Tom Hardy in 2018s ‘Venom’ – A Superhero Film in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
by Nile Fortner
The Marvel comic book villain known as Venom first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man comics 30 years ago and now the villain a.k.a anti-hero hits the big screen in his very own movie. Audiences and fans haven’t seen the Venom character in a film since That ’70s Show actor Topher Grace portrayed him in Sam Raimi’s 2007s Spider-Man 3. Venom felt like an afterthought in Spider-Man 3, which left a sour taste in mind for some fans. I am a huge fan of the character Spider-Man and I’ve grown up with the character. Such as growing up with Sam Raimi’s trilogy and being an avid reader of the character in the comics to this day. I also grew up with superhero films like Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk and Halle Berry’s 2004 Catwoman. The 90s and early 2000s were a time when a large portion of superhero films used the popularity of a character to make a profit and they cared very little about the source material, comics, and even the fans. Tom Hardy in 2018s Venom feels like a superhero movie from the early 2000s and it’s a superhero film in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Marvel Studios and DC have spent 10 years plus showing how superhero films can be taken seriously, respect the original source material, stay true to the comics, and comic book films have evolved into something pretty much everyone can find some amusement out of. We’re actually in a time where superhero movies dominate the box-office, we expect them to be ground-breaking, and fans have been wanting to see something different despite already loving the films. Studios and fans have both seen the growth of superhero movies and are looking into the bright future. Sony’s Venom (Associated with Marvel) on the other hand, takes us back to a dark past of when comic book films were terrifyingly terrible.
For one, the cast does a decent job. But the romance between fired journalist-reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his lawyer girlfriend Annie (Michelle Williams) is dull. Brock loses his job when interviewing scientist Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) about dangerous experiments involving symbiotes (black shape-shifting blobs) killing people. The film uses this as a crutch in order for Annie to connect with Brock. But Annie and Brock’s relationship is boring before this even happens. The two actors are great, it’s the way they are written and they don’t click at all. Boring dialogue with each other, zero motivation from Annie and zero development with Annie from the opening scene to the very end. She is just a lawyer on the move and that’s all we really get from her.
Tom Hardy is decent in this. But for some reason, they have him walking through the film being uncharismatic, fidgety, unengaging with his other cast members, which is sad when you have one of the best working actors in the business right now. I’ll admit that he hasn’t done a character like this before and a restaurant scene was Nicholas Cage type of off-the-wall wacky. But the scene just goes one-and-one for a laugh to the point where it just feels unnecessary. It would be unnecessary and too long of a scene in a regular comedy movie. Eddie Brock eats a lobster out of a lobster tank and people have jaw-dropping wide-eye reactions. That’s the joke and this is a Venom movie? Get the Hell outta here!
Riz Ahmed, who was fantastic in Nightcrawler, is given God awful generic dialogue and he is losing faith in humanity and the rest of the world. He believes humanity can be saved if we attach ourselves to symbiotes. He has lines like, “Get me my symbiote, NOW! (Villainous music plays)”or “Bring me (dramatic pause with dramatic music in the background), MY CREATURE!” He uses homeless people to test on and he never comes off as intimating beyond he just tests on people and people die during these test.
The writing of this movie is all over the place. It’s like they threw shit on the wall and said, “Let’s see what sticks.” The plot is head-scratching and exhausting to the point where I threw in the white-towel and just gave up. The entire idea in the comics of the symbiote means “same” and they create a symbiotic bond with their host. Yes, they can slightly alter there host but their still has to be a common identity for them to even come together. That is why Eddie Brock in the comics embraced Venom, embraced the dark side because he naturally was a cocky prick with some dark desires. Venom and Brock do not match well together and at times are complete opposites. Venom tries to tell Brock, “You are a loser and I was a loser on my planet. That’s why I like you, Eddie.” But at other times Venom is calling him a “pussy” and this is what I meant about studios back in the day changing the character’s backstory and not really caring about what makes fans truly connect with the character.
The movie uses the back-and-forth bickering between Venom and Brock for comedy. But the comedy is only funny to those who are under the age of 16. They run the same joke into the ground of Brock referring to Venom as a “parasite”. Venom is constantly wanting to eat people, tear off heads, and if Venom, “Doesn’t eat soon, I’ll eat your liver from the inside.” Coming from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, I’d believe he could bring some comedy to the table, but nope. This makes me worried to the planned sequel they have for Zombieland in the near future.
The bad writing also heavily stands out in a scene when Annie wants to help get rid of the “parasite” from Brock. For some odd reason, Venom feels the need to tell them his weakness, his weakness is being burnt by fire and loud noises. Last time I checked, all living things can be harmed if burnt by fire. So why is this so surprising to Annie, Brock, and Annie’s new doctor boyfriend who comes into the later picture after Eddie Brock is fired? Then the film tries to cover this up by Venom stating it’s to stop the villain, even though Annie just said “It’s to stop it (referring to Venom) and we have to get this out of you because it’s killing you.” Speaking of killing, the film never explains why some people die from the symbiotes and others are just a little injured by it.
The film could have worked if it was about an alien looking for a host and the host tries to fight him off. But the alien is trying to persuade him and it’s that constant battle between embracing the alien and trying to stay human. The scenes between Venom talking to Brock through his inner thoughts is okay but could have been taken more seriously. It’s an inside look at how creepy this film could have been with the arguments Brock and this alien parasite have. Seeing Eddie Brock trying to live an everyday life while this Venom voice in his head grows out of control would have been much better.
Also, the CGI looks unfinished and the black blob of Venom looks like black flubber. Venom has an all-black costume. Venom fights the villain at the end who also has a pitch black costume. They fight at night. This all makes it look mumbled during fight scenes. It all looks like jumbled black tar fighting and you can’t even tell what is happening. The action is similar to another and much better movie called Upgrade. It’s funny how for years people referred to Upgrade star Logan Marshall-Green as the poor man’s Tom Hardy. After seeing Venom, one could argue Tom Hardy is slowly becoming the poor man’s Logan Marshall-Green. It looks like generic action we’ve seen a thousand times before and the only thing “unique” about is that it’s a character people recognize.
The tones do not match at all. Venom is a monster from space that is constantly wanting to rip off people’s heads with its razor-sharp teeth. He was introduced as a villain. The film goes for the edgy horror, but for profit reasons, they go the safest and generic way as possible to the point of even changing this character and what made him so cool in the first place. Instead of the symbiotes coming from space, let’s put it in a generic lab with a generic madman for our villain. At times they want him to be a hero, other times a horror, comedy, and none of it matches. This would have been perfect in the horror route since it’s released in October and Venom does have eerie ways to his character.
There are so many things that are just random in this film, such as Venom wanting to randomly save Earth because he “likes it.” Venom lacks reason and a clear story. I did not want to come into this movie hating it. But I still stand by how a Venom movie should be connected to Spider-Man in some way because the characters roots are so deeply rooted because of Spider-Man. I mean Venom even has the Spider-Man logo on his chest and back.
This is a film that really is only trying to gain a profit of the character’s name and it shows they know very little about Venom. If you’re someone who simply wants to see Venom on the big screen because you like the character and you’re disregarding character development, a clear story, and motives, then I believe that is the wrong way to look at this film. This is the same issue I had with the Justice League movie. Much like Justice League, Venom feels out of place in today’s superhero cinema. This planned Spider-Man villain universe they have planned is off to a really crappy start with Venom. As far as the ending goes, without spoiling it all I will say is Ronald McDonald in a jail cell and Kyle from South Park. To quote Venom on the movie Venom, this movie is a “Turd in the wind.”
I am giving Venom a 1 out of 5 Hairpieces!