Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of imdb.com
It’s the end of October, and the big winners at the box office for the month have been … not horror flicks, but the superhero film “Venom” and the romantic musical “A Star is Born.”
“A Star is Born,” based on a film from over 80 years ago, tells the story of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also wrote and directed the movie), a country music star, who discovers the young talent Ally (Lady Gaga). Ally and Jackson start a relationship. Ally becomes a star in her own right; meanwhile, Jackson’s drug and alcohol problems worsen, and he enters rehab. He recovers but soon realizes that their relationship means he would be holding back Ally’s career for the rest of his life.
There are at least three obvious reasons why “A Star is Born” simply had to be a hit. First of all, it features, on top of everything you would expect in a movie, Lady Gaga, who of course can pull a crowd single-handedly.
Second, it is a romantic tragedy about a celebrity couple who are both singers, so of course it has a ton of well-written music, with Ally and Jackson using songs for everything from attracting each other’s attention at the beginning to Ally’s melancholy songs at the end.
Third, plot-wise it really has enough material for two standard-issue movies, one from the beginning to the high point where Ally too becomes a star and the lead couple get married, and another that tells the story of their world falling apart, from their high point to the very, very low. In fact, that width of the plot makes “A Star is Born” feel expansive, like a novel. On the other hand, that parallel doesn’t go much further, as the number of characters who are properly developed remains smaller than what you would see in most novels.
And “Venom,” widely panned by the critics but an even bigger hit than “A Star is Born,” is based on Marvel Comics. The hero, reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), teams up—as two characters in the same body—with the good space alien Venom to beat the team of the villain, scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), and the evil space alien Riot, thereby saving the species of humans; Eddie’s ex Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) helps and also briefly shares a body with Venom.
Both films are over two hours long, but “Venom” seemed considerably shorter. Being packed with thrill-oriented action and special effects, it is naturally paced faster, which makes it appear tighter than the entire life span of a relationship in “A Star is Born,” but, beyond being fast and tight, “Venom” is also taut with tension, leaping from plot point to plot point like a trapeze act, keeping you at the edge of your seat. I should add, though, that I have never read the comic books on which “Venom” is based—maybe the critics who dislike it just like the comic book version better.