Venom, like its symbiote supervillain, is barely holding together, but it is entertaining in its mania.
New York reporter Eddie Brock loses his job when he antagonises a industrial magnate who is secretly experimenting on parasitic organisms from deep space. In the process, he finds himself infected by a malevolent entity.
With the film opening with the Marvel logo, audiences are greeted by the addendum: “In association with”, indeed, Venom is a Sony production. The studio that brought such dreadful productions as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with the intentions of making Marvel spin-offs out of it, which only led to them losing the rights to the character to Marvel Studios.
So there is quite a lot of scepticism going into see Venom; Sony has a dogged determination to showcase Venom on the big screen… 2007’s Spider-Man 3 was partly sabotaged by the studio’s enforcing of the character into director Sam Raimi’s vision for the film. The director deliberately sabotaging his own movie as a result. But with shrewd lead actor Tom Hardy signing up for the new movie, sceptical audiences have some hope stirring within them.
As far as comic book movies go, it isn’t half bad. It feels like an early 2000s comic book movie, before everything had to be part of an expanded universe, before these genre movies felt they needed five plot twists to be considered relevant. Venom does one thing, and it does it well enough. There are problems though.
The film is quite moody and darkly lit most of the time, and suiting this, the film writers haven’t neutered the character of Venom completely. He may not be completely villainous, but he is sly and he is very intent on eating people. Unlike other films that focus on villains, character development exists here (unlike AVP or Freddy Vs Jason) and the character isn’t betrayed and changed into a good character as the writers flounder with the concept (unlike Maleficent).
It is a simple film. Eddie Brock, played by the magnetic Tom Hardy, is not your typical hero. He means well, but approaches solutions aggressively and without thought for others. The character’s skills but also darkness are a narrative underpinning for why this hostile alien chooses him as a host. We see Eddie be a cause for his own self-destruction early on, and then the plot naturally moves along as expected.
The film certainly isn’t anything unique. You can see the plot develop ahead of you like a long, narrow, uninterrupted highway through a desert (especially if you have seen the trailer). Perhaps the story could have been twisted just once to allow for Venom to be truly villainous, but it would have lost the general audience. As it stands, you find yourself rooting for Eddie and Venom (even if it is just a little bit) but you can still imagine Spider-Man taking serious issue in what they are doing!
While the film starts out reasonably sincere, Eddie and Venom do make for a sort of comedy double-act. If you are looking for an edgy, dark Venom, you may need to adjust your expectations. But the humour was good, and didn’t feel enforced.
But it is not without its problems. Venom is quite poorly edited at times. Even the most simple of scenes; two people talking in a restaurant, appears to have jarring edits, suggesting dialogue may have been trimmed or removed in places. Along with the film’s simplicity lurks some pretty convenient happenings to provide plot traction or “because of course” moments, such as when Brock needs to be alone when he encounters the symbiote for the first time but he also needs to get into the fortified facility first. Or nitpicking elements, like Venom sensing approaching enemies ahead of time, but cannot sense a combat drone tailing the car they are in. The final battle is quite tedious and messy at times.
It also lacks serious punch when you consider it as a UK certified 15 rating. This is a soft 15, much like Suicide Squad was. Despite Venom eating people, there was more blood in 2002’s family friendly Spider-Man, and the film comes nowhere close to Logan or Deadpool levels of graphic violence or language. Which is odd considering this is a villain movie.
Perhaps Venom will be looked at favourably when compared to recent releases in 2018, when on the whole it is fairly average.