Going into Venom, I was expecting an utter disaster based on the early reviews of the film. Maybe it was due to lower expectations but by the end the film wasn’t the dumpster fire as expected. That also doesn’t mean it’s good either.
Based on the Marvel character created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane (with Randy Schueller, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Mike Zeck, and Ron Frenz all credited as creating the alien symbiote) the anti-hero gets the spotlight after debuting in the rightfully maligned Spider-Man 3. Two reboots later, SONY is still trying to figure out what it’s doing with its Spider-Man universe of characters and this is the first film in that world to headline someone not Spider-Man.
While the concept of going in that direction is good, and could work, Venom is quite a few steps back from the excellent Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact it’s a few decades back in quality. The film stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock who’s a journalist fired after taking a story too far. Hardy provides his usual attempt at playing American, and his performance is similar to that of his role in Warrior (actually a great film). He mumbles his lines in a gruff and most of his emotion is in how he moves his head side to side. Eventually he bonds with an alien creature who uses its host like a parasite, except in this case the two form a solid bond that works. This creature gives Brock extraordinary powers like rapid healing, though that’s never quite explained as to how. And, that’s part of the problem with the film. Venom has a lot going right for it but it tends to also just throw a lot out there that asks you to just go with it.
The villain of the film is an Elon Musk type character named Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed. Drake sees humanity as being on the brink of destruction and wants to use the alien symbiotes to head to the stars. The alien symbiotes want to invade Earth and destroy it. Why? That’s never really explained. Drake’s plan is just an example of how thin the plot of the film is. Why does he need the aliens when he can just use space suits? Why do the aliens want to invade? Is Drake’s thought process basically Thanos’ issues with existence?
The film begs you to not think too hard as it bounces from one action sequence to the next but what’s frustrating is the film shows a lot of promise just no coherent vision or indication the creators behind it understood what worked and what didn’t.
The relationship between Eddie and Venom is solid though Hardy at times plays it up too much for laughs. Again, that’s another indication the film didn’t know what it wanted to be. There’s an addict/abuser relationship there and when that’s explored, it’s solid. Venom is also a bogeyman showing up out of the shadows and when the movie is filmed like that, it works. The perfect example is a fight scene between Venom and the San Francisco SWAT where smoke obscures much of the action and police are pulled and thrown around by the unknown force. Shot mostly from their perspective there’s a horror element that really works.
But, the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. The PG-13 rating and focus on scatological humor indicate the studio in the end the younger set of viewers was the way to go instead of a more adult R-rated film that could have been much more mature. A back and forth about the symbiotes being up asses seems to point to that decision.
There’s also the sense the cast knew they were making a turd of a film. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s love interest and seems to be phoning it in most of the film. Jenny Slate is a scientist who you never get a sense that she’s anything but a fill in scientist and plot devise. There’s no emotion for what should be a really emotional role.
Add in so much to overlook (Drake’s facility really has bad security) and the film borderlines campy in how bad it is at times. The special fx doesn’t help matters though the final battle again shows what could have been. It’s almost like they blew their budget on a few sequences.
With a few tweaks the film could have been excellent but it comes off as one that doesn’t know what it wants to be and screams issues behind the scenes to deliver a final product. For the second film in SONY’s Spider-Man universe (With few things to connect the two. Really, you couldn’t say Daily Bugle!?) it’s so many steps back you almost expect a reboot of everything… again.
This is one to watch on tv so you don’t waste your dollars but it’s one to see once. Just once. There’s potential there and hopefully we get a sequel with a vision as to what to do because it’s pretty clear this is just a turd fluttering in the wind.
Overall Rating: 6