Review: ‘Venom’ is not worth the $15 ticket, unfortunately
When I was eight years old, I begged my mom for weeks to let me see “Iron Man.” I remember the excitement I felt when she finally relented and said yes. I saw it opening weekend, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. That moment began a 10-year love affair with superhero movies that, while tested at times, is still going strong. “Venom” is one such movie that tests that love.
I don’t think I could think of a better example of wasted potential than this movie. The character of Venom is one of the coolest anti-heroes in all of Marvel comics; he’s a combination of an alien parasite and a human who are united by their hatred for Spider-Man, making for one of Spider-Man’s most formidable foes. With that being said, it should not be hard to make a good movie about the guy, yet this movie makes several mistakes that holds the character’s potential back. First, and most obviously, this movie is rated PG-13. For those who aren’t familiar with the character, Venom eats people and thus has quite a liberal view on murder. He is, or should be, a horrifying character, one that lends himself very well to an R rating and no less. If Sony, the producers of “Venom,” known for other cinematic disasters such as 2015’s “Fantastic Four” and 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” were interested in making this movie good, they wouldn’t have stuck to the PG-13 rating, which isn’t faithful to the original character. A PG-13 rating meant that the violence, the first thing that most fans automatically think of when they think “Venom,” had to be toned down significantly and that most of the jokes had to be made more family-friendly. Those aren’t always bad things, but there are already so many family-friendly superhero movies in the market at the moment.
Secondly, Spider-Man is nowhere to be found in this movie. Venom as a character can’t really exist properly without Spider-Man because Venom’s origin story is deeply intertwined with Spider-Man. In the comics, both Venom’s human counterpart Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote have a grudge against Spider-Man, resulting in their alliance against him. However, since Spider-Man is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony was forced to create an entirely new origin story — a much blander and incredibly generic one— for Venom, where Venom and Spider-Man find each other in a way that neither gives satisfaction or exposes depth to the characters’ motives. Wihout Spider-Man’s role, Venom is stripped of much of his charm and complexity.
However, to be fair, there are a few positive aspects to the film. For one, Tom Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock is easily the best part of the movie. The internal dialogue between the two that no one else but Eddie Brock can hear is very well done: the symbiote’s absurd thoughts combined with Eddie’s confused reactions often resulted in some of the funniest moments in the movie. Also, Hardy acting as a man who learns to share his body with a malicious alien entity is fairly entertaining as he conveys the sense of confusion and horror in a humorous and fairly realistic way. If you’ve seen “Upgrade,” a film where Tom Hardy lookalike Logan Marshall-Green’s body is taken over by an A.I. that allows him to have superpowers, you just might experience some minor déjà-vu. Finally, despite the constraints of a PG-13 rating, heavy reliance on CGI, choppy editing and poor lighting, one or two of the action scenes were fairly well-executed.
While my review is fairly damning, I will admit that Venom is a moderately entertaining movie. Similar to “Suicide Squad” or any of the “Transformers “movies, “Venom” can be categorized as a guilty pleasure movie; in other words, a bad movie but one that is still entertaining purely by virtue of pandering to the audience and giving them what they want: big, dumb CGI battles, explosions, easy jokes, etc. However, the film only just barely deserves to be put into this category because, as entertaining as CGI battles and magically appearing explosions are, “Venom” still managed to be boring.
It’s impossible to care for any of the characters in this movie since they’re all so one-dimensional. Once Tom Hardy gets over his initial alarm of being bonded with an alien parasite, there is no further character development for Eddie Brock. Hardy and Michelle Williams, who plays Anne Weying, Brock’s ex-girlfriend, have zero on-screen chemistry, creating even more audience apathy for the characters or what they are doing and why. The worst offender in the movie is the villain Carlton Drake, portrayed by Riz Ahmed, a shady C.E.O. who believes that combining symbiotes with humans will usher in the next great era of human civilization. The evil businessman villain trope has been done so many times in superhero movies that, at this point, even if the script for this movie wasn’t as wooden, generic and predictable as it was, it would have been very difficult to make this character unique or nuanced in any way. Ahmed’s performance was solid, but there’s only so much you can do when a screenplay is this bad.
To conclude, “Venom” is a poorly written, CGI-heavy, corporate sell-out of a film. A few moments will keep you entertained, but on the whole, you’ll just keep looking at your watch to see how much of the one hour and fifty-two minutes is left. So far, “Venom” has grossed over $205 million worldwide. It is without a doubt a smash hit, which is an issue because when a movie this poor makes so much money, it only incentivizes studios to keep producing and releasing garbage movies. “Venom” is, at best, a rainy Sunday movie you watch while you flick through the channels because nothing else good is on. I can’t condone paying fifteen dollars to see this movie, especially if that means you’re supporting the equally horrible sequel they’ll probably make in two years.