SHOULD I SEE IT?
Venom is one of the more curious superhero movie titles to come along in recent memory. Lots of eyes seeing this opening weekend.
Tom Hardy gives a performance you almost have to see to believe.
Feels, in some ways, like a movie we would have watched 15-20 years ago, coming in hot with Eminem performing the theme song, a carefree demeanor about it. There’s a nostalgic bend to this whole thing.
This. Is. Not. A. Good. Movie. I don’t quite know what this is, but good is not it.
Constantly at odds with itself, unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about its story and plot, and full of mediocre visual effects, stilted dialogue, and a story that makes no sense as presented.
Nothing here is all that interesting. Since this is stuck out on a Marvel cinematic island, disconnected from the MCU, what is the point of this exactly? Money. That’s right. Money is the point. Got it.
I have one question, now that I have seen Venom and pondered Ruben Fleischer’s cinematic introduction to this non-Disney, non-Marvel Cinematic Universe member of, well, the Marvel Comic Univ…, um, World, or whatever we are supposed to call this.
What the hell was that?
An exercise in hooliganism, pretending to be a movie, Venom is perhaps the strangest mainstream comic book movie ever made. The movie does very little well, is mind-numbingly stupid for long stretches, but also features an unhinged Tom Hardy seemingly making things up as he goes along.
An origin story, Venom takes place in present-day San Francisco, where Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a renegade “gotcha”-style journalist whose latest assignment dovetails with his attorney girlfriend, Anne Weying’s (Michelle Williams) affiliation, as counsel for The Life Foundation.
The organization takes something of a fatalistic approach that the human race is not sustainable and CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is dealing with one of his company’s space probes crash-landing in East Malaysia (sure, why not?), with four symbiotic alien lifeforms on board. Once Drake gathers everything back in his lab, one symbiote is identified as missing in Malaysia, and his medical staff begin researching what they have obtained.
When Brock and Drake meet, the interview goes poorly as Brock possesses insider knowledge he improperly obtained from Anne’s legal files. Brock loses his job, Anne loses her job, and Drake decides to initiate human trials on his symbiote project.
What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, nearly everything.
Venom is not so much a movie as it is a series of ideas clumsily cobbled together under the wrapping of a superhero/antihero-style story. We wait awhile for Venom to become fully realized, as it absorbs into one host and then another, before finding its way into Brock’s body. Afterwards, medical tests seem to indicate that Brock has a parasite, though he is not hospitalized when this is discovered and instead forms a sentient relationship with his symbiotic intruder.
Yes, that’s right: Eddie talks to Venom and Venom talks back to him. They take digs at one another, argue, fight with each other, and otherwise try to co-exist. Sometimes, Venom extracts himself from Eddie’s body just enough so Venom’s head can be holding a conversation with Eddie. And boy oh boy is that something as wacky as it sounds.
So many questions. Why is it called Venom? Why is another symbiote named Riot? How do they understand the vernacular spoken by their hosts? How did they become intelligent? Where did they come from? Why is Venom able to bond with its host, but every other symbiote we encounter seems dead sit on destroying everything it comes to contact with? Why do some hosts become possessed with the symbiote and others are able to seemingly turn it on and off?
NO ONE ANSWERS ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS.
AND YES, I AM YELLING BECAUSE…WHAT?! HOW?! WHY?!
Although Hardy is having the time of his life here, Venom is an unmitigated disaster overall. Fleischer has no idea whether he is making a comedy, a horror film, an action flick, or some social commentary on absolute power corrupting people absolutely. Ahmed, however, is somehow quite good as the soft-spoken, mannered, calm, yet combustible villain. Sadly, Fleischer also has no thoughts on how to develop Drake as a character, so he just immediately starts as “Rich Corporate Bad Guy” and has no depth whatsoever.
The screenplay by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel feels written in a board room, by executives and not a trio. Hardy has gone on record in sharing that his favorite 40 minutes of the film were removed from the final cut. And there are elements of the film which look like they belong in a darker-tinged, R-rated action film. With the giant mandible, disgusting tongue, and propensity to eat people’s heads, an R-rated Venom might have potential, but one wonders if studio brass put the kibosh on that idea mid-production.
Hardy is running lines in a completely different movie than everyone else and please don’t get me started on how this movie treats its women – notably Jenny Slate’s character, as a lead researcher who questions Drake’s human trials and Williams’ Anne – whose serviceable turn here feels more of a mandate then something well-thought out and written.
There are moments where Venom is amusing, but oftentimes just feels lost and wandering. Add in mediocre CGI, stilted dialogue, absurd plot contrivances, and an incomprehensible fight between two symbiotes edited so poorly you cannot even follow the action, and this Venom lacks any sting or power, failing to connect across multiple levels.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu, Woody Harrelson.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel (screenplay); Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg (story).
Based on characters created by Todd McFarlane, David Michelinie
Release Date: October 5, 2018