appetite, Eddie altogether oddly cool about his encounter until a guttural voice inside his head growls “Hungry” while he’s riding the Powell-Hyde Cable Car line up Hyde Street from touristy Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Street. He starts to realise his body is hosting a co-tenant.
Drake, discovering that his precious symbiote is lurking within the annoying journalist, sends his goons to Eddie’s place to retrieve it.
Initially Eddie’s zooming past the familiar illuminated signs of Big Al’s and the Roaring Twenties in the heart of San Francisco’s Broadway entertainment district, but almost instantly that’s Georgia State University’s Rialto Center for the Arts on Forsyth Street, Atlanta, flashing past.
After plenty of roaring around the Fairlie-Poplar District of Downtown Atlanta, Eddie is strangely back on San Francisco’s Broadway at Big Al’s and making a hard left onto the intimidating uphill slope of Kearny Street alongside the Peter Macchiarini Steps (which you may recognise from two earlier San Francisco classics, Dark Passage and Basic Instinct).
Although we do stay in San Francisco, there’s another geographical cheat here. The top of Kearny Street is a dead end, but Eddie is now cresting the peak of Taylor Street at Ina Coolbrith Park, five blocks west, to reproduce one of the famous leaps from the legendary car chase in 1968’s Bullitt.
Having made that spectacular jump, and racing downhill, Eddie is back again on Kearny Street, heading back toward the dead end he avoided earlier – though downhill from the opposite direction.
It’s here there’s the massive pile-up of cars and, just as Eddie starts feeling cocky, “That was pretty cool actually…”, he’s whacked off his bike on Forsyth Street at Williams Street NW.
No problem. His wounds quickly healed, the Eddie/Venom mashup bounds off and leaps into San Francisco Bay at Embarcadero.
All too simple? OK, let’s throw in some Los Angeles for variety.
There’s a little re-shoot here as Anne goes looking for Eddie only to find a scene of total. “There’s bodies all over the city tonight!” as the cop says ominously.
This is West 6th Street at South Broadway in the heart of the often-used Downtown area of LA.
The climax mostly plays out in the Life Foundation’s Mission Control Centre, a set built inside a 400,000-square foot industrial warehouse in Peachtree City, Georgia.
The post-credits coda (spoiler free), sees Eddie off to interview an important ‘celeb’ at San Quentin Prison, Marin County – which I'll leave to be covered in the inevitable sequel.