Venom - Review

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It makes sense that 2018 would be the year we are blessed and tortured by the action movie genre. The latest Mission Impossible turned out to be one of the sharpest actions flicks of the decade, and recently, The Predator completely underwhelmed. So, we look once again to superhero films to pull the genre out of the dust, but alas. Venom is one of the blandest, most poorly written comic book films since Catwoman, and may even be worse than that.

Forty five minutes in and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has just gotten the symbiote. This means that Venom takes forty five minutes to get interesting, to give us a little action. It makes several attempts to strip Eddie of the symbiote, in what I can only imagine was a plea to save on special effects, but it doesn’t matter. With or without Venom, Eddie Brock is a one note, completely flat character that somehow makes Topher Grace’s portrayal look nuanced. Tom Hardy does everything he can to improve the role, but the script lets him down too often. His lines are some of the least cringe inducing of the film, but that doesn’t say much. Several scenes play out with physical comedy gags, demonstrating the impulsivity of the symbiote and its miraculous abilities, but the film never decides whether to laugh or to marvel. Venom consistently cracks lame jokes, causally bites off arms and heads, and transforms in the blink of an eye, but the film doesn’t seem to register the absurdity of this. At one point, Venom confesses to Eddie that it is a loser on its home planet, and therefore wishes to stay on Earth with Eddie in order to feel more powerful. This is lazy, ludicrous logic that could be shattered by a child, and how it ever got past a talented director like Ruben Fleischer is beyond me.

The reason many are likely to see Venom this weekend is special effects. This is the first solo Venom movie ever made in live action, and after several years of teasing it is finally a reality. For a while, it is entertaining, and the effects used to render Venom are impressive. But it suffers from the same tone-deaf problem the writing does. When Venom is throwing people across the room or biting heads off, the film’s pg-13 rating keeps it from getting too grisly, but you had better believe they walk the line. Venom says something rough, often in a sarcastic tone that is difficult to take seriously; the film never fully commits to either avenue, and fails dramatically to blend humor and drama. I have never heard worse dialogue than at the end of the film, when Michelle Williams’s character consoles Eddie over the loss of the symbiote with the line “I’m sorry about Venom.”

Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams each play characters that belong in films from ten years ago. One note, over the top, and a little misogynistic, it reminds of the paper thin relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spiderman series, also produced by Sony.

Venom picks the lowest common denominator of super hero film audiences and sticks to them rigidly. It is a bland and logic defying origin story for a villain that is never treated like one, and its special effects lose their luster almost immediately. No super villain this ridiculous should be treated with so much sincerity, but in Venom, a lot of things that make sense don’t happen.