Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, and Jenny Slate
Synopsis: Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
When Sony Pictures first announced that they were making a standalone Venom movie, which would have no connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, we called them crazy, stupid and downright greedy. As it turns out, we were absolutely and unquestionably correct. Even though the film has one of the coolest comic-book characters and a fantastic cast at its disposal, Venom proves itself to be little more than a soulless cash-grab.
The script, which was written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel, is undoubtedly where most of the film’s problems originate. Following the triumphant formula set by movies like Deadpool, the script for Venom is obviously attempting to blend comedy with a more dramatic tone and unfortunately, Fleischer is unable to combine the two genres. In a lot of ways, Venom doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Is it supposed to be a bizarre comedy with dramatic elements, or was it intended to be a serious superhero film with flashes of comedy? Even if I watched this movie a dozen more times, I doubt I would be able to answer that question definitively. If that wasn’t bad enough, the script is also to blame for the dialogue, which ranges from bad to excruciatingly horrific. Tom Hardy and the rest of the cast are trying their hardest to make Venom a watchable and even enjoyable movie, but thanks to the laughably bad dialogue, their efforts are wasted.
You would think that with a cast including proven actors like Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, Venom would at least be able to offer a few standout performances. The terrible dialogue and clunky direction, however, have left the cast looking mediocre at best. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are in no way bad, and the actors are trying their best to elevate the material, but there are certain things that even an award-worthy performance couldn’t fix. Hardy does an admirable job as Eddie Brock/Venom and his performance more often than not distracts from everything else going on, but with a better script and a different director, Hardy could have given a genuinely brilliant performance as this character. Michelle Williams, who has proven herself to be one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, is completely wasted in this movie. Her character has no actual purpose in the story and more often than not, Williams is reduced to the annoying girlfriend role, which was rightfully eliminated from comic-book movies years ago. When it comes to the cast and the performances, no one seems to have been affected by the script more than Riz Ahmed. While the rest of the characters and performances feel like they belong in the weird and comedic film that is unfolding, Ahmed’s cliche villain feels as if he’s in a completely different and far more dramatic movie.
It must be noted, however, that Venom is not a complete failure. The film finds moderate success in the way that Eddie Brock and the symbiote interact, and the bizarre relationship between the two personalities brings a fun and strangely comedic dynamic to the film. Ruben Fleischer was attempting to create a dark twist on the buddy comedy genre and, for the most part, he succeeds in his attempts. Despite the films many, many flaws, it’s impossible to deny that the relationship we see form between Eddie Brock and Venom is enjoyable and exciting to watch.
While this version of Venom doesn’t have the R-rating that many fans were hoping to see, it must be said that the film does have plenty of head-biting action on display. Fleischer has rightfully placed most of his attention of building the relationship between Eddie and the symbiote, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t put some aside for a few action-packed sequences. As a comic-book character, Venom is one of the most violent and monstrous anti-heroes around, and the action scenes brilliantly show how powerful and brutally horrific he can be. Admittedly, the film could have benefited from an R-rating, as the character lends himself to that level of violence, but it’s fair to say that Fleischer pushed the boundaries the PG-13 rating and delivered a few wonderfully violent sequences.
There is some fun to be had with Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, largely thanks to Hardy’s portrayal of the character, but a weak script, horrific dialogue and disappointing performances push the film towards the bottom of the pile when it comes to comic-book adaptations. This certainly ain’t Catwoman, but it’s not good either.