VENOM (7 out of 10) Directed by Ruben Fleischer; Written by Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel; Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed and Jenny Slate; Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language; Running time 112 minutes; In wide release October 5.
Venom attempts to answer the question, “What do we do with one of Spider-Man’s most iconic and powerful foes if Spider-Man is not part of the equation?” The symbiote’s and Eddie Brock’s combined hatred of the friendly, neighborhood hero is what drives him and all his actions in every incarnation since they were bonded in Amazing Spider-Man 300. In this world, it’s not even made clear that they know who Spider-Man is let alone have any animosity towards him. So what do they do instead? Try to take down a megalomaniac billionaire whose actions just might bring about the end of the world.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a jobless and disgraced journalist after refusing to do a puff piece on the head of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Anne (Michelle Williams), his girlfriend, has also rightly dumped him after his reckless behavior and betrayal of trust gets her fired from her law firm. Drunk and nearly homeless, Brock is approached by Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) who is disgusted and fearful of the experiments Drake is attempting in his labs. On a space expedition, his scientists discovered a new species of life – the symbiotes – and brought them back to earth to unlock their powers. His attempts to bond them with human hosts kills off each one until Brock is united with Venom while sneaking into the lab with Dr. Skirth late one night. On the run from Drake’s personal army and trying to figure out exactly what Venom wants with him, Brock eventually learns that the two of them must fight their way into the Life Foundation to prevent the symbiotes’ true goal of world domination.
Based incredibly loosely on the late nineties Lethal Protector comic, Venom does its best to stand on its own and create a completely new mythos far from his original home in New York City. While many aspects of the character will be familiar, it does take certain liberties, especially with his origin, that hardcore fans might find distasteful. But if they can take off their “Comic Book Guy” hats and accept the movie for what it is, there is a lot of fun to be had despite a lot of shortcomings.
Its biggest problem is that for a movie named Venom, the character doesn’t show up for at least the first hour and then doesn’t have that much of an appearance in the rest of the film. Most of the time, we are simply watching Eddie Brock performing the heroics while utilizing the symbiote’s tendrils to attack his enemies or anchor him to buildings or his motorcycle. And it’s a shame too, because the parts that DO have Venom are insanely fun to watch and are some of the best parts of the film.
Well second best. Hardy also performed the voice of Venom, and that character is the most entertaining part of the show. Catty and sarcastic, the internal dialogue between the two protagonists is smart and oftentimes includes the best lines in the movie. Not that they’re all gems (“Turd in the wind” anyone?), but watching it ruthlessly mock Eddie never gets old.
Unfortunately, there’s also a sense of something missing that permeates the entire thing. Had this been released back in the early 2000s, it would have been hailed as one of the best comic book movies ever made, but with the work that Marvel Studios has done with the MCU, Venom just feels extremely dated. Not that every superhero movie needs to reach the heights of Civil War or Infinity War, but the bar has been raised, and new endeavors must at least strive to come close to hitting it.
Venom is not a great movie, and people would be hard pressed to even call it a good movie. It has so many problems that people who don’t already love the character aren’t going to enjoy it. But for us fans, it scratches the itch of finally getting a decent big screen adaptation that we were hoping for in Spider-Man 3. Simply put, this is big, dumb fun that put a smile on my face from beginning to end, and that’s all we need from some movies. Is it going to change anyone’s life? No, and that’s not what it’s trying to do. So, if you love the character, head to the theater, grab some popcorn and turn your brain off for an hour and a half. Sometimes a distraction like this is just fine.
7 out of 10