Forgettable and confusing. Venom is a classic case of a film that most know is going to be bad but will still end up seeing it for an actor that they like. Hopefully, this review will make you reconsider.
Tom Hardy plays investigative journalist Eddie Brock. During one of his expose pieces, Brock becomes infected with the alien entity known as Venom. This alien uses Brock’s body as a host to survive and allows him to experience superhuman-like abilities. Brock soon realises that Venom is far from being a superhero and must learn to control his new powers to protect those that he loves.
Fundamentally the film just feels like classic Sony. They’ve hedged all their bets on this film being a success by hiring a stellar cast whose ability is way too good for a film like this; with a huge budget that you can just see being chewed up in big explosions and extensive sets. It’s begging to be liked. But the desperation feeling that pours off this film drag it down, making it a remnant of the blockbuster film Sony wanted it to be.
Tom Hardy is good as Eddie Brock but great as Venom. He fills Venom with a sarcastic ignorance-come-arrogance that provides a small amount of relief throughout the film. This performance gives Eddie Brock a lot more edge than the straight-laced version Topher Grace portrayed in Spider-Man 3 (but sadly there’s no ridiculous Tobey Maguire dancing). Despite all this, Tom Hardy just isn’t given the material someone of his caliber needs, and ultimately this is where the film falls short.
Strangely, Michelle Williams is cast as Brock’s lawyer girlfriend Anne and Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth who works for the corporation that discovered Venom. Michelle Williams gives Anne a red hot go, but again the script is lacking any real substance to show off her immense talent.
Ultimately, I thought her, and Jenny Slate needed to swap roles. It was a weird casting choice having Jenny Slate, a comedian, playing as serious a role as Dr. Dora. In my opinion, Slate should have played the character Anne. This is because there were more moments of humour that came from Anne which would have been better suited for the comedian. Michelle Williams wasn’t great in delivering these gags and most of them came off feeling awkward. This confirmed to me that their swapping of roles would have been a better idea and it would have given Michelle Williams a lot more to work with. I would have been more interested to see her play Dr. Dora and how she could dramatise the conflicted feelings in the scientist who can no longer justify the means to the end.
In terms of the story, it really felt underdeveloped. There isn’t any motive for Eddie Brock and that means there’s nothing he’s working towards in terms of growth or development. When he fucks up doing an expose which leads to him getting fired, his sense of justice and search for the truth gets completely thrown out of the window, and he never gets it back. The ease with which he ditches these morals makes you question how important they were to him in the first place.
The most disappointing part of the film was the underused Venom character. Venom is supposed to be the ultimate anti-hero, treading the line between good and bad, and often crossing over to the bad side. This part of Venom was never fully realized. At no point was there an internal battle between Venom and Eddie Brock that dealt with any complexities of what’s right and wrong. Venom merely plays a lame sidekick to Eddie Brock’s constant incredulous view at the situation he finds himself.
I fear part of the issue with Venom was also the seriously safe M rating that was slapped over the film. Sony baby proofs an anti-hero who eats bad people and often kills them gruesomely by not showing these aspects because they know it will give the film an MA rating. It’s playing it safe to make the film more accessible to a larger audience (i.e. children) to boost up sales. Compare to this another iconic anti-hero film, Deadpool wasn’t afraid to capitalise on MA rated aspects like strong violence and crude humour because the film knew it made them different and entertaining. The Punisher is another similar example of this.
Overall Venom is sloppy and unimaginative. It fails to realize and capitalise what the ultimate anti-hero Venom should have been. In this day and age where superhero films are a dime a dozen, Venom had the material to compete with interesting and different anti-heroes. But I fear the need to keep it within the safe realm of an M rating was a huge detriment to the film’s potential. Skip it.