Let’s get real here for a bit: Shooting for a Venom movie (let alone a good Venom movie) without Spider-Man was probably the worst thing Sony could think of since releasing the Amazing Spider-Man 2. Sure, they could do it, but to paraphrase the great Dr. Ian Malcom said; “You were so preoccupied with whether could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.” And boy oh boy. They absolutely should not have. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to go in loving this film, I love the character of Venom and I’ve wanted him to have his own film since before Spider-Man 3. But after watching this, and hearing how Sony wants to push these Spider-Man characters without the main attraction itself? I’d rather have nothing.
Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer, stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock; an investigative reporter whom pushes a little too far on our antagonist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and loses his job, home, and fiancé Anne Weying (a thankless role for Michelle Williams). After this little incident, and some more snooping around (thanks to Jenny Slate’s Dr. Skirth, who is also mostly wasted) Eddie comes into contact with the symbiote in question, and its not long before their bounding across rooftops and bickering with one another. If you’re looking for a story, that’s where it ends. No struggle between man and alien to properly co-exist with one another. No analysis on the struggle of two beings trying to exist as one, nothing. If anything, Venom is largely devoid of any plot whatsoever. Things just happen from one scene to the next with no real discernable weight or value to them.
But before I get too negative, lets reflect on some of the positive. And mainly that goes to Tom Hardy himself. His committee performance is the best part about this movie (and any other movie for that matter) as both Eddie Brock and Venom. While his Eddie isn’t some musclebound jerk who lies for stories like in the comics he does come across as a lovable, if oddballish dimwit. I know that’s a rather confusing description, so instead I’ll say this: He reminds me entirely too much of Nicolas Cage from Ghost Rider. No there’s no insane instance of Hardy downing a bowl of M&Ms to Looney Toons, but there is a rather insane sequence of him relaxing in a tank full of lobsters, while eating said lobsters and speaking gibberish to his Ex-Fiancé Anne. It’s remarkably ridiculous to see Hardy partake in such silliness, and yet he sells it with everything he’s got. This continues once he gets talking to Venom himself, and specifically where the film becomes funnier. Their back and forth banter are that of a buddy cop film that leads to a lot of laughs, especially when Venom remarks that Eddie is a “pussy” for taking an elevator. It also wouldn’t be out of the question to see some queer subtext going on as well, with Eddie remarking how the symbiotes “come out of asses” on more than one occasion. Now maybe I’m reading a little too much into it, and giving the writers (Jeff Pinkne and Scott Rosenberg) too much credit, but hey, I did say I’d talk about the positive. And to be fair that’s kind of where it ends.
If anything, Venom’s greatest sin is how goddamn generic it is. It honestly would fit right next to Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four in terms how the early version of super(anti[?]) hero origins films panned out. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that line of thinking, but in an age where even DC can make Wonder Woman’s origin film unique, it surprises me how much Sony is pushing Venom to be the start of their own Spider-Man-less cinematic universe and not make it be somewhat special. The film follows the basic plot thread of Eddie getting his powers, fighting both hired goons and cops, rejecting his powers, and then coming back to save the day. In the early 2000’s film I mentioned above, at least two of them deal with said protagonists controlling their powers to save the day. Here, Eddie just fucking wings it causes he’s only now finding out (in the third act no less) what Drake/Riot (there is another symbiote in the film) intends to do. And even then, Drake (an Elon Musk-with-a-god complex) doesn’t formulate his evil plan until probably 10-15 minutes before the credit rolls. It makes absolutely zero sense. And the climatic fight that follows is such a mess of CGI, that I can’t understand who thought it was a great idea to have a black glob fight another eviler silver glob. It’s messy as Hell and makes for a rather drab cap on an already dull movie.
It’s been said that Venom was originally supposed to be an R rated feature, but only weeks ago was revealed to be PG-13. I’m not sure if making it R would have made a better film, but it certainly would have made a more entertaining one considering how many heads are eaten. Even bigger than that is how this film could have leaned into being an October creature feature but instead settles for being your average FX Thursday night movie. I wish I liked this movie; Hell, I wish Venom got a more deserving movie than Sony once again rushing to have something rather than nothing. In better hands, maybe Venom could have been this years Upgrade. A violent, action horror flick that shows the struggle between man and monster. Jeez I wonder who could pull that off (Looks in the direction of Guillermo del Toro)? Sadly, though we got what Sony put out, and while I’d like to think we won’t get a sequel to this; if the last two years have proven; anything can happen. And I don’t mean that in a good way. For now, I recommend avoiding this like “a turd in the wind”.