Venom is directed by Ruben Fleischer, and stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott.
Eddie Brock is an aspiring journalist, but his attitude towards eccentric industrialist Carlton Drake ends up getting him fired from his post, costing him his job and his relationship. Meanwhile, Drake is collecting symbiotes, which are mysterious living entities from outer space which require a host to remain alive. Brock’s further investigations upon learning more about Drake’s operation result in the Venom symbiote bonding with him, much to his surprise and shock. Will Brock get his life back on track and use the Venom symbiote to uncover Drake’s dastardly plans and research, or will he be in over his head?
Co-created by Todd McFarlane (later the creator of Spawn), Venom is one of the most famous and notable villains in Spider-Man’s extensive rogues gallery. The film marks the second attempt to bring the character to the big screen, following an appearance in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, where he was portrayed by Topher Grace of That 70s Show fame, much to the disappointment of fans. With the brooding backstory and dark nature of the character, not to mention the duality aspect, Sony/Columbia set out to do right this time around.
Why, oh why, can’t they get it right?
Venom features a fine performance from the always-entertaining Tom Hardy (who had previously portrayed another comic character, Bane, in The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012) and some fun action setpieces, but it ultimately ends up feeling more like a “buddy cop” movie and an unintentional comedy than something of lasting value which features a dull villain. It was initially stated this film would be part of a Spider-Verse and could potentially overlap with the incarnation of Spider-Man seen in Spider-Man Homecoming, but it’s since apparently been stated to be something separate in its own universe. In a film about Venom, one of Marvel’s darkest, deepest, and most compelling villains, I shouldn’t be LAUGHING this much.
Let’s not dismiss the positives of the film. Tom Hardy is a lot of fun to watch here. He’s quite witty and on top of things in nearly every scene. Say what you will about the rest of the movie; he’s clearly having a good time with the material. There are some fantastic action sequences, including a motorcycle chase which will keep your attention and thrill you. It’s too bad there aren’t more moments like that.
Unfortunately, little else about the movie works. The villain is a generic mad scientist type who’s beloved by the public but secretly evil and pursuing his own goals. In a movie about a character like Venom, we need a better antagonist than this. The fact that the movie throws in another symbiote as a villain of sorts just feels like a bland, boring decision. A big, explosive climax is quite exciting for what it is, but it can’t redeem a movie full of cliches and a poor execution of its titular character. The lack of Spider-Man, who’s instrumental to the character’s origin/birth in the comics, hurts as well.
The TONE of the movie is arguably its biggest weakness. Brock and the Venom symbiote get a “back and forth” going. This could have been a brooding, almost Shakespearean tragedy…
So why does it remind me more of a BUDDY COP movie?
Their dialogue and interactions are not threatening, scary, or even all that interesting. The dynamic feels like it belongs in a different movie! Had this been made as a standalone action/comedy product without the Marvel/Venom name attached, I’m sure I’d be writing a better review. The movie lacks believable drama and has a choppy narrative structure, which gives the impression it was cut down from something larger. Either way, I’m not even sure a director’s cut treatment could redeem this take on Venom. A mid-credits sequence, teasing a potential villain for a sequel who's portrayed by an A-list actor I won't name here, is far more interesting than anything in the movie itself.
Venom is a great villain, but Sony can’t seem to figure him out for the big screen. That said, it’s still a fun action/comedy of sorts; viewers just need to know what they’re getting ahead of time. As a comedic (often unintentionally) action movie which has a “so bad it’s good” feel, it’s entertaining enough. But comic book fans are sure to be disappointed. I’m sure the movie will still find a decent audience, even if it’s not the Venom movie comic book die-hard want. I can't quite recommend it, though.
Rating: Two stars out of four.
DISCLAIMER: All images in this review are the property of their respective copyright holders, including Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Pascal Pictures, and Sony Pictures Releasing. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.