Venom is a bit of a mess. At times it feels great, at other times it feels awkward, sometimes misguided, and sometimes you just want it to quit while it’s ahead. All in all, it’s a fun ride, but nothing to write home about, and probably better experienced as a bunch of “BEST OF VENOM” clips on Youtube than a full movie.
I went into this movie more than a bit biased. I’m a big fan of the Venom character, and I have been my entire life – Being a Spider-Man fan before I knew about Venom, I discovered the darker iteration of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler around the age of 13. This was the perfect age for my little teenage brain to be seeking something I perceived as the more adult, the darker and more mature version of Spider-Man. And when I saw black, big, edgy monster Spider-Man for the first time, I fell in love. I’ve been in love ever since, and after my dissatisfaction with Spider-Man 3’s portrayal of Venom wore off, I was very much anticipating to see what this film would do with the character.
But even so, I braced myself for the movie-reviewing I would have to do later and tried to view the experience as someone with no affiliation to the Marvel universe whatsoever. I tried to put all my childish joy in the backseat and let my more intelligent side take over, judging the film purely based on its merits as a film and not based on the fact that it had friggin VENOM in it.
So did I succeed?
Nope. But luckily it wasn’t hard to get a good feel for this movie, Venom fan or not.
The movie is a mess. It loses coherence quickly into act 2, and never quite gets it back, with a number of moving parts all struggling to keep up with Hardy. And they never keep up with Hardy, in fact, they never so much as come close, and this is due to how spectacular he is in the film. Every scene that centers mostly around Tom Hardy / Eddie Brock is an absolute joy to watch, if only for how much fun Tom Hardy is very clearly having with this role. He’s having a total BLAST, and you can’t help but laugh along with him a lot of the time. But unfortunately, he’s not the whole movie.
There’s Eddie’s girlfriend Ann, who has almost as much No-Chemistry with the movie’s Eddie Brock as the two actors seem to have with each other. There’s the movie’s villain, Carleton Drake, who is this very not-intimidating rich guy with a series of lines that come off as cliche and preachy rather than inspiring or interesting. Then there are the film’s two subplots, which are Eddie’s romance with Ann and a certain symbiote moving towards San Francisco. Both don’t seem to go anywhere, contribute very minimally to the final scene, and seem wholly unnecessary.
Venom 2, if you’re listening, give us more Hardy.
But did they do Venom well?
This was the Venom-est Venom you will ever see. This was the ripped-from-the-comic-page Venom character that anyone who’s a fan of comics will know and instantly latch onto. The film totally NAILS the interactions between Eddie and Venom, and the two make an incredible pair that makes their scenes insanely entertaining.
This is what’s got me hopeful for the sequel. The sequel that is 100% coming, thanks to one of the most ham-fisted sequel baiting end credits sequence I’ve seen in my life. Hopefully, this sequel will be a bit more comfortable with its characters, and a bit more aware of the aspects of each that made one of them work and the rest not. Because what I’ve seen here has sparks of real brilliance in it, and I hope those behind this production can learn to better utilize that brilliance when “sequel o’clock” starts rolling around.