Sony did the right thing by letting Marvel Studios help shape a new Spider-Man and allow it to breathe in its Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Sony is still hush-hush on whether Venom will exist in the same universe as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, it’s evident about half way into the movie that Sony should have let Marvel Studios help shape the alien symbiote and its host. If people thought the 2007 iteration of the Venom character seen in Spider-Man 3 was bad, then just wait until they get a load of this one. Not even A-list star Tom Hardy, playing the host of a liquid-like form, is enough to save this new version of the character. Lazy, tone deaf, and laughable on just about every front, Venom isn’t a bad movie because it’s so bad it’s good, or that it feels like a movie from the early 2000’s, or that it’s rated PG-13 instead of R. It’s a bad movie because it’s just bad in every way, shape, and form.
Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, 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. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
As far as origin stories goes, Venom’s is about as unimaginative as they come. We meet Eddie Brock, who’s not exactly the best journalist, as he investigates a foundation who uses humans as guinea pigs for their tests and that also researches the symbiote that gives new purpose to Eddie’s life. The set-up leading to Eddie and the alien symbiote forming a bond to become the long-tongued beast is one of the biggest issues with the movie. Not only is it long and tedious, but it also takes almost an hour to get to what viewers are waiting for: their first full look at Venom; the movie itself is 90 minutes long before the credits roll. Once Venom appears, the movie becomes a different animal, as it morphs into a CGI conglomerate mess with an imbalance in tone coupled with even more poor story decisions.
Sony has been promoting Venom with the tagline, “The world has enough superheroes.” For a movie that’s supposed to instill darkness with its characters and a moody setting that are all supposed to reflect anything but light, it’s odd that Eddie and his alien counterpart are anything but dark. We’re supposed to feel sympathetic to this guy, his life, and his efforts at doing the right thing? Venom is portrayed exactly like Batman, but with the notable exception that Venom kills bad people. The first couple of times the symbiote talks to Eddie as they try forming a bond, the conversations generate chuckles as the alien is hungry and demands food. Unfortunately, it turns into a running joke, and as is the case with most running jokes, it quickly becomes annoying. It seems painfully obvious that Venom may have been greenlit off the first draft of a script in need of some revisions to help with the tonal issues.
The only slight highlight in the movie is a chase scene involving a motorcycle and the symbiote helping Eddie escape. Other than that, the CGI-heavy action sequences involving Eddie and Venom are hit or miss, like whenever the liquid-like form is separate from Eddie or whenever the symbiote is by itself. And when Venom goes head-to-head with another symbiote, it’s an eyesore.
Sometimes, A-list actors like Tom Hardy can salvage movies like this by at least selling it to audiences that they (the actors) are invested in the roles they are playing; however, Hardy looks anything but committed to the role of Eddie. Maybe it’s the script or maybe he’s just here only to make Venom for his kid (true story). Either way, his character comes off as bizarre and uninteresting, whether he’s trying to be a journalist, screaming as the symbiote attaches itself to him, or giving into the symbiote. Other great actors are wasted in Venom as well. Michelle Williams is by the book as Eddie’s girlfriend (fun side note: it was revealed last week that the only reason she signed up for Venom was because of Tom Hardy) Riz Ahmed, a promising young talent, is wasted as a prototypical antagonist running an evil corporation, and Jenny Slate is just there as a scientist trying to do the right thing.
Everything you can imagine going wrong in Venom went wrong. Some might call it fascinating while others might call it entertaining. But there’s no beating around the bush that Venom is another prime example of a company trying to reap the benefits of a hot property/genre without having any idea of how to deliver quality and sustaining the interest of its audience for the future. We saw it with Warner Brothers’ DC Extended Universe (minus Wonder Woman) and the writing is on the wall at Sony, who hopes that Venom is the beginning of a Spider-Man villain universe for years to come. If Sony is smart, they will take a step back after the release of Venom and course correct this new universe while it’s still early. As Eddie and his alien symbiote say in an attempt to put a stamp on the comic book movie landscape, “We are Venom.” Unfortunately, audiences likely will respond with laughter and reply with, “We don’t care.”