Updated: Jan 20, 2019
When it comes to 2018’s incarnation of Venom, the latest ambitious superhero/action comedy film from distributor Sony Pictures, it is essentially in the same position as that of 2016’s R-rated superhero hit, Deadpool. Both films came off redeeming predecessors that helped regain faith for the respective studios, while also trying to introduce a franchise on its own terms. However, while Deadpool was able to bolster past these expectations thanks to a livid and fast-paced romp packed to the brim with action and impeccable comedy, Venom does the exact opposite of what Deadpool was able to achieve. Reeking of studio meddling from the very first scene, Venom can never truly decide what it wants to be. At certain moments, it leans towards a serious and mellow drama depicting the varying styles of a conflicted character from Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Eddie Brock. In other moments however, the film quickly becomes a cartoonish and laughable affair with multiple moments of intentioned drama resulting in a burst of laughter from the theater. As any reasonable filmmaker or studio executive would expect, this simply does not work. It results in an experience that is ultimately flavorless, even with some star-studded moments including the dynamic and entertaining relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom, the titular anti-hero.
The two have some incredible moments, even in face of the poorly written dialogue that is thrust upon the cast. However, even with a passionate performance from Hardy, Venom is a dull, uninteresting, and uneven take on a character that ends up coming off as a venomous mess, unable to be saved by several notable moments.
When it comes to the film, it finds all of its issues, faults, and failures in its primary screenplay. According to recent interviews, Tom Hardy has stated that a large portion of the dialogue in the film was purely improvised on the spot. When viewing the film, this is almost impossible to ignore. The dialogue reeks of clichéd material, with most of the lines feeling cheesy and having a lackluster impact. Every one-liner could be seen from miles away, and it certainly doesn’t help the film when it is clear that some of its primary stars, including Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams, are only there to collect a paycheck. As stated previously, the film often times attempts to paint itself with a humorous glaze to no avail most of the time. Some of the scenes seem to be trying far too hard, resulting in awkward reaction as Hardy is forced to over-act, shedding some of the reputation he has built since his Academy Award nomination in The Revenant. However, while these scenes are present plentifully throughout, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t legitimate moments of humor to be enjoyed. Richly acted sequences from Tom Hardy as both Eddie Brock and the snake-like Venom prove to be a true highlight as the two wrestle with each other and their varying struggles. This aspect, though is far under-utilized by the screenwriters, a group which consists of four members.
While the humor may work occasionally, it is the pacing and flow that entirely destroy any faith that the screenplay may have built up in audiences. Beginning from the very start, Venom quickly escalates into a hot mess, with scenes and pivotal events happening at a dizzying pace, resulting in critical character development being almost completely forgotten. But as the film progresses, especially into the second act, the film finally appears to get under control but then completely ignores the concept with a boisterous and obnoxiously head-spinning third act conclusion. When the film reaches the third act, I was shocked since Venom simply has no clear beginning, middle, or end. It just flows without any boldness or flavor to the experience.
As for the performances, with such a weak screenplay, it’s difficult to expect much out of any of the lead actors, especially Riz Ahmed as primary antagonist Carlton Drake. Lead Tom Hardy does a fabulous job in his role, fully flexing his wide spectrum as an actor by allowing him to be seen as a proper action comedy star especially in his scenes as Venom. His towering and almost demonic tone for Venom was executed well, even if it was never used much throughout the film’s rather short run time of 112 minutes. Michelle Williams as Anne Weying was serviceable at best. She is never truly given much to do, outside of playing the stereotypical love interest, resulting in her character, bolstered by such a high-caliber actress, being a waste of time.
Moving on to Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake, he never truly shines in his role as his character is nothing more than the low-caliber villain present in most superhero films. It’s a disappointing situation similar to Williams, due to the outstanding progress superhero films have made this year with the antagonists, as seen in Killmonger in Black Panther and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Technically speaking, the visual effects present in the film has been smoothed out and brushed of its wrinkles, especially after controversy regarding the quality present in the trailers. It certainly won’t be mistaken for the next installment in the Star Wars franchise, but with a moderate 100 million budget, it is almost perfectly accurate to the original comic book roots of the character.
As a whole, Venom is a messy disaster for Sony Pictures, one that is highlighted due to how much potential it had going in. This was intended to be a launching pad for a branching universe of Spider-Man characters, and with such a negative response already bleeding out, it is unlikely that it will ever be financially or critically viable for Sony to continue with this road, an utter shame, given the high caliber of the performance from Academy-Award nominated actor Tom Hardy.
Score: 3.8 out of 10
One of Marvel’s greatest and most complex characters takes center stage as Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) becomes the host for the alien symbiote Venom. As a journalist, Eddie has been trying to take down the notorious founder of the Life Foundation, genius Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) – and that obsession ruined his career and his relationship with his girlfriend, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Upon investigating one of Drake’s experiments, the alien Venom merges with Eddie’s body, and he suddenly has incredible new superpowers, as well as the chance to do just about whatever he wants. Twisted, dark, unpredictable, and fueled by rage, Venom leaves Eddie wrestling to control dangerous abilities that he also finds empowering and intoxicating. As Eddie and Venom need each other to get what they’re looking for, they become more and more intertwined — where does Eddie end and Venom begin?
VENOM hits theaters on October 5th, 2018.