Venom isn’t quite so satisfying in its action department, but the main character(s) possess enough charm together to not suck the life out of the film completely.
Here it is, the currently best series out of the Sony Spider-Man Universe movies. And before you get all excited about that, remind yourself that said universe includes Morbius in its lineup.
Directed by Ruben Fleisher, Venom features Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a struggling journalist who investigates into biological experiments of the megacorp Life Foundation. Unfortunately, one of those experiments, a murderous alien symbiotic life form called Venom, ends up taking a liking to Eddie, and now he finds himself bonded together in a fight against the megacorp.
Venom was apparently a long time coming for comic book fans. This popular Spider-Man villain’s first live action adaptation was in Spider-Man 3. However, fans felt dissatisfied with his screentime, power, and overall characterization. After that, a spinoff with Venom was constantly talked about, but it wouldn’t come into fruition until Sony decided to start a new shared universe with non-Spider-Man characters that they had the rights to.
The point of that history lesson is that Venom had quite some expectations to meet. It had to deliver the cool villain and anti hero that Venom was in the comics, in a way that didn’t feel like he was sidelined or anything. And judging from the general critical reaction, it seems to have failed in that regards. A large criticism seems to be that Venom wasn’t villainous or anti-heroic enough to satisfy.
Yet what matters to me above all is the final product, and how well it sells me on this character through its own merits, and on that front, Venom was quite successful. The issue that the film had to tackle was trying to find an acceptable justification for Venom to be the hero. For what reason would this alien symbiote who sees humans as just a protein omakase go out of its way to protect humanity?
Venom presents what I think is a pretty interesting solution. The reason why Venom fights to stop the Life Foundation is because they are trying to bring back more symbiotes from space. Why would Venom not want any more of his pals on Earth? Well, it’s because he’s a loser among them, so for once he would like to be surrounded by life forms that are inferior to him.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty selfish and unique reason for Venom to be a hero despite his tendency to treat human heads akin to gobstoppers. And it’s relatable in some way as well, wanting to just find a place where you’re not treated like an underdog.
The issue is that the movie then brings another point into Venom’s motivations: he’s formed a genuine bond with Eddie and that is also what he is fighting for. On paper, that doesn’t sound too bad either. Yes, it’s a bit reminiscent of those buddie comedy movies from the 90s, but it’s not like that scenario cannot work as long as the buddies in question have chemistry.
However, this is what the movie doesn’t devote enough time to. Almost directly before Venom confesses his undying love to Eddie, Eddie wanted nothing to do with Venom, so this sudden declaration of best friends forever feels a little rushed. The charm of buddie comedies is seeing two characters who don’t mesh well slowly come to understand each other and ultimately find a common ground, but this film seems to jump straight from the conflict part to the resolution.
It is a shame too, because I actually like the chemistry between Eddie and Venom in short snippets. Venom getting mad at being called a parasite or asking for tater tots for a midnight snack and Eddie trying to deal with him like dealing with a particularly annoying roommate (or in this case, body-mate) is quite entertaining and even a little endearing. It’s why I still ended up liking the main character(s) overall. But the buildup to that relationship had to be a bit more convincing.
Still, the main character(s) are likeable and interesting enough to keep watching, even if it entails watching Tom Hardy jump into a fish tank and bite into raw lobsters. Unfortunately, this is a superhero/villain movie, and thus I am going to be looking to be entertained action-wise as well. And this is unfortunately where this movie devolves into a soupy mess.
To give credit where credit’s due, I think there are some pretty creative uses of the symbiote in its action sequences. The design for Venom is cool and intimidating, and most of his moves look fittingly inhuman. The problem is with the effects. I get that these are alien creatures, but I am not sure if the CGI constantly looking distractingly out of place was meant to represent that. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is why Venom keeps appearing in darkness or at night.
This gets even worse when we get to the final fight between Venom and the other meaner symbiote over at the Life Foundation. This is where the fight devolves into smashing two silly putty blobs at each other and then rubbing it on your face. Half the time I am struggling to even tell the two apart. It’s a shame because as I said, I think these symbiotes have a lot of potential for creative fighting moves, but what we got is largely messy.
Also, this might be more of a nitpick, but why is everyone in this movie weirdly chill about Venom indulging in human sashimi? Eddie’s reaction to this comes off more as him finding out that your roommate has been making a shrine out of your used socks. It’s not just Eddie as well, multiple characters in this movie treat people getting their heads chewed off by Venom like you would a child biting into a lollipop. I guess they were playing more for comedy, which is fine I suppose, but it did make me pause.
Still, despite all that, Venom is nowhere near the failure this film’s critical score may have you believe. It’s most certainly not breaking any records in my book, and it may have had to do with my expectations being low to start with, but this would be a fun movie at parties. Whether it be laughing along with or laughing at the movie, I would say the odds are half and half, but it’s better than making you scowl.
Venom is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Read our review of Black Adam.