I almost don’t even know where to start when it comes to reviewing Venom. Sony’s newest debacle that everyone who knew better saw coming a mile away turned out to be even worse than I had anticipated. The main thing that needs to be said right off the bat is that Venom is NOT a Marvel Studios production, it is a Sony production of a Marvel Comics character. I will get into this a bit more as this MAJOR difference is pretty much the biggest reason Venom turned out as badly as it did. My thoughts are all over the place on this so let me try to streamline them and get this thing started!
Here is the quick synopsis of Venom
“Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) , the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. ”
The Elephant In The Room aka The Spider-Man Problem
I can’t begin getting into the actual film without getting into Venom’s biggest issue, Spider-Man. Venom/Eddie Brock is a character who’s origin is tied to Spider-Man in such a way that when you remove Spider-Man from the equation, Venom/Eddie Brock lose their main reason for being. In the comics as you may or may not know, the black alien suit initially bonds with Spider-Man until he rejects it when he discovers it is more than just a fancy suit, but actually a living creature trying to slowly take over his mind and body. This happens after Eddie Brock (who is a journalist for the Daily Bugle) is outed by Spider-Man for falsely cracking the case of the murderous Sin Eater, leading to his ruin and leading him to eventually contemplating suicide in a church, the same church where Spider-Man finally is able to reject and remove the black suit. Feeling betrayed by it’s rejection, the suit then bonds with Eddie, who learns from it Spider-Man’s secret identity and the two flourish over their mutual hatred of Spider-Man. That hatred is INTEGRAL to the character of Venom and leads to some of his best moments. Take that away and his motivation and reason for being becomes pretty thin, especially in an ORIGIN film. So where is Spider-Man you may ask? Well Spider-Man is lucky enough to be spared from this affair by currently being firmly planted in Marvel Studios own Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know the one, it is home to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther and just made 4 billion dollars this year alone off 3 films. Sony unfortunately owns the rights to produce Spider-Man films due to the fact that Marvel back in the day sold those rights and others to various film studios. However this is where things just get silly, only a few years ago Sony themselves coming fresh off their botched attempt at creating a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe with the dreadful mess that was Amazing Spider-Man 2 realized they seriously needed a course change and opted to wisely partner up with Marvel Studios. The deal which made most fans and sane people rejoice meant that Spider-Man could finally take his place where he belongs with his other Marvel counterparts in the MCU. This lead to Sony giving up creative control to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and his team who have now blessed us with well received, fan favorite, scene stealing Spider-Man appearances in Captain America Civil War, Avengers Infinity War and of course his own critically and commercially successful first entry into the MCU canon Homecoming. This of course meant that Spider-Man’s adventures now take place there, but Sony for whatever reason wasn’t happy enough to just sit back and collect money and good will. Instead they and by THEY I mean producers Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach and to a lesser extent here, Amy Pascal decided that they want to STILL create this Spider-Man-less spinoff universe utilizing characters that should be left for Marvel Studios to integrate into their Spider-Man films. They failed at this once trying to speed through it without earning it with Amazing Spider-Man 2 and ended up ruining the film while trying to shoehorn in everything they could just to set up the next spinoff. It didn’t work then, and lo and behold with most of the same cooks in the kitchen….it didn’t work now. Though I am glad that Sony could not utilize Tom Holland’s MCU Spider-Man in this film, because that would taint him and the MCU and no we (and Marvel) don’t want anything to do with this.
Generic Plot is Generic
With any story pertaining to Spider-Man off the table it was up to Sony to come up with a compelling origin story for Eddie Brock and the Symbiote to bond and become Venom. However, Sony and their gaggle of writers did not do that and what we get is a generic and boring tale of down on his luck journalist Eddie Brock versus a generic mad scientist Carlton Drake. Drake is trying to “save the world” by bonding symbiotes he somehow acquired from outer space with unwilling human test subjects. The problem is none of the symbiotes seem to “take” to their human hosts and it results in the humans and or the symbiotes dying. It’s all really dumb and hurts my head if I think about it. That is actually true, trying to write about this film is giving me a headache because it’s so all over the place. Eddie Brock doesn’t acquire the symbiote in any sort of meaningful way and we are never told why HE was so special other than because he is the main character, but I guess that means when later in the film other symbiotes bond to other people, we are also never told why it works other than that the symbiotes must have known they needed to work so the paper thin plot can progress. I wont go into spoiler territory but if you have seen the trailers you know there is a Symbiote versus Symbiote battle near the climax and the motivation behind the villain becomes even sillier towards the end and the abundant lapses in logic become borderline insulting to the viewer. In a film that is only 90 minutes (not the 2 hours plus that googling a run time would have you believe) I guess the plot would need to be that simple but that doesn’t make it GOOD. Don’t get me started on the subplot of how one of the symbiotes travels from Malaysia to San Fran…
Good Cast Phone Home
At one point Eddie Brock drops a silly E.T. reference, sadly in Venom it wasn’t E.T. phoning home but instead most of the very small yet usually great cast phoning in their performances. Riz Ahmed who has been good in mostly everything I have seen him in, sleep walks through the film as Carlton Drake, providing us with one of the dullest and most non threatening villain performances I can think of in recent memory. Every word out of his mouth is something you have heard some evil science guy in every other film with evil science guys say before. While the script isn’t doing him any favors he literally brings NOTHING to this role that will make you remember anything he said or did. Similarly Michelle Williams is so miscast here it hurts, She plays Anne, Eddie’s love interest and fiance’ however their chemistry is non existent and she just simply does not belong in this film. I never believe in anything she says in this film and I get the feeling that’s because she doesn’t either. Every time she shows up on screen it just felt completely awkward. Two other minor roles are filled in by Reid Scott (Veep) and Jenny Slate (Bob’s Burgers) . Scott is part of a love triangle subplot as a Doctor who tries to help Eddie and Anne, and he actually comes off as likable but at one critical point in the film he just disappears from the film and is never heard from again. Slate is also plays a Doctor (of something) (everyone is a Doctor in this film!) who works for Ahmed’s Drake character and is involved with the symbiote testing. It’s funny because for being a doctor who was hired in this fancy facility by some evil genius she easily has some of the dumbest moments in the film, and by that I mean her character literally does some of the dumbest things possible to help progress the plot. It’s eye roll inducing that no one who wrote or directed this didn’t think of better ways to accomplish the things her buffoonery sets in motion. Speaking of buffoonery lets talk about Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock. Now Tom Hardy can be a great actor, I have no clue what the inspiration was here for his bizarre performance in this film, but it was puzzling to say the least. It is almost as if he reprised his role from the 2014 film The Drop only goofier. I just did not understand the choice to make Eddie Brock this weird, twitchy guy, even if you are trying to visually portray that he is being taken over by an alien life form. It for me is a far cry from the Eddie Brock I grew up reading and the entire time it’s mostly a distraction. At time Hardy is certainly likable and funny but again, those are not qualities I would consider to be part of the character. That being said, for those that don’t know Eddie from the comic books, this is still just a bad decision to play the character this way…now discussing another part of that character brings us to…
Visually I thought they did a pretty good job with Venom himself and when he was on screen it was at least cool to see one of my favorite character brought to life, even though at times the cgi may sketchy. the problem with Venom is that in the end it’s not the character I grew up loving past how he looks, Some of the symbiotes behavior and his dialogue was good and some of it was so far off what it should have been, then I felt like at times it’s relationship with eddie was okay but others it was FAR too one sided, because in the books it’s supposed to be a SYMBIOTIC relationship where they both do things, but in this for most of it, it just felt like Eddie was his puppet and it was played for laughs a lot of times. I don’t want one of my favorite villains and yes at times anti-hero’s (which is how hes played here) to be a punchline. So yeah Venom looks cool and on occasion acts like Venom but overall it’s not the best representation of the character especially for audiences, but again this stems from the symbiote having a horrible motivation as well, which to be honest, I still don’t know what it was supposed to be, because there is no Spider-Man to hate, so maybe in this his motivation was to become a comedian or something because it’s honestly all so vague and all over the place. We don’t know why he bonded with Eddie, we dont know why he loves earth, oh yeah he decides he likes earth and tells Eddie it’s because of him but that makes zero sense since Eddie doesn’t do anything worth a damn in this movie other than act like a sweaty weirdo)
LET ME WRAP THIS UP
So this is the bottom line when it comes to Venom, it’s a poorly put together movie, I would bring up director Ruben Fleischer but this honestly feels like he may have had done to him what Marc Webb did on the Amazing Spider-Man films. Maybe it is fitting since the movie felt like the director was simply there to film things while the producers pulled all the strings behind the scenes, just like the way this version of Eddie Brock was puppeted around by the Symbiote. You just never get the sense of any sort of cohesive vision, from the writing, to the actors performances, to the tones of the film which change from minute to minute, so no wonder everyone feels like they are in different films. Nothing about Venom feels coherent, nothing about it feels important to one another, it’s just a film that rushes from scene to scene and by doing so you never really care about anything, there are no stakes, there is no suspense, the action scenes feel more like they are there just because they needed an action scene at that point in the movie instead of organically being part of the story and I use the word story LOOSELY. Everything feels pointless here, you know Sony wants this to be a hit because they want Venom to be the spearhead and eventual focal point of their Spider-Man-less Universe with their plans for other Spinoffs of characters who dont work without Spider-Man. There is a good solo Venom story to tell, as the comics have plenty but this ain’t it. This is another jumbled mess from Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach and Amy Pascal who haven’t made a truly good Spider-Man related film without the help of Marvel Studios since Spider-Man 2. They need to be removed from any future Marvel related projects if Sony insists on following through on their threats of more movies. You would think they would learn but they haven’t and this is why the movie is no good, because it is made for all the wrong reasons.The only good that may come of this is that Sony realizes they keep failing and getting critically ripped apart and they give up on trying to create half assed Marvel films that will go nowhere. Plenty of people out there love Venom and want a movie about him, but not this movie, not by a long shot.
P.S. If you still insist on seeing this movie, be sure to stay for the mid credits scene so you can laugh at one of the worst wigs ever committed to film.