Review: "Venom" Has Good Intentions, If Nothing Else

Christian Ziolkowski ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. So here goes nothing:

Venom is not the worst comic book movie ever made.

In this oversaturated age of superhero films, there is a lot of generic crap out there. Soulless films that seem cranked out by an assembly line, without any consideration of quality (looking at you, Batman v. Superman). Venom is not that. However, it is an incredibly uneven film that tries to do a multitude of different things and succeeds at virtually none of them.

Tom Hardy in Venom. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

Venom follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, doing his best Charlie Day impression), a hard-hitting journalist who possesses an inexplicable lack of intelligence, considering his profession. For his latest piece, he wants to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Amed), a billionaire who devotes his life to advancing space travel. Brock’s girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), is a lawyer who represents Drake. So, Eddie naturally opens her computer, reads her confidential case files, and publishes the findings. This gets him fired, costs him his relationship, and makes him one very powerful enemy.

That’s the first problem. The film starts with the protagonist doing something incredibly unethical, without any consideration for the person he loves the most. The intention was to make him an underdog, but he ends up being incredibly difficult to root for.

Due to a ridiculously over-complicated plot that couldn’t possibly be explained here with the required brevity, we find out that Drake is working on a new project. He has found alien life forms, called symbiotes, which can merge with a human being and transfer their powers to the human’s body. He keeps these symbiotes in a lab and is searching for humans who will be suitable matches for them.

Riz Ahmed and Tom Hardy in Venom. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

One night, Eddie breaks into the lab, searching for some illegal activity, and you can imagine what happens next. A symbiote merges with him, and he finds himself sharing a body with an alien named Venom. And they decide to take down Drake together.

The biggest problem with Venom is its tonal inconsistency. At times it seems like a hard sci-fi movie, at other times a wacky buddy comedy. In trying to be both, it ends up as neither. The symbiote plot-line, along with Drake’s desire to go to space, is so poorly explained that it drags the film down significantly without any real payoff at the end.

The more comedic scenes, with Venom and Eddie bickering back and forth, are slightly more palatable. It’s not hard to imagine this working as a Deadpool-esque action comedy. An R-rated movie, full of violence and raunch, about the love-hate relationship between a blue-collar guy and an extremely powerful alien who share a body? You might be onto something. But the scenes are generally unfunny and interspersed between serious sci-fi scenes and bad CGI action sequences. The whole thing just feels … weird.

Tom Hardy in Venom. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

But the flaws don’t end there. The CGI effects are not remotely believable. The relationship between Eddie and Anne is never defined or resolved. It was clearly written to set up a potential sequel, but it leaves this film feeling very unsatisfying.

As bad as this sounds, this film could be worse. Tom Hardy’s performance gives off a strange warmth, and his character is different than any other comic book protagonist. There’s something interesting in this movie, it’s just not on full display. Hardy has said that 40 minutes of footage was cut from the film (which barely clocks in at 90 minutes). It’s possible that director Rupert Fleisher tried to make something great, and found himself a victim of studio interference. But if that’s the case, there was a ton of interference, because this film has no shortage of problems.

Perhaps 60 years from now, Netflix will buy the director’s cut of Venom, it will premiere at Cannes to a standing ovation, and people will finally be forced to admit the film’s genius. Until that day, you should probably avoid this one.

Overall Grade: C-

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