Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Premise: A spinoff of the Spider-Man universe. Investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) merges with an extraterrestrial symbiote. The two beings create a powerful antihero known as Venom and together they take on the CEO of an unscrupulous corporation (Riz Ahmed).
What Works: Venom is at its best when the movie allows itself to get weird. A few scenes are bonkers such as when the symbiote first makes its presence known and defends its host against a team of assassins. There are also some funny exchanges between the two beings; Eddie Brock appears to talk to himself while communicating with the parasite and at other times he loses control of his limbs. That makes for some humorous bits. Actor Tom Hardy isn’t known for comedy but he proves capable and his bewildered and blue collar approach to the role suits the character.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, too much of Venom feels like a generic comic book movie. The whole point of making this film is to take the superhero film in another direction; Venom is technically a villain in the Spider-Man universe but in this film he’s been made into an antihero; he does heroic things but without traditionally heroic motives or methods. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t grasp that. Unlike Deadpool, who is also an antihero and whose films much more effectively embraced his morally ambiguous nature, Venom is presented as a mostly straight-forward good guy. The filmmakers downplay the moral ambiguity and most anything else that would make the character interesting. Eddie Brock and the symbiote are two distinct identities living in the same body. The film offers very little of the symbiote’s own personality nor is there much conflict between Eddie and his extraterrestrial parasite. Venom is an origin story and it sticks to the template of that kind of movie but doesn’t do it very well. What makes superhero origin stories interesting is the transformation of the character and how he or she learns to accept the responsibilities that come with power. As an antihero, Venom ought to skirt those lessons or turn them on their head. This film does neither. Venom rescues the girl and saves the day and there’s not much else to it. Just as generic are the evil corporation and its devious CEO. It’s cliché and the villain isn’t compelling. Venom is paced poorly. Eddie Brock and the symbiote don’t merge until halfway through the picture. The action scenes are also unimpressive. They don’t embrace the darkness of the character or find a fresh approach to the car chases and fights we’ve seen so many times before. The special effects are inconsistent, especially in rendering Venom. Whenever the symbiote takes over, Venom looks like a cartoon. It’s always a digital effect and the illusion of the symbiote and the human actor occupying the same space is never convincing.
Bottom Line: Venom is a generic superhero outing, the exact opposite of what was advertised, and the film squanders most of its potential. There are flashes of a much zanier and more interesting film but too often Venom is a bland superhero outing that falls back on clichés.
Episode: #721 (October 21, 2018)