Movie Review : Venom (2018)
Spider-Man was the first Marvel superhero to have a contemporary film adaptation in 2002. The first thing on everyone’s mind then was Venom, Spider-Man’s badass alien “frienemy” from the nineties comics, cartoon and video games of the nineties. Nobody expected to see him right away, but we all figured out the movies would build up to him. They eventually did, we were collectively disappointed and the idea of a movie Venom was largely forgotten… until this year. Hollywood inexplicably gave Venom is own, Spider-Man less movie with Tom Hardy in the lead role, no less.
Venom was one of the most polarizing movies of 2018. It received dismal reviews and made an obscene amount of money. Enough to command a sequel. Venom should’ve been awesome on paper, but is it?
Well, uh… it’s complicated, but the short answer is no.
For the uninitiated, Venom is Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a successful journalist living in California with hot and smart fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams). He’s got everything going for himself, but manages to lose it all while confronting Anne’s biggest client, bio-engineering magnate Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), with mysterious human trials he’s doing behind closed doors. Job, fiancée, apartment. Brock loses everything. Little does the world know, Drake is really using human guinea-pigs to attempt symbiosis with an alien life form his company Life Foundation has harvested in space. Do I need to tell you where it’s going from there?
So, Venom is theoretically not uninteresting. It has cool themes of questioning progress, which it exploits through Eddie Brock’s almost roommate-like relationship to Venom. Invisible for long stretches of the movie, Venom represents Brock’s primal nature taking over and solving the problems his domesticated, socialized self doesn’t have the courage to confront. Carlton Drake on the other end, represents progress taken over by greed and corporate interests. His power is legal and financial, while Brock’s in merely physical in the hunter-gatherer sense of the term.
Not only Venom is questioning our relationship to progress, but it’s also implying that it became a power structure we have no agency over unless we’re ready to hold it accountable by any means necessary. And that is awesome. It’s a very woke stance to have in the era of pseudo-wokeness.
But like I said: Venom is a lot better on paper than it is on screen. The production is marred by many production choices that undermine the final product, it ends up being a complete mess. For example, there’s no reason why Riz Ahmed was casted to play Carlton Drake. He is a great actor, but intimidating he is not. Even when he screams, he looks like he just wants to apologize. Also, what was it with Tom Hardy’s slapstick routine? His conversations with Venom were perhaps the best thing in this movie, but wasn’t there a more dramatic angle to take, in order to show he’s prey to his impulses? It was distracting and constantly broke the tone.
There’s a good movie lost somewhere inside Venom. But it’s nowhere near THE movie we were all anticipating that would honor the character we all know and love from the comics. How fucking hard can it be, really? If you’re going to pull Spider-Man out of the picture and give Eddie Brock the center stage… with a competent screenplay on top of that, how can you end up with such a scattered mess? Score is as another underwhelming film by Ruben Fleischer who’s only talent seems to be at underdelivering on exciting premises(case in point, Gangster Squad). Venom is not terrible, but there’s better things to do with two hours. Don’t pay money for it. Wait until it comes to streaming platforms.