A few months ago, Screen Junkies released their Honest Trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, and in it, they comment on Spider-Man as being “the boy who’d rather hitch a ride into space and die than stay home and be in Venom“. Frankly, nothing can be closer to the truth than that, and Spidey sure as hell dodged a bullet there. Never underestimate a struggling, desperate film studio like Sony, especially when it concerns a movie like this. Despite Spider-Man having fun in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the past two-three years, Sony is still trying to get a shared universe off the ground, despite failing hard last time they tried that with the God-awful Amazing Spider-Man duology. Their proposed universe is one involving Spider-Man centric characters but now completely disconnected from Spider-Man and his world, so here we have Venom with an origin story and mythology that bears no resemblance to his actual iconic origins in the comics that greatly involved the web-slinger. Here, his origins are revolved around an evil, seedy organisation, which involves experiments going haywire, as well as plenty of forced contrivances and conveniences to boot. Not only is this film one huge misfire, but it sadly makes Spider-Man 3 look like Citizen Kane.
This feels like a cynical, desperate movie on Sony’s part to try and match the success of Marvel/Disney’s MCU and even Warner Bros. DCEU without ever taking any time or amount of effort to make it work in any way. So, what we have here is a film with different clashing tones since it clearly has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. The first 40 minutes involves setting up the characters and the simple mechanics of the “plot” (though I’m not entirely sure this movie had a plot) and consists of some of the blandest filmmaking you’ve seen, feeling incredibly drawn-out, monotonous and ponderous with each minute. Then after that, once Eddie Brock becomes bonded with the symbiote and becomes Venom, the movie suddenly becomes this goofy, awkward black-comedy, transitioning from an incredibly dull movie into an incredibly stupid one. We have scenes of puking, eating live lobsters in tanks at public restaurants, sweaty and wet Tom Hardy, both man and symbiote making out, and confusing fight sequences.
Even with Tom Hardy giving a very awkward performance as Eddie Brock, the character of Eddie is completely flat with no development whatsoever; he starts out an arsehole and ends up an arsehole. Michelle Williams is just wasted in a thankless role that feels very manipulated and contrived, while Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake and his Life Foundation are just a bunch of cardboard cut-out baddies with generic, clichéd motivations. The actual realisation of Venom in design and voice is spot-on, but the rest of the time, the CGI was very ropey and somewhat cheesy (the motorcycle chase being a clear example), as well as being very hard to make out sometimes, especially during that CGI sploosh-fest showdown at the end of the movie between Venom and Riot. Also, despite being full of carnivorous symbiotes, the movie itself feels very toothless and notable bloodless with the lack of blood and gore being very noticeable and irritating. There are times where you can tell that the filmmakers were trying to make an R-rated movie, only to cut out a lot of scenes to earn that pesky PG-13 rating, and this is a film where people’s heads are being chewed off a lot! The best part of the whole experience was a five-minute preview after the credits for the upcoming animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie at the end of the year, which looks more exciting and rewarding than anything in Venom.
Ultimately, in the end, Venom was everything a movie shouldn’t be: boring. Director Ruben Fleischer has made noteworthy movies in the past that ranged from the outstanding Zombieland to the mediocre Gangster Squad, but this was easily his worst film to date. In fact, this didn’t feel like a Ruben Fleischer movie in the slightest, instead having the stench of being Sony’s precious cash cow project. Frankly, it’s both shocking and embarrassing that an acclaimed screenwriter in Kelly Marcel (of Saving Mr. Banks fame!) was brought on to apparently tidy up and fix Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg’s script since little to no improvements are shown on screen, and it would be extremely frightening for the future of comic book movies if Sony’s proposed Marvel Universe were to continue after this. Just like Universal’s catastrophic The Mummy last year, one hopes this has the decency to crash and burn on arrival.
Dir: Ruben Fleischer
Scr: Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate
Prd: Amy Pascal, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach
DOP: Matthew Libatique
Music: Ludwig Göransson
Run time: 112 mins
Venom is out now in cinemas.