Venom is one of those iconic characters in Marvel that, like the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, or Ghost Rider, hasn’t had much success on the big screen. Spider-Man 3 was a lackluster debut for the villain. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seemed to introduce Venom, but the movie’s future was scrapped. Trapped in development hell since 2007, the movie’s future was bleak. However, Sony finally accepted a script and looked to enter the cinematic universe game. But, Ruben Fleischer’s Venom is not the break-through movie for the titular character. Despite a strong performance from Tom Hardy, Venom is a forgettable blockbuster.
Venom Isn’t Sony’s Answer to the MCU
Who is Venom?
Venom revolves around investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) and his investigation into Carlton Drake’s (Riz Ahmed) LIFE Fund. During his investigation, Brock becomes a host for the alien Venom, a symbiote from space. This short synopsis is about as straightforward as the movie ever is because Venom struggles to find its identity throughout the 140-minute runtime. It’s probably a good thing that 40 minutes were cut out—sorry, Tom Hardy.
Throughout the film, Venom’s pace seems to be simultaneously just right and too fast. The movie pivots on a dime and changes its direction too frequently. One second Eddie Brock is in the perfect situation professionally and personally, the next minute he throws it all away for a potshot at Drake. One minute Brock’s fiancee Anne (Michelle Williams) breaks up with him for ruining her career, the next minute she’s falling in love with Eddie again. At one point Venom wants to literally bite everybody’s head off and then decides he wants to save the world. Which is it going to be, big guy?
Because Venom is never able to establish itself, the movie can feel boring at times. Eddie Brock’s relationships seem to be meaningless, some deaths don’t seem to matter, and plot twists don’t carry as much weight as they should.
Hardy makes the most of all of his screen time as it was a joy every time he was on screen. The best parts of the movie had to do with Hardy’s interactions with Venom, which made him look like he was rambling to himself. Hardy is able to switch between a carefree guy to a haunted mess in an instant, which is perfect for Brock’s character.
However, the constant pivoting throughout the movie did no favors for the rest of the cast. Riz Ahmed is unable to find his footing as the main villain. His wooden performance left me bored and unimpressed during his appearances. There are flashes of true horror from Drake, but they’re far and few in between. Drake’s inability to be a strong villain ultimately hurts the final climactic fight scene as there was no real drama.
Meanwhile, Michelle Williams has a decent performance but is clearly hurt by the writing. Anne Weying, Eddie Brock’s love interest, is seemingly shoehorned into scenes. A scene that stuck in my mind involved Venom annihilating Drake’s henchmen; Anne somehow walks into the scene just as Venom bites off a thug’s head. I’m not one to talk during movies, but my wife and I turned to each other at the same time, dumbfounded. “How did she get there?” we whispered. This didn’t happen just once as Anne finds herself in the action after being left in the middle of nowhere in another scene. And while Hardy had a strong performance, his chemistry with Williams was almost non-existent and, again, inconsistent. Sensing a theme here?
Venom’s Not Completely Terrible
At one point in the film, Venom tells Brock “Cooperate and you live,” which is basically what you can get from the movie. If you go in with no expectations, you’ll at least have fun. The movie has its inconsistencies but is at least a fun movie to watch. Now, I’ll use fun with a grain of salt. There were times I literally sighed because of cringy lines (at least they took out the infamous “You work for an evil person” line from the trailer), but the action was pretty great, if not too long at some points, and the overall design of Venom is stunning.
As a Marvel fanboy, I was definitely in awe when Venom first suited up. He looked like the hulking, grotesque, evil I’ve always imagined him to be. Seeing Venom move brutishly move around and decimate everything in his sight had younger me ridiculously excited. This is the Venom I had always wanted to see. Now if only they can couple this Venom with some strong writing.
Sony Messed Up
Look, we’ve seen the troubles with creating a shared universe too fast. It totally makes sense for studios to want to recreate the cash cow that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s my belief that Marvel Studios ultimately succeeds because they care about creating strong stories for the fans. I don’t think Sony has that same care or vision, and Venom is a clear indication of that.
Venom is an iconic Spider-Man villain. Yes, there are iterations of the character where he’s a hero, but Venom is, and never was, going to reach the height of Iron Man simply because Venom is a villain. I mean the Joker, probably the most iconic villain of all time, is getting his own movie and we aren’t that excited for that either!
Now, if Venom had been released sometime within the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming or at least had a cameo appearance from Tom Holland, then maybe I’d be more excited. But with no Spider-Man in sight, the future of this shared universe isn’t too bright. The mid-credit scene nods to a bigger universe, but a symbiote universe that was built upon classic Spider-Man storylines is not going to succeed without the wall-crawler.
Last Word on Venom
Venom is fun at times, but it’s too much of a mess to think of it as any more than a wasted ten dollars at the theaters. Tom Hardy’s strong performance isn’t enough to save Venom from bad writing and an overall meaningless story.
Main Image Credit: