Which new movie has quick quips, an insect-like hero, and a likable protagonist? It’s not Spider-Man, but this movie sure could use him.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad), Venom stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and Reid Scott.
Set in San Francisco, an alien symbiote latches onto journalist Eddie Brock, giving him the powers of his alter ego, Venom. The Marvel anti-hero now has to put his new-found powers to use and stop LIFE Foundation’s founder from bringing a world of hell onto our planet.
Venom is one of my favorite characters in all of comic book lore. That said, Venom could have been great, but instead all we got was a throwaway superhero movie that may or may not have a potential future.
Ever since Spider-Man switched over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, owned by the mega company known as Disney, the web-slinging hero and his iconic foes have been a part of something bigger and more amazing.
However, Sony Pictures still has rights to Spider-Man. They can make films about Spider-Man but can’t have the hero. I don’t know if anybody is quite sure what’s happening behind the scenes. All I know is that Sony decided to produce a movie embodying Spider-Man. Without Spider-Man.
With Venom, the audience gets to witness a better Eddie Brock — I’m sorry, Eric, from That ’70s Show — and a separate story in a Marvel Universe where the origin of the symbiote creature differs from the comic book.
Hardy is the highlight, period. I shouldn’t expect any less of him. He’s a high caliber actor who’s appeared in such films like Inception, The Revenant, The Dark Knight Rises and more.
With previous experience in a superhero movie, Hardy finds the person in a performance before the superpower or supervillainy that comes with comic book characters. Brock is a complex character in the comics, and Hardy embraces the human aspect of Venom.
Those interactions between Venom’s voice and Brock are internally happening are the moments that make Venom shine. It then quickly loses me with a poorly written story I found boring and uninspired.
All my worries about Venom — including Sony reaching a larger audience with a PG-13 rating, and having a similar tone to every quirky Marvel movie in the MCU — came true.
By the second half of Venom, the story felt like a confusing origin exposition followed by action, followed by exposition about what the villain will do, followed by more action.
I enjoyed some of the hand-to-hand combat, or blade-to-hammer combat in some body morphing scenes, but the quick cuts, especially in one particular motorcycle chase scene, squeezed my brain to a pulp. I couldn’t tell what was happening in some scenes.
Fortunately, the quick cuts are not found in abundance.
What is found in abundance is a lack of character to face Venom. Yes, I’m talking about Peter Parker/Spider-Man. In a world that involves an iconic anti-hero that rivals Spider-Man in the comics, it’s much too difficult to separate the two characters.
On top of Spider-Man’s missing presence and the sub-par plot that doesn’t make sense half the time, Sony had the spine to make Venom PG-13. A character who literally, even in this film, eats peoples’ heads and has overtly violent tendencies.
I understand the business, but let’s be clear: Marvel films are in fanboy territory. If you’re going to attract people to come see a movie based on material that has a ginormous following, you better please those people. Venom, and more importantly his symbiote offspring, are some of the most violent characters in all Marvel comic books. It isn’t fair to the fans to not do him justice.
What follows the film in a mid-credits scene suggests a sequel that I’m incredibly excited for. I won’t spoil anything, but if Sony wants to keep going with this franchise and give it another chance, with the character being suggested in the scene, then they have an obligation to give it an R-rating.
Venom has untapped potential, but with a strong performance from Hardy. I’m thoroughly disappointed. Even if I am still backing up a sequel, I just hope Venom can find his own way in an era of same old, same old superheroes.