VENOM

Sony, aka Columbia Pictures, just might be the most embarrassing and shameless of the Big Six movie studios. They used to be on top of the comic book movie game with their original Spider-Man films, but ever since the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), they’ve been playing catch up. Trying to jump on the shared universe bandwagon, they tried to start up their own Spider-Man Cinematic Universe back in 2012. Well, that obviously failed, and they decided to concede and allow Spidey to appear in the MCU, while still retaining the rights to the character and his universe. So, they went to their next bankable character in order to kick off another attempt at a cinematic universe with one of Spider-Man’s most iconic foes, Venom. 
 
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a struggling investigative journalist , down in the dumps after recently losing his job and being dumped by his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams). Eddie eventually gets a big break when Life Corporation whistleblower Dora (Jenny Slate) reveals there are some nefarious activities going on in her company. These activities involve a symbiotic black goo that binds to a host and takes it over, all lead by the shady company head Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). During his investigation, Eddie comes into contact with the symbiote, which immediately bonds to him. He realizes the symbiote has a mind of its own and can control Eddie’s body, as well as speak to him. Realizing they could both be and do something more, together Eddie and the symbiote form Venom in order to bring the Life Corporation down. 
 
Tom Hardy is probably my favorite working actor today, so when it was first announced that he was to star in Venom, my interest was suddenly piqued. While a good actor does not automatically equate to a good movie, Hardy is one of those actors who seems to consistently pick good projects, starring in a lot of quality work. Perhaps he (somehow) saw something in the initial script, perhaps he just needed the money. Like every other movie he’s in, he’s absolutely the best part here and is probably the only reason why it’s not all completely terrible. No matter what, the guy always gives it his all, and he totally becomes the character Eddie Brock here. He’s cocky, sarcastic, brash, impulsive, daft, and it all comes across in his always wonderful facial expressions and body language. When he finally comes into contact with the Venom symbiote, he hears its voice in his head, either commanding him what to do, insulting him, or giving him advice on how to best violently kill people. The voice is just a garbled version of Hardy’s and while sometimes hard to understand, having Hardy basically interact back and forth with a demonic sounding version of himself was a joy to watch. 
 
By the time that joy comes, though, it’s all too little, too late. By this point, we’re already 45 minutes into the movie with only an hour left to go. The screenplay is so bizarrely structured and plotted that it felt like it was written in a weekend. With how desperate Sony was to get this made, I wouldn’t be surprised if they would greenlight any scribbled napkin that would come their way. I feel awful for the many quality actors here, as they all do a fine job, but don’t receive an iota of characterization or do anything of signifigance. All they get is some of the worst dialogue in recent memory. The first 45 minutes are all tedious set-up and exposition with no real sense of direction. Every time it felt like the movie was finally getting going, it would slow down again. When Eddie finally becomes Venom, the rest of the film takes place in the span of one night where Eddie and Venom learn to like each other. Since it’s one night, though, all of the character moments with them feel completely unsatisfactory since they’re not adequately developed. One of the final scenes have Eddie and Venom debating which people “are okay to eat.” Isn’t this something that should be in the middle of the movie when they’re first getting used to each other? Not at the very end? There’s not really any sense of story or logical plot progression here. 
 
The laziness and committee driven nature behind it all just looms over the entire film. It all feels dated, like a comic book film from 2005, complete with contemporary pop music and mediocre effects. Director Ruben Fleischer doesn’t inject a whole lot of style or personality into the proceedings, although there are some very visually striking slow-mo shots. The flexibility of Venom’s powers are really neat and used in creative ways, but most of the action scenes are too poorly directed, edited, and lit to really know what’s happening. The last action scene is especially confusing, featuring two black globs fighting each other in the dead of night, the camera swooping and cutting all around. It was just a mess and with no attachment to the story or characters to back it up, there was nothing to be entertained by. The constant tiptoeing around the R-rating was annoying, too. This was originally supposed to be rated R, but Sony being Sony got cold feet and cut it down to PG-13. There’s still some blood and violence, as well as an f-bomb, but it felt like they were just sitting on the fence. An R-rating wouldn’t have fixed the script, but to actually see some heads get bitten off would have been more than welcome. 
 
Just like its decade long history in development hell, Venom is just a big, black, gooey mess from beginning to end. Tom Hardy gives it his all and clearly had a great time with the role, but even his entertaining performance couldn’t salvage this cynical, cash-grab of a film. However, if they were to make more, I would still be somewhat interested. With the right script and director to help out Hardy, they really could do something with the character. I highly doubt that’ll happen, though. This is Sony we’re talking about here.
 
4/10

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