Review - 'Venom'
Let’s be real here, Venom is not a character that is ripe for his own solo venture. This is a Spider-man villain in a film without Spider-man to trade blows with. Think about that for a second. Well, oddly enough it turns out that the awkward gymnastics that the filmmakers had to perform to make this film seem viable as a stand-alone are actually one of the main reasons Venom is worth seeing.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a risk-taking investigative journalist, is infected by a symbiote called “Venom”. What starts out as a parasitic relationship then blossoms into something…different but still probably unhealthy. Fortunately, the two have a common enemy in the form of Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a power-hungry CEO who isn’t afraid to kill countless subjects to achieve his goal. Venom and Eddie Brock decide to put up with each other until he is brought down.
I’ll admit, I went into Venom with my claws out. I was ready to rip this film a new one, but I was also open to the fact that it might not be what I was expecting. Well, it wasn’t what I was expecting, but it still isn’t anything near what I would define as good. What I will say, though, is that Venom is never a boring sit. I was always curious to see what kind of train-wreck awaited me around every corner; whether it be Tom Hardy fighting with himself and pulling off some seriously impressive body contortions, or a CGI sludge-fest that looks nowhere near finished. Venom isn’t good or bad, it’s just baffling, and at least for one viewing, it makes for an amusing experience.
The plot of Venom is mind-bogglingly stupid, especially when the focus shifts towards the villain played by Riz Ahmed, who is blatantly making human sacrifices for science and is doing the worst job at hiding it. Also, for such a smart character, he’s a total idiot when it comes to the containment of his specimens. At least Ahmed seems to be hamming it up here and gets some of the most hilariously clunky mustache-twirling villain lines. I’m pretty sure he was secretly parodying comic book villains, but I can’t be completely certain. That said, Tom Hardy seems to be acting in a completely different film. His character arc is more compelling and he’s actually established pretty well from the get-go. Hardy is giving this performance 100%…100% of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. All I know is that I could not take my eyes off of this man, especially when he first becomes attached to the symbiote known as Venom. There’s a particularly memorable scene where he disrupts a fine dining experience. If the movie had kept building off of the insanity of this particular scene, Venom might have actually been something special. Unfortunately, it sort of plateaus after that.
Michelle Williams is given absolutely nothing to do here as Brock’s love interest, Anne Weying. She gets one “cheer” moment that’s meant to display girl-power, but it comes off as cheap, out-of-place and cringe-worthy. Jenny Slate plays Ahmed’s confidant, Melora Walters, who gets a slightly meatier role than I was expecting. Slate is so like-able that even when she’s saddled with such terribly-written dialogue, she still had me rooting for her.
Venom also falls victim to some pretty poor effects. You know your effects team didn’t have the budget or the time to make a finished product when most of said CGI sequences take place under the cover of darkness. That said, I can slightly overlook this simply because Venom’s design is supposed to be a tad on the cartoonish side, and well, he’s an alien goo that can shape-shift, so really I don’t know what that should look like.
Venom, much like its titular main character, is an entity at war with itself. There’s a fascinating, manic Jeckyll and Hyde vibe to half of this film that is a riotous joy to witness, then there’s a drab, clunky, early 2000-era quality that grabs the wheel for the other half. Overall, it’s a ride worth taking if only to experience a movie that is so uniquely flawed and confusingly enjoyable.