‘Venom’ lacks substance and a reason to exist

by Tim English on October 5, 2018

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down] 

Venom is the perfect example of why audiences will eventually — and probably should — start actively resisting the desperate cash-grab attempts at trolling every single character into their own standalone franchise. Not even the great Tom Hardy can save this pedestrian comic book flick that seems to strive for mediocrity and somehow manages to miss that mark.

Despite the opening Marvel logos that denote this is “…in association with Marvel” and the fact that Venom is a Spider-Man foe — which yes, Marvel Studios is using with Sony’s permission — this film has zero connection to Tom Holland’s version of Spidey nor the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a couple of references that maybe, someday, could be linked back to the MCU should they decide to include this bastardized version of Venom in the MCU but I doubt it. I hope not.

So sans any relationship to Spider-Man, Venom begins with a ship crashing to Earth, carrying samples of symbiotic alien life forms.There are a few of them and one escapes and begins taking over human bodies. Simultaneously, we are introduced to Tom Hardy’s bumbling Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist and kind of a dip shit loser who gets his ass fired when he starts snooping around the LIFE Corporation and asking their CEO too many questions about mysterious deaths among his employees.

During his snooping, Eddie comes in contact with a black alien parasite goo, aka Venom, which takes over his body giving him the dual-split personality of a snarling alien monster who really just wants to bite off some heads and eat some humans. Why else would he come to Earth? Otherwise, there isn’t much of a plot. And by that I mean almost literally. There is nobody “plotting” anything. There is a bad guy, the LIFE Corp. dude played by Riz Ahmed and he’s got these alien symbiote things but what the fuck does he think he’s going to do with these things? Bad guys stuff, I guess.

The Venom-Eddie relationship is about the only positive thing about the movie. At times it’s pretty funny even and offers some solace to the fact that it takes way too freaking long for Eddie and Venom to bond because almost literally nothing is happening in the meantime, nothing interesting anyway. Compared to the last big-screen incarnation in Spider-Man 3, this is a much more accurate depiction of Venom, so points to Sony there. He’s fun to watch when he and Eddie are arguing with each other and offers up a few good one-liners.

Of course there is some bad to the Venom character too, because of course this movie couldn’t get the one thing it did do right…right. The FX in this movie are pretty crappy, especially some of the CGi with the alien substance and the symbiote monsters — yeah, there is more than one — so while Venom looks cool, he doesn’t always look good. Sometimes it’s pretty bad. Not DC Steppenwolf bad, but bad.

This is an anti-hero movie. So, you have an alien monster assuming the body of a human and they have to stop this crazy scientist from bringing more alien goo monsters to Earth. Why does Venom suddenly decide to help Eddie rather than focus on his goal of eating as many people as he can? Who knows. Blame the script from Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel (among others) — and director Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland) who struggles to deliver a cohesive, interesting story while severely mishandling the odd balance of weird humor, action and violence that maintains a PG-13 rating. Then again, the directive to steer clear of the narrative connection to Venom’s true origin makes all of this feel pointless.

Can someone tell what the big deal about Tom Hardy is? Every time a big movie role opens up, Batman, James Bond, what have you, this dude’s name comes up. Why? He’s all over the place in this one, he uses four different accents, his range from being a serious journalistic guy in one scene to a oddball in another is so random it’s off-putting. It’s almost like someone different directed him in every scene. But then again Michelle Williams looks like she has no fucking clue what to do in this movie, so again we point back to a weak script and the fact this movie really has no reason to exist.

The idea of seeing a more realized version of comic book Venom will be enough to get some die-hard fans in the seats, but casual comic-book fans and people who generally like to watch movies with likable characters doing things that make sense and give an audience a reason to cheer will probably be able to see right away this is a sad cash grab attempt to hold on to a character that has really no purpose headlining his own movie.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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