Venom: We… are Venom!
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
When I first heard Sony was going to be making a Venom movie I was honestly curious. Venom is without a doubt one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes in the comics. He had quite the stories in them and I was interested in just how Sony would be able to bring those stories to the big screen. Then I saw Tom Hardy was going to be playing the lead and I was honestly curious about the choice but that hope still remained. But I was also a tad skeptical considering Sony had already tried to portray Venom on the big screen once with Raimi’s third Spider-Man movie back in 2007 and that portrayal was AWFUL! Well upon seeing this movie I can say it’s definitely better than the 2007 version…but only just.
The story involves journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) trying to bring down founder of the Life Foundation Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). A faulty interview ruins his career and leaves his life in shambles. That is until six months later he comes across the Life Foundation again and while investigating Drake’s experiments finds himself merged with an alien known as Venom giving him superhuman strength and making him into a parasitic anti-hero. Venom fueled by rage and darkness tries to control the new abilities that his host is frightened by.
So, let’s talk about the good stuff first because there is some good to be found in this movie. Tom Hardy’s portrayal is a huge step up from Topher Grace as the character particularly in having to do double duty in playing Brock and voicing Venom. His physical acting in particular is goofy but it goes all out to make Eddie Brock an entertaining character and definitely carries the movie. And then there’s Venom himself who when has a very well looking design both on his own and on Brock, has a great voice, and some moderately good effects.
Sadly though the good news ends there and there are no shortage of criticisms to be made about this movie. For starters the directing is bad when it comes to the action department. At first there’s a pretty well-done chase scene between Eddie and the security of the Life Foundation. There’s a car chase scene where Venom takes over for the first time with a good blend of CGI and stunt work although the idea of the drones felt out of place like the creators were stuck between the two. And the action scenes from there on out are just a bunch of muddled CG that it’s difficult to make out and eventually it almost becomes the action mirroring a Michael Bay movie.
While Michelle Williams’ talents were fine in this movie and her character was more than just a mere love interest but there’s nothing making it unique but the character of Anne Weying felt like it was written as stock, was a tad too stiff, and like the tone didn’t gel with other parts of the movie. Add this problem to the fact that she and Hardy don’t have much in the way of chemistry and it makes for a relationship difficult to root for or believe. As I said before Riz Ahmed was fine given what he had to work with but towards the end became little more than a cookie cutter villain. Both these two walk a line between not being horrible and not being amazing.
The movie is rather uneven in many ways. It wants to have a dark and grim tone but occasionally goes for some light humor. It tries to be superhero action, horror, and buddy comedy. And sadly these three don’t mesh together. Brock’s interactions with Venom and the drama with his girlfriend feel like a buddy comedy. But Venom’s slang and jokes don’t feel right coming out of Tom Hardy’s computerized voice. I’ve already mentioned the lack of believable chemistry between Weying and Hardy but also there’s the relationship between Eddie and Venom. Venom claims at one point that the two have formed a strong friendship even though they constantly are at odds, disagreeing with one another, and Eddie spends the majority of his time trying to get away from him. The horror doesn’t work because you can tell this was intended to be rated R but the way Venom feeds on flesh and bites people’s heads off it’s kind of hard to leave an impression when the movie goes all out in being PG-13.
Also while I’m not an extreme comic book purist and you definitely have to compromise certain elements when it comes to adapting a comic book story to the big screen and that really no Spider-Man movie is completely comic accurate, when you consider the backstories of Eddie Brock, Venom, and by extension Anne becoming She-Venom in the comics compared to this (I’m not going to go into details), they could have been really interesting and even downright heartbreaking. And I get that it’s best to look at what a movie is rather than what you wish it could be but what it is, is disappointing.
At the end of the day this is not a great movie considering so much of what could have been. You have Tom Hardy doing well in portraying Brock and Venom that it’s not so much painfully bad as much as just disappointing. It feels like it could be so much more with its horror and action and maybe if it just opted for those two. If you’re not a fan of Spider-Man this is relatively harmless. But if you are this muddled adventure is just one big middle finger to what could have been a fascinating story of Eddie and his girlfriend losing themselves while battling their literal inner demons. But who knows? There are plans for Venom. Maybe things will get better?