Venomous to the comic book film genre.
Since his introduction in 1988, Venom has held a special place in the hearts of “Spider-Man” and Marvel Comics fans alike. Venom reached iconic status, becoming one of Spider-Man’s most frequent adversaries and even reached anti-hero status in later iterations of the character. With his place in comics history cemented, many yearned for Venom to appear in film. That wish came to fruition when Venom made his film debut in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”, but Venom’s appearance yielded mixed results at best. Sony took this in stride, however, attempting to make a solo outing for Venom despite the disastrous results of their “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, resulting in Marvel Studios acquiring some of the rights to Spider-Man. While Sony could have chosen to partner with Marvel Studios to make a solid film adaptation of the beloved symbiote give the fans deserved, Sony chose to bring us “Venom”, the first in what they hope will be a universe building film adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Spider-verse.
“Venom” sees Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a sleazy ambush journalist with a checkered past based in San Francisco, investigating a start-up company called the Life Foundation, headed by CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). When Brock receives help from Dr. Dora Smith (Jenny Slate), a scientist working with Drake, Brock discovers the Life Foundation has been conducting illegal experiments on humans to bond human bodies with an alien substance called “symbiotes”. Eddie becomes infected by one of these symbiotes, and with Drake and the Life Foundation coming after him and everyone he loves, Brock’s symbiote alter-ego “Venom” awakens to wreak havoc.
There is no doubt Tom Hardy is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, and is more than capable of pulling off the legendary villain/ anti-hero. Hardy gives it his all, and one can tell he is having fun and definitely committed to the role. Venom himself is also an impressive special effect, as he is able to pull off a couple of cool action sequences and does manage to deliver some of his trademark quirky humor that made him a beloved character.
Unfortunately, that’s where all of the positives end in this atrocity that would’ve been considered outdated even in 2004. “Venom” features one of the most uninspiring stories in comic book film history, as having the focus of the film center on a shady organization conducting unethical experiments with the intent of saving humanity is an insult to the word cliche. And although comic book movies have made a habit of altering their heroes’ origins, so much of Venom’s origin is severely misguided without the presence of Spider-Man. For the uninitiated, the symbiote attempts to bond with Spider-Man/ Peter Parker, but Parker rejects him, leading the symbiote the attach to Eddie Brock, who has an axe to grind with Parker, instead. Without Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, “Venom” feels bereft of important story elements and character developments, rendering the symbiote’s first solo outing borderline pointless.
But the problems for “Venom” don’t end there. Most of the film’s secondary characters add nothing to the film, in particular Michelle Williams, who plays Brock’s ex, Anne Weying. Williams and Hardy have zero chemistry on screen, yet much of the film’s’ first half before we even get to Venom himself focuses on their real action ship along with other pointless aspects of Brock’s life. Those familiar with HBO’s “The Night Of” know what Riz Ahmed is capable of, but in “Venom”, his attempts at selling the crummy material he’s given make him come across as trying too hard. Combine these aspects with an anticlimactic final boss fight riddled with special effects, unexplored story pieces regarding Venom being a “loser” on his planet, and jarring tone shifts from serious action to slapstick comedy, and “Venom” is a total mess.
(WARNING: The following paragraph contains spoilers for “Venom”. Please skip this paragraph if you do not wish to read any spoilers).
“Venom” could’ve just been an outdated, trashy comic book movie a la “Daredevil”, but the film’s mid credits scene makes it one of the biggest wastes of time and potential in comic book movie history. In the scene, Eddie Brock travels to San Quentin State Prison to interview an incarcerated serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, who wears a red wig that makes him look like Carrot Top). Kasady claims that once he breaks out of prison, there is going to be “Carnage”. The audacity of Sony to tease a sequel and universe with Venom as the main character is beyond insulting, and those who are interested in a sequel or further developments of this universe should be required to wear dunce caps in order to highlight the fact they have no taste in films.
“Venom” is a disaster that could have been avoided. Sony could’ve waited and teamed up with Marvel Studios to bring Venom to life in the new “Spider-Man” series that is part of the MCU. This way, not only would the character get the big screen adaptation he deserves, but would also allow Sony and Marvel Studios to makes millions or perhaps billions of dollars in the process. Instead, Sony’s greed clouded their judgement and resulted in them making a misguided project that should have never been green-lit and will make fans look back at Venom in “Spider-Man 3” more fondly than they could have ever imagined. “Venom” is an entry that represents the worst the comic book film genre has to offer, and one that continues to highlight Sony’s incompetence that resulted in them having joint custody of their beloved web slinger. Should the response to “Venom” be poisonous enough, that joint custody could extend to this beloved villain/ anti hero sooner rather than later.
Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay away.
“Venom” Stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, and Woody Harrelson. It is in theaters now.