REVIEW: “Venom”

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“Venom” had two encouraging things going for it since its initial announcement. First it stars Tom Hardy, an actor I’ve really liked since his 2001 debut in Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down”. Second, it features a truly great Marvel comic book villain (and eventual antihero) with a compelling backstory and formidable superpowers. Those are two big steps in the right direction.

Does Sony Pictures make the most of Hardy and the titular title character? It seems critics would say no as most have panned the film. Moviegoers seem to have had a different reaction, not being nearly as harsh and having helped the film rake in $205 million globally on its opening weekend. Let’s say I fall somewhere in the middle.

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Versions of “Venom” have been in the works since 1997, but this particular iteration had its own set of challenges. Fans of the character will immediately notice how far the movie strays from his comic book origins. The filmmakers aren’t entirely to blame. Sony’s deal with Marvel Studios to allow Spider-Man into their carefully guarded MCU handcuffed the writers forcing them to create a webslinger-free origin. Interestingly they did shelf the idea of an R-rating leaving the door open for a potential crossover.

Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a Bay Area investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering deep-seated corruption. He sets his sights on the Life Foundation and its CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Turns out Drake has discovered and captured samples of splotchy alien lifeforms he calls symbiotes. Eddie gets a whiff of potential human testing and confronts Drake during an on-air interview. It goes bad for Eddie who loses his job and even his fiancé (Michelle Williams) who works as a Life Foundation attorney.

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Six months pass and a down-on-his-luck Eddie is contacted by a Life Foundation scientist begging him to blow the lid off Drake’s experiments. While secretly infiltrating the labs Eddie is exposed to the symbiote which instantly gives him superpowers and a gruesome appetite for violence and human heads. Check that, it isn’t Eddie who has those appetites. They belong to his new parasitic alter-ego Venom.

From there the movie becomes a weird blend of horror and humor set within the framework of a superhero movie. I kind of like what it’s going for even if its tone can be wildly uneven. Eddie’s back-and-forths with the menacing Venom voice in his head can be amusing. There is also the intriguing duality of two distinct characters warring within one man. The film flirts with the idea more than exploring it which seems like a missed opportunity.

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This is also where the action amps up but not in a particularly thrilling or impressive way. Most of it is encapsulated in the trailer – a big chase sequence in downtown San Francisco and several fight scenes featuring a reluctant Eddie and the more violent Venom’s stretchy tentacles. It all culminates in a CGI-soaked finale that doesn’t do the movie any favors.

Tom Hardy does his best to bring energy and nuance to his character. It’s a good performance with several interesting layers. Director Ruben Fleischer clearly wanted to make an atypical superhero movie with a distinct edge to it. I applaud that aim and see glimpses of what he’s going for. But ultimately it’s the script and some pretty uninspired action the left me feeling a bit deflated. Sadly a good Tom Hardy, Fleisher’s edgy ambition, or even a killer end credits scene can’t quite keep “Venom” from disappointing.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

2-5-stars

33 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Venom”

    • AhmedIs a really good actor but did you feel he was a bit shortchanged here? That is the thought that kept ringing in my head for the entire movie. As for the movie, I really felt going in that the changes that have been made over the years sounded like good ones. And I truly believe there are ingredients here for a much better movie.

    • You may be right, but I don’t really think an R-rating is essential. This one felt darker and edgier to me. I felt it really came down to the script and some pretty mediocre special effects.

      • True that. Maybe an R isn’t needed, and I’m far from one of those ratings hounds. But, Im intrigued to see how they do the sequel with one of the more violent characters in Marvel’s lore.

  1. If it wasn’t for Tom Hardy’s performance and the character of Venom, the film would have been just another generic origin story with a generic villain. We’ve had way too many of those. The problem here is Sony. They’ve never been able to really get their Marvel movies right in any fashion. Even Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies weren’t that great. The only reason Spider-Man Homecoming was any good, was because Marvel had a direct hand in it, more so than Sony. I did enjoy Venom, but it feels like there was a lot of stuff cut out, that needed to be in there, so I’m hoping for an extended cut on Blu-Ray.

    • It’s funny, I was t nearly as high on “Homecoming” as most were. Don’t remember the exact score I gave it but there were several things about it that pushed me away. I will say that I liked Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and loved “Spider-Man 2”. The third movie though..ugh.

    • I don’t think it’s a bad movie. It’s just not the movie it could have been. It’s definitely worth watching at least. If you can catch it on 5 Dollar Tuesday at your local theater, then do so, but don’t expect anything revolutionary.

      • It’s not terrible. You’re right. For me it’s a case of a movie trying new things but falling short in some pretty key areas. I felt it ended up being a very okay movie.

    • Good move. Just wait for it on DVD. It’s definitely not as bad as “Amazing 2”. In fact I almost gave this 3 stars. Just too many disappointing elements though. It does get credit for trying new things. “Amazing 2” was just plain bad!

      • Yeah, Amazing 2 was Spider-Man 3 on steroids with no real thought into the villains as it tried too much only to come up with very little answers. Thank goodness Marvel chose to get the character back on track and give us “I’m not a girl! I’m a boy! I mean, I’m a man!”

      • Which is why I’m curious if there’s going to be an extended cut of the movie for home video. I want to see what was cut out, and see if it would’ve improved anything. It might not, but it would still be interesting to see. For me, Venom wasn’t the disaster that The Predator was.

    • Thanks. I felt it was better than the drumming it took by critics. Still I felt it left so much potential on the table. I do think there is enough there for a good sequel. I’d sure watch it.

  2. I was disappointed here the best thing about this move was the after credits scene. Hardy was great but your right the writing and direction made this film hard to watch. Nice write up!

  3. I’m among the vocal bunch who never wanted this film in the first place. Whether that makes me a monster or not, I cannot judge, but the fact this film succeeded in the face of such opposition is, frankly, surprising. One wonders whether its mediocrity will generate interest in a sequel, and although I suspect the law of diminishing returns won’t work in Sony’s favour, there’s an argument to be had that the box-office return is enough to warrant such an investment. What I’m keen to examine is whether or not this was just a fluke, or whether there are enough people keen to see a Villainverse (so to speak) from this studio without the core heroes they sprang from. I’m still in denial about that, but if it works, I’ll shut up and enjoy.

    (I hope it doesn’t work tho)

    • I don’t think the idea of movies centered around villains is a bad idea. The problem is that in order for them to work properly, you need strong writing in terms of script and character development. You also need to have film-makers and a movie studio that truly understand the character they’re making the movie for. Venom didn’t really have any of that. The only real reason that a lot of people enjoyed certain parts of the movie were because of Tom Hardy’s performance, but even one person’s performance cannot carry a movie that is hindered by sub-standard writing. I’ll be honest: I’m very curious to see if they can correct the mistakes made in the first movie with a sequel. You never know. Some sequels have ended up being much better than the original film.

    • I really wanted this to be good and there are some promising things here. I feel if they could get a better script things could work. We shall see.

  4. I think Sony had a choice – either copy marvel or jump on the Deadpool bandwagon but by choosing to satisfy both, it somehow completely misses the mark!

      • It would have been better for Sony to jump on the Deadpool bandwagon. The film would still have been successful and not divided the audience as much. Deadpool and Logan proved that there IS a market for hard R-rated Marvel movies. That being said, considering the weak script that the movie had, I seriously doubt that an R-rating would have helped. Venom reminds me a lot of Alien Vs. Predator. An enjoyable romp that ultimately didn’t live up to the hype and was sabotaged by a studio that was trying to appeal to everyone. But by doing that, it ultimately ended up pissing everyone off. I keep seeing it happen and nobody seems to learn from it.

      • 100% agree the R-rating not curing the film’s script woes. I don’t mind the ratings but I’m not a fan of writing towards an R-rating. That said this did looked like an example of a movie that would have benefitted by having more of an edge.

      • Certainly agree here – Hardys performance would have been far more enjoyable if it hadn’t been for the fact that everyone else in the film were going in the completely opposite direction!

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