By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 4, 2018)
Maybe it’s possible in some universe, though not the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as this film is by no means part of it, that there’s a good Venom movie out there to be made. Perhaps there’s a story that a major motion picture could tell that would do the character justice. It might be out there somewhere, but without question…
…Ruben Fleischer’s 2018 version ain’t it.
The “TL;DR” version of this review is relatively simple: Venom is terrible.
Ruben Fleischer directed Zombieland, which was creative, wildly fun, and a surprise hit, with a sequel slated for next year.
This movie isn’t any of those things, although there will be a sequel (or two).
Venom is one of the worst “Marvel” films ever made, although at the beginning, when the Columbia Pictures logo comes up first, you realize just how far away from a Marvel movie this actually is. The studio’s own famous logo does show up, but with a bright “IN ASSOCIATION WITH” above it. This isn’t a MCU film and in fact is an entirely standalone movie, with the exception of one cameo that won’t surprise you in the least when you see it.
Thankfully, the main film is only around 95 minutes long, with a lengthy credits sequence that features reasons to stick around, if you care about the future of the character or this story. Why you would based on the movie you just watched, I have no idea. From the brunt of the performances to the rushed story to the one-note comedy to the dullest of the dull when it comes to the score, Venom fails on almost every level.
Tom Hardy is a talented dude, and while he does shine at times in the film, he can’t save it. Riz Ahmed, thanks largely to The Night Of on HBO, has become a rising star, but he can’t save it. I have no clue why Michelle Williams would actually have agreed to do this, other than a paycheck, but she can’t save it.
Nobody can save it. It’s just flat out bad.
The story centers around Eddie Brock (Hardy), a journalist with a penchant for deeper investigative pieces for television. He gains an interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed), an eccentric and uber wealthy inventor and the head of the Life Foundation. As you can guess, the latter has some very nefarious motivations and is experimenting with something called a “symbiote,” which if you’re familiar with Marvel comics or Spider-Man 3, you’re already well aware of it.
Drake discovered these organisms while his technology explored space, and makes the decision to bring four of them to earth, with varying results for one of them. His obsession with finding ways to bond them to humans in order to escape impending ecological breakdown on Earth leads him to toss all morality out the window. Basically, you’ve seen this before many times in these kind of films. The rich guy with the megalomaniacal complex and the world-building dream that goes too far and loses himself in the process…been there, done that.
Without giving any more of the story away past the background, the symbiotes cause all sorts of problems during experimentation, and Eddie Brock’s life falls apart in the wake of the Drake investigation. He eventually bonds, unknowingly, with one of the symbiotes, and begins to hear the voice of “Venom” in his mind, as he and the symbiote share the human body as a host. Venom has often been popular in print, but it’s just not very good on screen.
One problem with the movie is that Eddie and Venom basically quip back and forth like roommates, going back to the same joke well over and over again. Everything is painfully surface-oriented, with no depth and no real reason to care about much of anything. At times it’s funny, but it also takes you completely out of the experience. A friend of mine and fellow film critic described it afterwards as a “weird buddy comedy.” It’s almost like a buddy cop show, but with just one actor and the voice inside his head that occasionally turns him into an alien monster.
Once Venom actually shows his legitimate face, the movie speeds into high gear and about a half hour later, it’s over. Another issue with the film comes in the form of hurrying right to the conclusion and not spending much time on the lead-up to the climax. I welcomed it, if only because I was so ready for the credits to roll. Once again, the acting isn’t particularly good, but the script may be to blame, because so much of the dialogue is trite and forgettable, not to mention incredibly predictable.
Possibly my favorite character in Venom is Dr. Dora Skirth, played by Jenny Slate. She’s the most believable person you’ll see and the one that acts and reacts in ways that actually make linear sense. Michelle Williams’ Anne Weying starts out normal enough, but how she treats Eddie immediately following the Drake events is a major turn-off and seems completely out of place based on who we had seen her to be prior to that point in the story. Reid Scott apparently really likes playing guys named Dan, as he’s Dr. Dan Lewis here, a guy so far from Veep‘s selfish, foul-mouthed Dan Egan that there’s nothing but a face to link them in any respect.
You can guess even minor points to come long before they do, and there’s not one surprising sequence in the entire film. You’ve seen action done better, you’ve seen comedy done better, you’ve heard about 8,000 better scores (and Ludwig Göransson also scored Black Panther, which is in a completely different league from this effort), you’ve listened to far better dialogue, you’ve watched far better acting, and generally speaking, there is zero reason to recommend actually spending real money to see this thing. If you can catch it free, I’d still pass. Your time is worth more than Venom.
This is one of the weirdest, most poorly-structured, mind-numbing movies I’ve seen in several years. The logic fails, the common sense is non-existent, and even when it looks like it might be fun, it mostly ends up just being vapid and dumb. Hardy’s accent/non-accent is also bothersome, because it just doesn’t sound right and is inconsistent. I just wanted to hear Bane once I stopped caring.
By the end, you do sort of like Eddie and Venom’s relationship with one another, and it does start to click a little. The ties you’d expect from Venom to other characters are not there at all, though maybe that is still to come. Tom Hardy has signed on to do two more films as the character, and he has a producing credit in this one. There is a reason to stick through the credits, but be warned, they are LONG credits.
I wanted to like it and I tried to find reasons to, but a bad movie is a bad movie. There are some funny moments and some spots where you almost start to like it, but they’re few and far between. It’s thankfully short in comparison to virtually every other movie based on a comic, but what’s there is as ho-hum as it gets for the most part. Is it as bad as Fantastic Four? Eh…maybe not quite.
But it’s awful. It gets a D. Total dud. Go see A Star Is Born this weekend instead, because it’s tremendous.