There is a time in which Venom, the new Sony-backed superhero movie featuring a popular character from the Spider-Man comics, could have likely passed as a decent entry into the genre.
If it had arrived prior to 2008, the year game-changers like Iron Man and The Dark Knight hit theaters, then it’s possible that its muddled blend of faux-gritty realism and buddy movie antics could have played as novel or even subversive. The problem is that we’ve since had 10 years of seemingly innumerable superhero films and it’s more than a bit puzzling that Sony thought they could release something this flat and uninspired in 2018.
Tom Hardy bumbles his way through a thoroughly gonzo performance as Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter whose unethical practices lead to him lose both his job and fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) in the same day. After trying to exact revenge on Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the head of a shady bioengineering company called the Life Foundation, he gets tangled up with an alien entity called a symbiote and is subsequently “taken over” by the foreign creature named Venom.
Now sporting a new set of superpowers that allow him to mow through henchmen left and right, Brock vows to stop Drake before he unleashes his dangerous symbiotes into the world.
The big problems with Venom start with the boneheaded script, which not only regurgitates tropes that are well past exhausted by now but also bounces around from one plot point to another without a shred of logic attached. It doesn’t help that it also includes dubious lines of dialogue like the supposedly menacing “Have a nice life” and the downright bizarre “Ain’t nothing change but the weather.” Save for some of the bi-play between Brock and Venom, particularly one exchange that occurs at the top floor of a high building, most of the comedy falls flat and feels completely at odds with the dark and moody tone that director Ruben Fleischer is attempting to establish.
Hardy, who also voices the carnivorous Venom creature, is perhaps the only person trying to do something interesting, but different doesn’t always mean better. Lurching around like the alien-possessed farmer from Men In Black, he chooses to voice Brock like a marble-mouthed buffoon who can rarely stay ahead of the curve.
Meanwhile, fantastically over-qualified supporting players like Williams and Ahmed are hindered by inconsistent and generally dopey characters that don’t add any dimension to the already lackluster story.
Like the inky substance that overtakes the film’s protagonist, Venom also has an especially murky and lifeless look to it. As is becoming more routine for blockbusters these days, the majority of the scenes take place at night to disguise sloppy CGI and editing.
The film’s final fight scene, which looks like it’s set in an exploding silly string factory, is both visually incomprehensible and unappealing.
It’s another swing-and-a-miss by Sony, who leased the rights for some of the Spider-Man characters to Marvel Studios but obviously retained control of Venom on the hopes that they could score a hit sans the web-slinger. Unfortunately, I fear they will indeed have financial success with Venom, which means we’ll have plenty more cash-grabbing superhero ventures for years to come.
Coming to theaters this weekend:
First Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, is a Neil Armstrong biopic covering the lead-up to the Apollo 11 mission and is the latest from Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle.
Bad Times at the El Royale, starring Jeff Bridges and Dakota Johnson, follows seven strangers as they begin to uncover each others’ secrets during their stay at a novelty southwest hotel.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, starring Jack Black and Wendi McLendon-Covey, looks to cull chills once again from the popular children’s horror book series by R. L. Stine.