Vlogger Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) exposes the worst of humanity on the news, radio and the internet. But his journalistic instincts get the best of him while interviewing Life Foundation CEO, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He’s fired from his job, his fiancé, Anne (Michelle Williams) cuts him loose and he drinks his woes away until a scientist (Jenny Slate) gives him a lead on human experimentation with a space species known as the symbiotes. Caught up in one of the human trials, Eddie is infected with the alien and now fights the company that’s out to capture him and the parasite on the inside.
Being a huge Spider-Man fan, as evident by the score of the recent Playstation 4 game, it’s hard to decide what’s more underwhelming. The portrayal of the anti-hero in Spider-Man 3, or the fact this new version doesn’t acknowledge the character’s true origins. In the former’s very little defense, Venom can’t exist without the web-slinger in any media. But willing to go along with the different direction (Ruben Fleischer also helmed Zombieland), was there more to this after peeling back the negative publicity? Depends on your appetite for Jill Sandwiches.
The intent for this horror tale was to give off a Jekyll and Hyde vibe, but this feels more like Penn and Teller with so many unintentionally funny moments overshadowing the gruesome decapitations. Who at the studio thought frozen tater tots and a restaurant pool party would equal something on the level of the Xenomorph in space or Jason at Camp Crystal Lake? This isn’t Venom it’s a mediocre satire of The Three Stooges. While he was portrayed more comedically in the original PlayStation game once upon a time, that’s barely cannon in the long run. This is supposed to be the authentic, scary stand alone entry. Which it does anything but, after once again falling prey to the cinematic universe bug. There is so much set-up for the next movie that it never wants to live up to the hype of its own popularity. Something that’s becoming an increasing problem with franchises: making the introduction a conveyer belt product overstuffed with sequel bait. Is there a cheat code to skip the exposition and just get to the action? If so, then the PG-13 restraints won’t satisfy the die hard fans that this is supposed to cater to. No blood, no guts and not enough on screen deaths. This is an anti-hero, right?
Speaking of which, the pacing takes a hit in what can only be described as last minute butchering. The first five minutes alone jumps from Easter egg to Easter egg and there’s barely any time to breathe and take in the story. There’s a couple banters between Eddie and the symbiote, but the rest of the development was probably banished to the editing room where the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League never saw the light of day.
When it comes to Tom Hardy, the circus writing overpowers his commitment to the role. His romance with Michelle Williams is flat and the awkward accent doesn’t fit with his beefed up muscles. The villain has more chemistry with him, and he’s just as generic as the phase two rogues gallery in the successful cinematic universe. Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg deserve credit for trying to develop Eddie beyond his one note thug biography, but the execution and studio interference weighs down all the good intentions.
In the end the symbiotes and Venom himself are the only things given proper development. Their species is fully established and their movements feel very otherworldly. But even that doesn’t escape Lewis Carol logic concerning the rules of the species. Why is Eddie different other than his plot armor when dozens of humans died for not being an equal host? When Venom himself is on screen, that’s when things really picks up. The tongue, the bulky stature, the voice and especially the powers feed into anyone’s inner fanbase. It’s also where the effects are at their best between the reveal and the final battle. It’s too bad the editing cuts his screen time short and his body count in the single digits.
Did Sony try to adapt the comic (Left) or the original Playstation game (Right)?
Comic book movies have had their drawn cinematography translated with ease to the screen, but this isn’t one of those cases. Every shot is infected with a camera with hair gel on the lens blurring all the colors. All without the 3D glasses. The action thankfully survives with the bright lights and big explosions even if the shaky camera wins the thumb war.
There are far worse movies this year in the long run, but Venom doesn’t do itself any favors in the final product. Hardy has the muscle, but he’s written very awkwardly alongside the villain and there’s too much set-up for a sequel when more focus on the duality would’ve been more than enough for fans and the general audience. The PG-13 restraints really hinder what would’ve been another fresh take on (to quote the trailer) the oversaturated superhero market. If three R rated movies made enough money to rival Black Panther, what was stopping this? At the moment you should decide for yourself if this is worth watching whether or not you follow the gossip. After all there’s been a drought of Marvel Studios content ever since the infamous Thanos snap back in April, which would explain one reason why it’s still raking in the box-office numbers. If you’re looking for a more cohesive and self-defined action spectacle dealing with a split personality, this year saw the release of Upgrade which was accused of being a Venom clone. For me, this deserves to be tossed in the phantom zone along with every adaptation of the Fantastic Four.
But here’s a message to the studio that might end this on a more sour note. Sony, stop trying to build a cinematic universe. There are only so many times movie goers can stomach the reset button before their patience wears thin. It takes too long to set up (Avengers took four years) and if it doesn’t take off in the first place, it takes even longer to try again. Sell the rights to Disney so they can use their creativity to properly adapt the character. And to any of the executives who think they can’t handle it, if Howard the Duck can have one funny line in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, anything can happen.