Directed by Ruben Fleischer.
Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Michelle Lee, Sope Aluko, Reid Scott, Sam Medina, Jared Bankens, Wayne Pére, and Woody Harrelson.
When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.
Really, Sony and Marvel should have just called this origin story of Venom (the highly popular antihero/villain from many Spider-Man universes) Tom Hardy. His performance, which seems to channel well-respected actors running the gamut from Jim Carrey to Al Pacino to Adam Sandler to his own trademark mumbling, is nothing short of bizarrely wondrous, and while I am fully aware the Razzies do a terrible job at giving awards to the actual worst movies of the year, Tom Hardy will be receiving a nomination here for playing symbiote host and investigative journalist Eddie Brock.
Directed here by Ruben Fleischer (most known for Zombieland and rightfully so considering it is one of the best zombie movies of the century), Venom is more of a comedy than anything. What’s here is so bizarre that I’m genuinely not sure if the writing team (a whopping four names are credited, further solidifying my initial assessment that this movie is a whole lot of different things smashed into one, like trying to piece together one of those 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles while looking at the wrong picture) is intentionally going for laughs or have just failed miserably at creating an intriguing conflict whatsoever between Eddie Brock and the gooey blackness blob. Whatever the case may be, it certainly has all moral dilemmas stripped of its essence (which is probably the greatest crime filmmakers can commit when bringing this fan-favorite character to the silver screen) with Venom quipping that he can fix all of the injured bodies he is leaving in his path. For those of you wondering if he does enjoy eating brains, well, Venom does get to do such a thing once, but just like the rest of the movie, it’s such a bloodless endeavor that one has to wonder what’s even the point.
To be fair, wanton violence and unfulfilled bloodlust isn’t even the most crippling problem here, although whoever at Sony decided that a Venom blockbuster not set in the MCU and not having anything to do with any incarnation of Spider-Man would be ace as PG-13, should be fired. Venom is the kind of Sony superhero project that makes you just wish they went ahead with whatever the fuck that rumored Aunt May Cold War movie was supposed to be. Basically, for a movie that’s tagline is something along the lines of “the world has enough superheroes”, you better have a damn good reason to transform that character into a hero over time. Venom doing good in this movie comes down to a one-liner joke that I guess is also supposed to double as a plot twist. Regardless, it’s stupid, but like everything else about this clusterfuck, it had me rolling.
As for the basic story, web-based journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) appears to work for the same company as his girlfriend (Michelle Williams, who seems to be given two different characters to slip in and out of), except he gets both of them fired for bringing the heat on some sort of scientist (Riz Ahmed) running a shady corporation full of unethical human experiments. Following this, a fellow scientist played by Jenny Slate comes to Eddie to sneak him into the laboratory and get to the bottom of everything once and for all; she also does something so incredibly dumb that it feels as if the script was pounded out overnight without a single rewrite or even proofreading. Nevertheless, Eddie comes into fusion with Venom, beginning a quest for food (the symbiote is insatiable, to the point where Eddie jumps into a lobster tank at a restaurant and starts eating them alive) and justice. Naturally, there is also a battle against a much larger symbiote, which looks like someone opened up Microsoft Paint and created a slideshow out of the various clashing drawings.
In the interest of fairness to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, there isn’t much to work with here, but he does manage to get some fun out of a fight sequence that feels like a battle from the recently released Upgrade (a far better movie with a concept more similar than you might think). His framing of the action sequences is perfectly competent, but rather it’s the CGI that is all around ghastly, even in the dark which is truly confounding. The plot is so silly it might as well be a cartoon, and Tom Hardy certainly treats the material as such, but the film also feels desperate to break out into something much darker. MRI scans and sonic pain inflicted on Venom cause flashing glimpses of the alien creature superimposed over Tom Hardy’s face, complete with special-effects so bad it might as well be a low-budget horror movie. Essentially, the numerous, numerous flaws here have to begin with the puzzling script.
With all that hate thrown out, it’s still tough to actually despise Venom; much of what Tom Hardy is doing is nonetheless entertaining, whether it be bad or good. I don’t know why his dialect changes from scene to scene, or if he intended the performance to feel slapstick, or if I should be laughing at half the stuff in the movie, but it’s a silver lining to an otherwise unmitigated catastrophe. Venom also has one of the better Stan Lee cameos going for it, but depending on your enjoyment for things that are so bad they end up good, you may be long gone from the theater by then. Personally, sign me right the hell up for the teased sequel; the only thing better than Tom Hardy here would be him with an actor equally going for broke right along beside him.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com