When Sony and Marvel finally agreed to take shared custody of the cinematic Spider-Man character, I expected great things for the character and the other characters under the Webhead’s intellectual property. I really hoped that Sony would go whole hog and have Marvel produce all of their future films featuring Spider-Man’s characters. At the very least, I hoped Sony would consult with Marvel regarding the direction of the property.
Well, my hopes were dashed somewhat. While they’re collaboratively working on Spider-Man films for the foreseeable future, Sony still wants to do their own thing so they don’t have to share the profits with anyone else. So we have Venom… without Spider-Man. How’d that all pan out? Well, it’s really hit or miss… but in a good way. Let me explain…
But before I do, if you’re worried that I’ll reveal some plot points about the film, don’t be. This will be a SPOILER FREE review.
Venom is all about Eddie Brock, a failed investigative reporter who, while trying to expose an evil corporation for doing experiments on people, gets infected with an alien symbiote known as Venom. The two then form a bond while the aforementioned evil corporation hunt down Eddie in order to retrieve the symbiote and kill his host from digging too deep. Well, that’s the basic gist of the plot and a basic plot is pretty much what you get in Venom. It kind of reminds me of the action movies from the ’80s and ’90s where there is totally no nuance between the bad guys and the good guys and everything is spelled out to you.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing for Venom. It’s bad because the overall plot and flow of the story feels incredibly generic and uninspired. There aren’t any major twists that’ll shock you and every new development feels oh-so convenient to push the story forward. However, this is also a good thing as, well, it’s easy to digest. Venom was made to be a popcorn film that you can enjoy even if you turn your brain off and it certainly feels that way. Even so, it never reaches a point where it insults your intelligence… too badly. There are a lot of incredibly dumb things that happen throughout the film’s 112-minute runtime but it never gets to a level that’s annoying. Oh, you can nitpick the hell out of the movie and point to all of the stupid things that happen in the story but that can be fun in itself.
I will say that, despite being a superhero film, there isn’t a lot of action here. I only counted three action sequences but they are rather lenghty action setpieces. Two of them are actually really good but the third is really bad. However, Venom uses a lot of “shaky cam” during the fights, which can get really annoying as it can get difficult to follow what’s happening. This is probably why I particularly hated the final battle as, not only was it was just a CGI battle, it also used a ton of “shaky cam” sequences. Why use “shaky cam” during a CGI battle? It’s the film’s opportunity to actually show something clear since you don’t have to worry about the actors looking awkward!
Speaking of the CGI and special effects, most of it is actually pretty good. The way that Eddie Brock morphs into Venom and how Venom’s mouth seemingly swallows Eddie’s face looks really natural. I also like the way Venom’s “webs” just squirt out from anywhere on Eddie’s body, even through his sweatshirt/hoodie. It may not make a lick of sense but, hey, it looks cool. There are a few scenes when Venom is running around, however, that looks unnatural as he breaks the laws of physics. Then again, this is a superhero film, so he gets a pass for now.
Most of the acting is, sadly, really terrible. Riz Ahmed plays the CEO of the evil company and I felt nothing for him. I was never terrified, intimidated or interesting. No, scratch that. I did feel something from him: confusion. I was confused by the character because I didn’t understand his motivation. The film does try to explain his motivations with a monologue but it just never felt genuine or I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth. It’s also incredibly disappointing to see Michelle Williams, who has pulled off award nominated performances in the past, put out one of the most wooden performances I’ve ever seen in a superhero film. And that’s saying something! But a part of me can’t really blame them because they’re not really given any really interesting to do in the script. You can probably put in other actors in the role and you’ll get the same performance.
The only real beacon of light in the acting department is Tom Hardy, which is great because he plays both Eddie Brock and Venom. The interplay between Eddie and Venom is actually really interesting as they have to talk to each other since they’re sharing the same body. I also really enjoyed Tom Hardy’s rendition of Venom’s raspy voice as it sounds really terrifying but in a goofy sort of way. Venom is super aggressive and Eddie has to kind of rein this destructive force of nature in, which can lead to some really funny scenes. I actually chuckled quite a bit during when the two were talking to each other. This is actually a testament to Tom Hardy’s acting chops as it comes off naturally.
Tom Hardy tries his best to try to pick up the slack for everyone else’s bad acting but there are two things that are holding Venom back from being a truly good movie. The first thing would be the schizophrenic tone of the entire film. There are times when you think they’re trying for a more horror atmosphere, which makes sense since Venom is a monster trying to take over a human. There are also times when it tries to be a sci-fi storyline as it involves aliens and space travel. It also tries to be a generic superhero film as well. It tries to be all of these things at different points of the film and it just throws you off with what the filmmakers are going for.
The second thing is more of my personal opinion and that is Venom would’ve been a better movie if it wasn’t afraid to show some blood and gore. From what I understand, Venom was initially intended to be a more “adult” film but Sony executives got cold feet as they would have trouble defending why a rated-R movie would have any connections with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This was a terrible decision as Venom is supposed to be an anti-hero who really wants to maim and maul people. The final product just looks so lackluster because, despite Venom actually killing a couple of people by biting their heads’ off, it never comes off like more of a joke.
With all of the film’s problems, I oddly cannot say I hated Venom. In fact, I walked out of the cinema feeling pretty good that I saw it. It’s no masterpiece by any means but it wasn’t terrible. I can even look past its flaws because I did have a good time when all is said and done. I can safely call it a new guilty pleasure of mine. The logical side of my brain knows that Venom is a bad movie but the emotional side tells me that it’s a dumb movie and that’s the way fans should view it. I can’t really recommend Venom to everyone but I guess people who just want to watch a film where you don’t have to think should definitely go see it.
Oh, and Sony, if you do make a Venom sequel, you may want to grow a pair and make it an R-rated film. It worked for Deadpool and it’ll certainly work for Venom.
Have you seen Venom? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!