Venom is… well… a lot of things but the movie isn’t that bad. The problem is it isn’t good either. When this movie was first announced my immediate reaction was as follows:
“But, why? Can Venom even work without being tied to Spider-Man?”
After sitting down and getting to know Sony’s version of Eddie Brock and the (don’t call him parasite) symbiote Venom I was able to answer at least one of my questions. No. A Venom origin story just flat out doesn’t work without Spider-Man. The only way it could work is if you turn the idea of what a movie about an anti-hero is and flip it on its head and make something wildly original and groundbreaking. Spoiler alert: that is the total opposite of what Venom is, but there is one aspect of the movie that makes me think this could lead to an interesting sequel if Sony chooses to accentuate the small amount of good and ignore the big pile of not so good that was Venom.
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The movie circles around Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his inability to care about anyone but himself. Brock’s insatiable urge to expose injustice ends up costing him his job, his fiance Anne (Michelle Williams), and puts him on the radar of business juggernaut Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) who is trying to merge symbiotes and humans for some reason. Yes, they explain it but it makes very little sense so it really isn’t worth mentioning here. Just as an aside, most of the cast repeatedly tells us that Drake is crazy but there is very little evidence of that in Ahmed’s performance. The people around Drake refer to him as crazy or some variant of that at least 10 times in the film, but Drake comes off as more of a slightly overbearing Ted Talk presenter than a supervillain.
Another issue is that the main theme throughout the movie is redemption but one of the main hallmarks of a redemption story is making the audience care about the person rising from the ashes. Brock’s fall happens fast. So fast that it doesn’t actually give you the opportunity to care that all of these bad things are happening to Brock (even though every single one of them is his fault). The lack of time spent fleshing out the relationship between Anne and Brock was a huge misstep. The trials Brock faces later in the movie would have held a hell of a lot more weight if there was even just one throwaway line to drive home the connection between Anne and Brock.
I could go on and on about the bad in the movie. I could mention Hardy’s… well interesting choice of accents. Seriously, does anyone know what Hardy’s voice actually sounds like? Hardy for all his talent takes some insanely wide swings when it comes to accents and his performance here is no different. I spotted at least three different variations by Hardy in the first act alone.
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The one saving grace here was the interplay between Brock and Venom. Once the two bond, the back in forth between them added an element to the movie that it was sorely lacking: actual fun. The symbiotic relationship (don’t look at me like that. My bad pun power level is well over 9000, damn it!) between Brock and Venom is much like that of a classic buddy cop film. At one point, I wanted Brock to yell out he was getting too old for this shit, just to really drive home that classic movie dynamic. In reality, if Sony was dead set on not connecting this to Spider-Man the move would have been to make this 48 Hours with aliens… and Tom Hardy.
The action in Venom is interesting but far from revolutionary. The CGI was spotty at times (particularly at the start of the film) but passable overall. One major issue was in the final act of the film when Venom was fighting fellow symbiote Riot. With the final act taking place at night, the tone of both Venom and Riot’s skin is so dark and muted it made it difficult to see who was who and who was doing what during certain parts of the final fight. The final act itself was satisfying from the standpoint of getting to see (when you could actually see, that is) what both symbiotes could do, but none of it is anything we haven’t seen in various other action movies as well.
The Final Word->
At its core, Venom is so staggeringly unoriginal that it takes away from the things in the movie that actually worked. With all the negatives, I would actually still recommend this movie. Why? Even with all of the bad, the interplay with Brock and Venom, and what happens in the first after credit scene, is enough to make the idea of a sequel to this mess someone what intriguing. Sony would need to take everything but Brock and Venom and scrap it and make a totally different movie for Venom 2. Take 48 Hours and mix it with a sprinkle of Thor Ragnorak and you will have what this movie should have been: a fun horror-comedy movie about two buddies that are a lot alike except one has a habit of biting people’s heads off when he is hungry. Now that is a movie we can all get behind. I’ll give you that one for free, Sony. The next one is gonna cost you.