Here it is folks, Sony’s second attempt in four years to set up their own cinematic universe. Lets see if it fared any better than the last attempt.
Venom (2018) is an action/sci-fi superhero film directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad). It stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a down-on-his-luck reporter who discovers the sinister secrets of the Life Foundation headed by eccentric billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and is infected by an alien organism known as a symbiote.
Amidst all the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, other studios have tried again and again to launch their own interconnected universe with varying (i.e. poor) amounts of success. One of these attempts can be seen in the failure of the second of three Spidey reboots in my lifetime, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. So after that loss, Sony made the smart choice of lending the character to Marvel for a taste of that sweet universe success they so crave. But because they’re so greedy and unable to learn from their mistakes they also greenlit Venom at the same time.And here we are. Again. Within four years of the last failure.
So yeah, Venom is not good. While there’s glimpses of an interesting body horror/black comedy that the directors and writers clearly wanted to make, its trapped within the frame of a superhero film that felt like it came out fifteen years ago. Sony is so inept at this point that they’ve managed to make a film that transcends the tropes of today to steal from the tropes of over a decade ago. That would almost be impressive if the final result wasn’t as frustrating as this.
To delve into the bad, our first port of call is a story that’s hounded by bad setup, poor pacing, subplots that go nowhere, inconsistent writing and lines that very between being unintentionally hilarious and just bad. This is one of those studio films that reeks of rewrites and cutting to the point that I’m sure there was a solid original film in there that was butchered over the course of post-production. The only quality feature I can suggest of the script is at least it gets the dynamic between Eddie and Venom to be at least interesting and almost darkly funny at times. Which is more than I can say for the rest of the film.
Moving onto the action scenes and its here that we can really dissect how archaic this movie is made. While it clearly suffers from a cut budget and doesn’t do a great job hiding it, it doesn’t help that these sequences are often so dark and shaky that its hard to make out what’s going on. Especially the third act, which will be familiar to anyone who has seen a bad superhero movie before, just feels like a mess of muddy colours assaulting the screen itself to the point of incomprehensibility. The one place where the visuals succeed is with some of the symbiote designs themselves. As I mentioned, this film scrapes an area of body horror that is legitimately interesting. The way the symbiotes move and conjoin with their hosts could be the stuff of nightmares if the film pushed in that direction just a little bit more. But once again, the studio is there to cut the legs from under it with a PG-13 rating and the demand to keep it broadly engaging, and in doing so squanders any possibility that this could be a unique and worthwhile take on the character.
As for the actors, Tom Hardy is at least a bright spot in proceedings. Always entertaining even in bad films, I have absolutely no clue what kind of Brock Hardy was going for but it somehow works in a weird, muffled way. The character of Brock itself is clunky at times, but at least well defined which is more than you can say for the rest of the cast. Riz Ahmed’s villain? Walking cliche. Michelle William’s love interest? Wasted yet again. Jenny Slater the scientist? Weird casting but also not good. Much like the rest of the film, its just a hodge-podge of mediocrity that’s elevated by one of the strangest secret casting decisions I have seen in a long time. I will not spoil it here but lets just say you’ll know when you see it and the choice of actor for that role had me rolling my eyes and laughing within the same instance.
Its a shame because I can see glimpses of a legitimately interesting film in here but its just bogged down in so much bad that its not worth recommending. People who are fans of Venom the character (of which I count myself among you) will almost certainly be disappointed that this is all we get after the abomination of Spider-Man 3. Once again, Sony has just showcased how completely and utterly out of touch they are with their franchises. Just give it all to Marvel and go home. You’ve ruined these characters enough.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
Film Buffs: Burn it
True Believers (Venom): Meh