Warning, Spoilers to follow. Most will be mild, but there’s one that’s major if you haven’t followed any of the news about this film.
I was a bit nervous when this film was announced. A Spider-Man spin-off without Spider-Man and featuring one of his biggest villains did not strike me as the best idea. Still, Venom has had several of his own series and mini-series throughout the years, so a solo movie isn’t necessarily a crazy idea, but I thought it would be better to have him appear opposite Spider-Man and then give him a spin-off. But comic book movies are all the rage and Sony doesn’t have much since the made a deal with Disney regarding everyone’s favorite wall crawler.
Full disclosure, Venom is my favorite Spider-Man villain. I can hear the screaming now. “Venom isn’t Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin is his greatest villain!” To which I say, you’re wrong; Doctor Octopus is his greatest villain. I’m fully aware Venom isn’t Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis, but he’s always been my personal favorite. I grew up in the 90s alright? Also, I like Tom Hardy, so Venom had that going for it.
So plot wise, Eddie Brock is an investigative journalist working in San Francisco. He’s known for not compromising and following stories others won’t. One of the people he wants to investigate is Evil Corrupt CEO Carlton Drake WHO IS DEFINITELY, TOTALLY, NOT IN ANY WAY ELON MUSK. Musk has a space program (DEFINITELY NOT ELON MUSK), which he’s using to bring back alien creatures called symbiotes to Earth. These creatures need a host to survive, and he begins human experimentation almost immediately. Through a needlessly complicated set of shenanigans, Carlton ruins Brock’s reputation, his career and his engagement. Eventually, Eddie ends up bonded with one of these symbiotes, Venom. Hijinks ensue.
This is not a good movie. It’s not horrendous, but it’s definitely not good. There are a handful of things that I really liked, but I can’t recommend this film. Tonally, it’s all over the map. Venom can’t seem to decide what kind of film it wants to be, and never seems to find its footing. It keeps going back and forth between sci-fi/horror, action, and black comedy. Now it is possible to combine different genres and make good movies, but Venom never manages to pull it off. The best bits are when Venom is talking, and I’ll come back to that later.
The Bad: For starters, Eddie doesn’t get the symbiote until about halfway through the film, which is way too long. A lot of the setup is needlessly complicated and rather dull, and while I don’t know if the following issues count as plot holes, they kept nagging at me throughout the film.
Eddie is known for being a muckraker, so why would his boss send him on a puff piece assignment about someone Eddie is gunning for? That’s just asking for trouble. Telling an investigative reporter “don’t do your job,” is pretty unethical in my opinion.
When Eddie gets fired from his job, he loses everything and can’t find work because no newspaper will hire him. Why doesn’t he just go independent? Set up a YouTube channel and continue with investigative journalism. It’s made clear at the start of this film that Eddie’s show is popular, I’m certain he could find funding. If this was set in the pre-internet era, I could see this making sense. It doesn’t work in today’s world.
When Eddie gets in trouble, it costs his fiancé (Anne) her job at a law firm since that firm is working for Drake. If all it takes is losing a job to cause a break up, I have to question how strong that relationship is. Maybe it’s because I’m a jaded millennial, but almost no jobs are permanent today, that’s just the environment we live in. Or maybe it’s because most of my work is contract and I’m never in one place for long, so I don’t get attached to jobs. It just struck me as stupid.
The amount of stupidity going on at Drake’s labs would take too long for me to list everything. Apparently, no one has ever heard the words “safety regulations.”
Eddie Brock. Okay, so this one probably isn’t going to stand out to most of the audience, but it will be noticeable to comic book fans. This isn’t Eddie Brock, it’s a different character with the same name. Tom Hardy’s Eddie makes a lot of mistakes, but he’s essentially a good person who honestly tries to do the right thing, and he resists the violent urges he has once bonded with Venom. Comic book Eddie is crazy; maybe not Green Goblin level insane, but he’s definitely not in his right mind. And he doesn’t resist the symbiote, he embraces it immediately. He’s driven by rage, hatred of Spider-Man and the inability to accept the consequences of his own actions. Now he’s not completely irredeemably psychotic, he won’t hurt children, and he has his own twisted code of ethics, but I think this film’s biggest mistake is the same one the comics made. They tried to turn him into an anti-hero; it was even part of the marketing campaign for the movie. But the fact is that Venom works best as a villain. Always has, always will.
What the hell is up with Tom Hardy’s voice? His American accent is entirely unconvincing, and I’m not really sure what he was going for. I’d rather he just used his normal British voice. It would’ve been less distracting.
They generally got Venom’s look right. In Spider-Man 3 Venom is just the black costume. Here he’s a hulking figure with a giant tongue. He looks like Venom from the comics. Although appearance wise he’s a bit closer to his Ultimate design than the regular Marvel U, and I really would have liked to see the classic spider symbol. Yeah, I know, he got that from Spider-Man and Spider-Man isn’t in the movie. But quite frankly, just having the symbol without an explanation would make as much sense as everything else in this movie. So, I don’t see why the filmmakers didn’t, unless it was a copyright issue. Which is entirely possible.
The voice/personality. The one thing about this film that I really liked was the Venom symbiote as a character. His voice sounded exactly like I’ve always imagined he’d sound like, and the back and forth between him and Eddie was well done well.
The lore. If nothing else, at least one person working on this film knew the comics well. Riot is from Planet of the Symbiotes, a fairly obscure comic that’s only really known by Spider-Man fans. Anne Weying is another obscure character, only appearing in a handful of comics. She’s Eddie’s ex-wife, and was briefly bonded to the symbiote. The scene in the movie where she has the symbiote and saves Eddie? She looks exactly like she did in the comics, and that’s impressive. I doubt most screenwriters would care that much.
Lastly, this film gives into an annoying trend that keeps popping up in recent movies. MAJOR SPOILER. There’s a brief post-credits scene where Eddie Brock visits a high security penitentiary to interview notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady (played by Woody Harrelson), who promises that once he breaks out “there’s gonna be carnage.” Most of you probably know this, but for those who don’t, Carnage is a symbiote that bonds with Cletus Kasady and goes on a killing spree. Carnage is much nastier than Venom. I would have rather seen that movie. I get why you wouldn’t want to put Carnage in Venom’s origin movie, but it would have been more interesting than the Drake/symbiote Riot, and that’s the problem. This has been pointed out by others, Red Letter Media in particular: a film that isn’t very good gets released and then teases a much more interesting sequel. Just give us the more interesting film the first time around. Filmmakers need to stop assuming that a film will have a sequel and try to set it up. Instead, they should focus on making a good movie, and if the audience reacts well and it makes money, a sequel will probably get made. This is a trend that needs to end.
I can’t bring myself to recommend this movie. A handful of comic fans might get a kick out of it, but I think the average audience member isn’t going to like it. If you still want to see it, at least wait until it’s on Blu-ray. It’s not worth $13.