Venom is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, and Woody Harrelson.
Superhero cinema has taken quite the winding journey, hasn’t it? Between a vast cosmos of cinematic universes, solo outings, team-ups, spinoffs, and the occasional dose of genre defiance, superhero flicks are arguably the most divisive kind of contemporary film. Audiences may love them, critics may hate them, there may be a messy mix, or there may even be a consensus every now and again. But more often than not, they end up being divisive in some way or another, and now, enter Venom.
Yet another super/anti-hero origin story, this film tells the story of Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist with a penchant for danger and a want to go beyond the barrier of journalistic fluff. While investigating shady philanthropist Dr. Carlton Drake, (Ahmed) Eddie stumbles onto a discovery of extraterrestrial proportions. He then bonds with an alien mutagen known as a symbiote, becoming the popular Marvel antihero Venom.
While I’m not going to put you to sleep with a lecture about movie studio politics, it’s worth noting that this film is arguably the product of a studio at war with itself. It’s no secret that Marvel Studios’ Avengers flicks, especially ones featuring breakout star Tom Holland as Spider-Man, are universally loved by audiences and critics. Looking to cash in on elements of a property that they still technically own the majority of, (I think) Sony has taken the initiative to kickstart its own Marvel universe, the foundation of which is built on this film.
And frankly, it’s like trying to build a skyscraper on top of a bed of Play-Doh.
This film, to its credit, has something of a backing in Tom Hardy. Known for his more recent intense yet muffled-mouth roles, Hardy is actually given quite a lot of freedom to make the character his, and he completely does. Hardy is a likable and charismatic onscreen action presence, and very rarely feels as though he’s phoning it in. Even his more exaggerated moments feel at home with the lunacy of various story beats, and made for some of the film’s best moments. Hardy’s relationship with the alien personality of Venom was also quite entertaining and made for great banter between the two characters. Hardy’s Eddie Brock and his relationship with the character of Venom are the best parts of this entire film.
Now onto everything else.
This majority of this film is a complete disaster, with a convoluted story, uninteresting and dull characters, performances to back them up as such, inconsistent pacing, and just about every other venial sin a film could commit. To say I was bored to death would be the understatement of the century. The film’s thin and flimsy plot takes no effort to show the scope of the world it’s trying to build, and takes little to no steps toward establishing a larger universe, such as the first Iron Man film did. At no point in any of the 112 minutes Venom has to offer did I care about Hardy’s relationship with love interest Ann, (Williams) or really anything that didn’t have to do with the Eddie-Venom dynamic. This film also has one of the worst villains that I’ve seen in recent memory. Nothing about the character of Carlton Drake once struck me as interesting or engaging, which is an undeniable shame, as Riz Ahmed is quite a talented actor. Empty stoicism and forced, pretentious dialogue drag this villain into obscurity, and led to extremely minimal (if any) investment in the events of the insanely messy third act.
A lot of people’s main issue with this film is the fact that it’s missing an R rating. And while I understand how the rating could make this film more faithful to its source material, and can even see how some moments and scenes would’ve benefitted from the boost, in no way would an R rating have saved this film. Venom could’ve been rated X for all I care, and it wouldn’t have fixed the fundamental problems that plague every minute of this flick. R-Rated can be great if done right, but just like this Sony Universe as a whole, Venom provides no such foundation for growth of any kind.
Those that have seen the film know that a famous comic character makes an appearance in the mid-credits scene. I’m certainly no costume design expert, (or wig expert, for that matter) and I’m all for a character resembling their comic counterparts. But good lord, this film’s mid-credits scene made me burst into laughter. If you know why then you know why. Not everything has to be THAT comic accurate.
All in all, there’s really not much I’m gonna remember about Venom. While Hardy brings something substantial to the table, in no way is it enough to save a boring, tonally-unfocused, poorly written mess with higher ambitions than it could ever dream of fulfilling. But what I say doesn’t really matter in the end, because this film made a ton of money, so apparently, we’re getting more of these. Brace yourself, folks. If you end up seeing this flick, stay until the end of the credits. There’s a preview for a film that looks to be one of the best this year. I’m gonna give Venom a D-.