Venom has been a bit of a puzzle since it’s announcement almost two years ago and it’s place and audience in a already huge superhero dominated landscape has never been clear. Who is this for? Is it a part of the ever popular Marvel Cinematic Universe? Does Sony have any idea what they’re doing here? After two misleading trailers that didn’t get a lot of positive buzz, it seemed like the start of Sony’s own superhero universe was going to be a….turd in the wind. While it’s far from perfect, I had a lot fun with Venom and it leaves the door open for some exciting possibilities for future films.
The film follows Eddie Brock, an edgy journalist (think Vice News but with 100% more scruffy Tom Hardyness), whose antics have run him out of New York City and into San Francisco where he lives with his fiancé Anne (Michelle Williams). When he’s sent on an assignment to cover the Life Foundation, headed by the villainous Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), he upsets all the wrong people, asking questions about unethical tests the foundation conducts on people. After losing his career and through a series of twists and turns Brock learns more of the foundations experiments and gets infected with the iconic symbiote and chaos ensues.
So what works? First and foremost Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a character I’m not sure anyone else could play as well. Many fans, myself included, still have terrible memories of Topher Grace’s campy take on the character almost 10 years ago in Spider-Man 3 that ruined the villain’s movie aspirations for more than a decade. Hardy is not only playing a likable jerk whose selfishness leads to his professional downfall, but also the insane and funny alter ego Venom. It’s a very weird line that he toes very well and I’m positive the film would crash and burn without him.
Going off Hardy’s performance, the single most important aspect of the film that really makes it work for me is the dynamic between Eddie and Venom and in many ways the movie gets exponentially better when Venom finally shows up and takes over. You get your stereotypical “discovering your powers” scene and it’s a lot of fun and a bit of a twist on the superhero trope and you get some genuinely funny results through the entire experience. In fact, the most surprising part of Venom is just how consistently funny it is once Eddie and Venom become one. Not just their kick-ass action scenes together, but there are some really stand-out scenes including one involving Eddie’s friend, Dr. Dan(An all around great guy and someone I would want to grab a beer with), and a lobster tank that left the whole theater laughing hysterically. In many ways the dynamic between the two has a real buddy-cop feel to it that adds to the story.
The core actors involved are doing their best to make the film work and and the entire cast works well together. The talent here is really impressive. Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed alone could make any movie great and I think they really committed to their respective parts. The inclusion of Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth and Reid Scott as Dr Dan were also welcome additions and added depth to the narrative.
The action throughout, particularly the impressive chase sequence seen throughout the trailer was a lot of fun and entertaining, using Venom’s powers in fun and unique ways that could have just been another bland car chase seen in almost every action movie. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun these big action set pieces were.
Now as I said at the beginning, this movie is far from perfect and there are a couple of aspects that don’t work particularly well and some of them are seriously cringey. There are some obvious script problems riddled throughout the movie that lead to a lot of questionable lines as well as some weak motivations and plot holes. Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake in particular really feels like a villain that’s evil for the sake of being evil and even when Riot, the other version of Venom takes him over, he’s just a stronger, evil version of Venom.
Speaking of plot holes, there’s one scene involving Michelle Williams where I could hear the internet blow out a collective sigh in frustration. Throughout the entire film they’ve set up the rules for the symbiote and then they kind of just throw those rules out the window for the sake of convenience and to rush the story to the end. I understand you have to move the story forward but it just seemed a little forced as well as overtly sexualized.
I’d briefly like to mention the horrible press that the movie has been getting over the past couple of weeks and in particular it’s current rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As of this moment it sits at 28%, an absolutely terrible score and one that I think is unwarranted. So many critics had clearly made up their minds about this movie before it came out and didn’t give it a chance. I’m confident in saying that Venom is on par or better than most Phase 1 MCU films including The Incredible Hulk and Thor. If you give this movie a chance, like I did, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Don’t forget to stay after the credits to see a small tease for what could be coming next, you won’t be disappointed.
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