2018’s Venom is almost impressively mediocre.
Perhaps it’s worth starting this Venom review with the confirmation that it isn’t as bad as Suicide Squad and Justice League. Yes, that is about the most unflattering compliment one could give. But it’s an important point. Venom isn’t great. But its failure isn’t the result of it being outright dreadful. It fails because it could have been so much better.
Venom tells the story of Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy. At the film’s beginning, Brock’s got his life together: He’s a leading investigative journalist, is engaged to Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), and appears genuinely happy. But after an interaction with evil Elon Musk-esque Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), his life begins to crumble. Soon after, Brock becomes infected with a symbiote, and the you know what starts hitting the you know fan.
All in all, that sounds like your standard origin story. Sure, Brock and his symbiote aren’t a classic superhero – more an anti-hero. But the ingredients were there for Sony to really make something of this. Plus, it’s Tom bloody Hardy.
Unfortunately, as if they’d chartered a private jet for a day and used it to run errands, the direction Sony took was very very boring.
Venom finds itself caught between lighthearted comedy and gritty action, ultimately achieving neither.
If Sony would have taken the Logan approach, Venom could have been badass. And it also would have made sense. The symbiotes are terrifying. They literally eat heads. An R-rating could have emphasised such terrifying…ness.
Instead, they went the family-friendly route, going safe with a PG-13 rating. Subsequently, to make up for the lack of gore, Sony chose to up the humour. It doesn’t work.
If you would have told me that I’d be attending a Venom movie where Venom is cracking jokes about being a loser, I would have said “Thanks so much but I do believe you’re incorrect.” I’m very polite.
That is what we got though. The symbiotes are portrayed as friendly, like a really loyal guard dog. Honestly, it almost makes the audience jealous that we don’t have our own pet symbiote.
And that’s because of the humour. Weak jokes litter the movie, and instead of adding quirk in the way so many Marvel films nail, it detracts from everything. It’s one thing to lighten the tone of a dark comic. But to lighten the dark characters spoils the whole thing.
When we did see those moments of action, the lack of any gore whatsoever stifled any opportunity to redeem Venom’s menace.
Thor is a PG character. Venom isn’t.
Ten years ago, Venom would have blown us away.
But now it’s impossible to not feel like this has been done before. We’re so used to these types of storylines. We’re so used to these tropes. Seriously, how many times do we need to have a mad scientist as the villain?
This specifically is another clear case of Marvel’s weak villains. Unfortunately though, this film struggles to nail many characters.
Tom Hardy is great, as you’d expect. But this isn’t the type of performance that draws a crowd. How could it be? He’s portrayed as a doofus and simultaneously one of the best investigative journalists in the world. It just doesn’t fit, and the rest of his character arc follows in this uninteresting, somewhat nonsensical manner.
Let’s just say a lot of Venom‘s characters lack a lot of dimensions.
Verdict on Venom
Ultimately a missed opportunity and a very forgettable outcome.
However, as I mentioned at the start this review, Venom won’t be the worst movie you’ll see. It doesn’t suck in a “How did anybody get paid to make this?” kind of way. If you love your superhero films, Venom adds to the cannon in an enjoyable, albeit simple, way.
But don’t expect any more than that. I mean, they made Venom loveable. There really isn’t much else to say.