REVIEW: “Venom” lacks bite
How does one describe “Venom?” A shameless attempt to create a new franchise out of a Sony-owned Spider-Man property? A bland mess of CGI goo? How about just a waste of hard drive space.
Okay, so here’s an actual description.
“Venom” is a movie based on the popular Spider-Man villain of the same name. This latest adaptation follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative journalist with a successful video journalism series in which he tackles tough issues and corruption. After stepping out of line trying to get the truth, Eddie loses everything—until a circumstantial encounter with the titular alien symbiotic creature. “Venom” fuses with Eddie, using him as a host, and the two form an unlikely partnership.
The last attempt at a feature film adaptation of the fan-favorite character, Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” (2007), was met with harsh criticism from fans. “Venom” attempts to bring a more true-to-form version of the character to the big screen—this time in his very own film.
From start to finish “Venom” takes one baffling misstep after another. It aims to be a send-up of the superhero films that have flooded the cinemas in recent years, but it feels more like it’s not even aware of the evolution that those films have gone through. As it stands, “Venom” belongs back in 2005, right alongside “Elektra” and Tim Story’s “Fantastic Four.”
The film drags as it fumbles around, setting things up for a small eternity before the story even takes shape. The entire middle third of the film feels like filler while you wait for an actual plot to show up, and then the crux of the plot is only introduced in the final act of the film, seemingly tacked on as an excuse to have its run-of-the-mill good versus evil final showdown.
There’s no inspiration here. Nothing is original and nothing feels organic. I guess the studio decided that trying to adapt Venom into its own solo film was enough of a risk, so no others were taken where it counts.
The worst part of the film is the way it wastes its impressive cast. Four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is reduced to your stock female love interest in Anne Weying. The movie tries to give her more to do, but her determination to be involved comes across as ignorant and naive given the stakes, and the good she does do is circumstantial to plot necessity. A surprisingly large amount of time in the film is devoted to Eddie and Anne’s romance, but their lack of chemistry and the cliché nature of their story kills any momentum the movie had with that subplot.
Riz Ahmed is also wasted as Carlton Drake, a generic evil CEO-type antagonist with a literal God complex. Ahmed has been proving himself to be a desirable talent in recent years with roles in films such as “Nightcrawler” (2014), “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) and an especially notable Emmy-winning performance in the HBO miniseries “The Night Of” (2016). It’s disappointing to see him in such a bland, thankless role in such a big movie.
And then there’s Tom Hardy. I don’t know what movie Tom Hardy thought he was making, but it certainly isn’t the one that got made. He gives a very committed performance, but it's one that has no place in this movie. His version of Eddie Brock is grungy and paranoid, appearing to be either inebriated or drug-addled even before merging with Venom—despite being presented as someone who is of a clear, smart mind with a charismatic personality.
Hardy also provides the voice for Venom himself. This is the source of the only inventiveness in the entire film, as Brock and Venom’s interplay occasionally introduces small doses of charm and humor to an otherwise mind-numbingly dull slog of a film.
“Venom” is the kind of movie that should be lost to time. It's a bland waste of time and effort. It wastes every opportunity it was afforded to be something more and fails to be the franchise starter that it so desperately wants to be.
It’s the kind of film that upsets me, not just because it isn’t good, but because it feels like it gave up. The sketches of a promising story are buried so deep as to be unrecognizable. “Venom” fails to rise above or even approach the other comic book films flooding theaters. It saddles a terrific cast with a terrible script that follows the least interesting path, resulting in a depressingly rote and excruciatingly draining experience.
My only hope is that the mid-credits sequel set-up scene will be looked back on as a funny joke in the future.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for language
Runtime: 1hr 56min