Monkeys Fighting Robots

Based on a fan-favorite villain that wasn’t exactly clamoring for his own movie, Venom is the story of Eddie Brock, a reporter that gets infected by the Symbiote, an alien organism that bonds with its host and gives him or her superhuman powers.

How does one go about making a film featuring Spider-Man’s most famous antagonist? Without Spider-Man, of course! One of the most significant problems with this movie is that it exists in that awkward limbo where it is theoretically set in the same universe as the MCU, but doesn’t acknowledge Peter Parker. With this, the film loses the individuality it could have exhibited with an R-rating, as it had to be kept tween-safe for potential crossovers in the future. After all, you can’t have your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the same movie as someone being graphically decapitated.

The film also suffers from trying too hard to succeed. The movie really can’t be accused of lazy writing because it legitimately wants to be a crowd-pleaser. However, much of the film is so desperate to be “cool” that it comes across as fake. There were quite a few elements in the movie that showed potential and even some scenes that hinted at a much better film, but these were scattered throughout the rest of the material that was often cringe-worthy.

A scene from VENOM, a Sony Pictures release. Photo Credit: Frank Masi. © 2017 CMTG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Many scenes aren’t necessary and end up being laughably bad. For example, early in the film, there is a montage in which Brock rides around San Francisco on a motorcycle as rap music plays. This seems to be an attempt at making the character look like a “bad boy,” but in actuality, does nothing for the character. There are multiple scenes like this throughout the movie that have an apparent intention but don’t achieve their purpose.

Parts of the dialogue are baffling, too. Luckily, many of the worst lines of the film were included in the trailer, but there are also a few more in store. As a result of the testosterone-fueled, cheese-filled script, the movie almost veers into “so bad it’s good” territory, making the film much more fun than it should be.

Some of the supporting characters felt utterly wasted. Michelle Williams, who is a typically wonderful actress, was relegated to being a simple love interest. Her character is only given one or two powerful scenes, otherwise being disappointingly flat. The antagonist starts out strong but quickly devolves into a generic corporate jerk. Jenny Slate’s character arc seemed like it was going to be building to something, but didn’t pay off.

That being said, some elements work quite well. The relationship that develops between Brock and the Symbiote is fun and exciting to watch. It’s a combination of buddy comedy and Cronenbergian body horror, which is a surprisingly good mix. Towards the end of the second act, the story transitions into more average superhero fare which is far more generic. Additionally, a few scenes capture the overall tone of the comics well, although purists may be a little disappointed by some of the liberties the film takes.

venom MRI
Tom Hardy stars in VENOM, a Sony Pictures release. Photo Credit: Frank Masi. © 2017 CMTG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hardy’s performance isn’t bad, either. He’s a little over-the-top at times, and his accent dropped out every once in a while, but for the most part, he was solid. He did the dual character justice, much like his turn in the 2015 film Legend. Riz Ahmed is interesting as the antagonist, Drake, doing the best he can with what he was given.

Visually, the film is pretty rough. The composition doesn’t follow many of the basic rules, therefore not being aesthetically pleasing. The CGI has a few decent moments, but the big scenes are noticeably lackluster. However, these scenes often also contained some impressive practical effects.

The movie’s sound mixing is of rather high quality. The score by Ludwig Gōransson is a little generic but serves its purpose. On the other hand, the soundtrack doesn’t do the film any favors. The songs are good on their own, including the title track by Eminem, but don’t always fit the action happening on screen.

As a whole, Venom wasn’t unwatchable, but it wasn’t what it could have been. The bones are there— it just seems like this may be another case of 2015’s Fantastic Four where it started in one direction, but ended up going another way in post-production. The end sets up the film for a sequel, so only time will tell if future entries will be better.

Venom opens in theaters everywhere October 5. Comment once you see the film! Did you feel the same way, or were you more impressed?

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Story
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film; however, he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.