Venom has us entering the life of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who is an investigative reporter engaged to a lawyer named Anne (Michelle Williams). Eddie gets an assignment to interview corporate billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) with the instruction to play nice and not dig too much into his sordid past… just the recent work and achievements of his company. Of course, Eddie refuses to play ball and uses insider information from Anne’s files to hit Drake with hard-hitting questions that cause both Eddie and Anne their jobs, leading Anne to call off their engagement.
Jump to six months later… Eddie is an unemployed drunk who desperately wants Anne back even though she’s moved on and has a new doctor boyfriend (Reid Scott). Eddie gets approached by Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) who works for Carlton Drake. Drake’s been performing human trials to test alien organisms called Symbiotes… and people have been dying. She wants Eddie to come report on the proof to get the program shut down. Eddie reluctantly agrees and ends up having a black Symbiote (who later calls itself Venom) bond with him like a parasite that can take over his body.
Suddenly, Eddie/Venom finds himself on the run from Carlton Drake’s heavily armed goon squad. Venom’s powers of strength, speed, stretchiness, bulletproof skin, act to keep he and Eddie safe while Anne and her doctor boyfriend try to figure out a way to get the alien creature out of Eddie. Meanwhile, another evil symbiote jumps from body to body on a long cross-country trek to find Carlton Drake.
Venom is a comic book movie based on the Spider-Man villain of the same name, yet Spidey doesn’t exist in this world since Sony may be a little shy about their comic MVP playing alongside a much less family-friendly villain (for now). I was curious to see how screenwriters Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Fringe), Scott Rosenberg (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, Zoo), and Kelly Marcel (Fifty Shades of Grey, Saving Mr. Banks, Terra Nova) were going to create a Venom origin story without the use of the friendly neighborhood webslinger as a catalyst… and with that part of the movie, at least, I was not disappointed.
Well… not completely disappointed, at least. They had some nods to the comic version (with a quick cameo from an astronaut named “Jameson”), and a unique way to bring the symbiote to Eddie without a Spider-Man feud, but the way it plays out between Eddie and Venom felt a little too similar to Upgrade which came out earlier this year. Despite the obvious likenesses with that other movie, I will say that the best parts of the movie came from the Eddie/Venom dynamic in a way that was much more entertaining (and funny) than anything Upgrade gave us. There were several times I found myself laughing out loud at their back-and-forth banter.
But of course, the movie was going to fall apart given the choices they made. I read earlier reviews saying this movie was on par with Catwoman in terms of how bad it was. I disagree with that assessment, but will say it was – for me, at least – only about on par with the HULK movies. Especially once we discover that bullets have basically no effect on Venom and that’s the only thing Drake’s goons were bringing to the fight. Which doesn’t make much sense because the goal was to separate Venom from Eddie, which Drake had already discovered could be done with high-frequency sonics, so why didn’t they try to weaponize that fact?
Also, for a movie with a lot of action, it was paced rather slowly. For instance, there’s a big chase scene (the motorcycle scene from the trailer) that lasts a good 20 minutes… only after a while, it starts getting stale. To give credit where it’s due, Tom Hardy did a fantastic job in this film. The guy is a true talent and needs more roles to flex his acting chops. Unfortunately, Michelle Williams (who I’m usually a fan of) was absolutely terrible in her role. The hair and make-up department gave her a very strange look that felt a little too plastic, her delivery was flat, and she had no chemistry with Tom Hardy whatsoever.
She was painfully miscast in this film, and part of it was that she was not written very well. I’d assume that the writer of 50 Shades was brought in to strengthen the relationship between the two… but… well, read that sentence again to see what’s wrong with this: the writer of Fifty Shades of Grey (movie) was brought on to strengthen the relationship. OK, that was a doomed idea from the start.
The villain is evil for the sake of being evil. The evil symbiote Riot was just a random evil (also for the sake of being evil), and we never even find out his master plan until the final 30 minutes of the movie! The weak antagonist who was just sort of always there (both for Drake and Riot) and was just unconvincing all around. Also for those who are wondering, there’s two post-movie scenes. The first is a sequel set-up near the start of the credits, and the second is a more detailed look at the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse flick that comes out later this year.
I wanted to like this movie. I wanted this to be a Deadpool/Logan/Winter Soldier level superhero movie. Sadly, that’s not what we got with Venom. It’s not a terrible movie by any stretch – comic book or otherwise – but it didn’t really strive to do anything new and exciting either. Let’s assume this won’t be the last in the franchise, regardless if Spider-Man joins in at some point (or vice-versa), but for now it’s probably better to wait for this one to be on Netflix or Redbox.