A Venom film has been in development for over a decade following Spider-Man 3 (2007), with various directors, actors, and scripts being attached, rumored, or written. At first, it was going to be a potentially R rated, gritty film, but now, having been finally made and released, it’s more of a goofy, watered down, PG-13, superhero, horror-ish film with Tom Hardy in the title role as the arrogant journalist, Eddie Brock. Brock, also known as Venom, acquires the powers of the symbiote, an alien life force sent to earth by a spaceship. The film falls apart when applying just about everything to it (narrative, characters, editing), but does contain a terrifically entertaining performance from Tom Hardy, who is just fantastic and weird playing both roles.
Tom Hardy is the main reason to see Venom. He oozes with charisma and comes into every situation like he hasn’t a care in the world, and why should he? He’s got a nearly indestructible parasite attached to him. His accent and mannerisms are almost Bane-like (his character in The Dark Knight Rises, 2012) at points. It’s also interesting to see a film with such a jerk protagonist, a fired TV reporter, whose life is falling apart, even if the film ultimately doesn’t follow through it all that particularly well.
Venom fails, in large part, due to its supporting cast and story. Outside of Tom Hardy,, the supporting cast is rather anonymous. Even Michelle Williams (who was at least honest in admitting she did the film for cash), feels rather perfunctory as Brock’s ex-girlfriend, Anne Weying. Meanwhile, Riz Ahmed is wasted as the main villain, a blatantly evil businessman, who wants the symbiote for his own nefarious purpose. The rest of the supporting cast is almost a complete blank to me otherwise. I noticed Jenny Slate as a scientist, Scott Haze as Anne’s new boyfriend, and Melora Walters as a homeless women.
There are some funny parts, however. My audience, in particular, got a chuckle out of the symbiote constantly mocking Brock, and reminding him of how alike they really are. The film tries to go for a modern day, superhero aesthetic halfway through, and that’s where the film really falters tone-wise. Going from a watered down, PG-13, horror film to a movie where Venom is ultimately the hero, is quite jarring. The first half is actually kind of interesting, but once Brock gets possessed by the symbiote, it takes quite the left turn and never comes back. In some ways, this both frustrates and delights me at the same time, especially since some of my favorite moments in the film come from Tom Hardy being crazy while being possessed. It’s like a sideshow freak attraction.
Aside from a reference to John Jameson (J. John Jameson’s son from Spider-Man), taken straight from the comics, the film is entirely devoid of Spider-Man references. Unsurprising, given that Sony made the film with the intent that it was going to divorced from Spider-Man or The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), however, now given this film’s success, who's to say that they won’t change their minds in the sequel. That doesn’t annoy me, since I expected it, but it does remind me eerily of Catwoman (2004), of which other critics have compared Venom to and a slew of other Comic Book Films.
Even the musical score by Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther, 2018) score is, unfortunately, very generic. If there’s any reason to see this film, it is because of Tom Hardy for some amusing moments. The rest of the movie gets a big fat “eh” from me.
Now playing in Lebanon at Entertainment Cinemas Monday - Thursday at 3:10 and 6:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at 12:05, 3:10, 6:30, and 9:30 PM, Sunday at 3:10, and 6:30 PM.