Written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
The last time we saw the character of Venom was in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 (and it wasn’t the symbiote’s best performance). Jump ahead 11 years, and now Venom has a standalone movie. The good news: the onscreen presence of Venom is a blast. The bad news: he deserves a better film.
You don’t have to come into Venom knowing anything about the Marvel Universe (or anything about Spider-Man as a matter of fact). The movie opens on a spaceship crashing into Earth, the camera providing quick glimpses of these strange sludgy lifeforms. These turn out to be the symbiotes the film’s antagonist is after for his self-righteous agenda. We are introduced to Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams). Brock eventually comes into contact with the symbiote known as Venom, and together they team up to fight the bad guys.
It’s upon all these introductions that the movie begins to show off one of its weaknesses. One of the most significant issues with Venom is its overall tone; at first, there’s this horror movie-like tension, but then the mood shifts to that of a romantic comedy. From there the movie continues to shift all over the place. Jumping around like this hurts the film’s pacing, making for numerous awkward transitions. One moment we’ll be sensing all this suspense, just to suddenly be dropped away from it. However, these tonal shifts can also bring quite a substantial amount of humor to them.
If anything, I was taken aback by how much I laughed throughout Venom (and not in a negative way). For the most part, the comedy throughout the film is enjoyable and had the audience I was with chuckling out of fun. On top of this, when Venom does find itself in a specific sequence of comedy, horror, or action, it hones in on that particular vibe. But as an overall movie, the pacing is so over the place that we never get time to develop characters or the story. The latter is so plain that even the inclusion of Venom doesn’t take away from how simple and boring the overall plot is.
In its beginning Venom drags on for some time. We get to learn about Brock as a journalist, as well as just how friggin’ generic the main bad guy is (played by Riz Ahmed). He’s a rich tech/businessman who wants to cure the world, finding the best solution in testing symbiotes on people he pulls off the street. He’s a very dull character, only there to help push the plot forward and trade punches later on.
Williams provides a good chunk of humor throughout the film, but the real stars of this picture are Hardy’s Eddie Brock and Venom. Compared to 2007’s debacle, this Venom is an absolute gem. He starts out using Brock at first but very quickly becomes friends with him. The fight scenes starring him are pretty fun; at times the use of CGI is obvious, but overall his movements were awesome to see.
What sells the character of Venom is his personality, as well as his interactions with Brock. Through Venom’s playfully grim speech, Hardy does a tremendous job portraying the monster, selling us on his commitment to the character. Many of the conversations between Brock and Venom are a joy to listen to; their humor play off one another, making for plenty of moments to laugh out loud. Hardy’s role as Eddie Brock is also enjoyable; while the film moves too fast to give us any great depth, Brock is a funny, likable guy.
Rather than being a garbage fire of a movie, Venom is more about poor choices with some great elements. Where Venom suffers is from odd tonal shifts and pacing that hurt its story and characters. If anything, Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock and Venom proves we could have a good Venom movie. There is a lot of great potential throughout the film; and if the studio can create a stronger script, we could have a great flick down the road.
So is Venom all that horrendous to watch? No. While a lot of its faults hold it back, its titular character is great to see on screen. Here’s hoping that we see Hardy as Venom again in the future.
As a film Venom is messy. Pacing and narrative tone are its greatest weaknesses, taking away from providing depth to its story and characters. That said, Tom Hardy gives a terrific performance as Eddie Brock and Venom, giving us hope for a potentially better film in the future.