For the entirety of its promotional period, “Venom” had me cringing and hiding behind my hands, occasionally peeking through my fingers, only to cringe again and retreat. It was… not good.
It all started with the Internet going apeshit over the mispronunciation of “symbiote.” Then it was slowly debuted trailers met with harsh criticisms. Then… the embargo date on reviews was pushed way back as Sony blasted the film across any platform it had. All the signs pointed to this: “Venom” was bad and everyone knew it.
But “Venom” was not bad. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t near as bad as its controversial promotional period would have you believe. It was deeply flawed, but not an absolute trainwreck.
To be honest, “Venom” just wasn’t much of anything. At times, I found myself wanting more and, at times, I found myself wondering when things were gonna wrap up. The things that “Venom” did well, there just wasn’t enough of and everything else was forgettable. I could summarize “Venom” with this concise review: “Meh.”
“Venom” stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate, and Riz Ahmed. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) and serves as an origin story to one of the most famous anti-heroes in Marvel’s “Spider-man” comics, Venom. In “Venom”, Eddie Brock (Hardy) comes into contact with an alien symbiote. The two beings merge and Eddie now must share a body and mind with Venom. What starts as an unwilling pairing becomes something much more.
For the discerning lover of comic book movies, “Venom” is also the latest attempt from Sony Pictures to compete with industry juggernaut, Marvel Studios, in an epic battle over arguably the most popular property in all of Marvel-dom. It’s a complicated history, to say the least.
But, this is not about the epic saga of Sony v. Marvel. This is about “Venom.”
As I said, from the start, the biggest issue with “Venom” is that it’s just forgettable. Nothing awful, but nothing special or of note. This is especially true for the cast.
Bland is the word. Bland performances. Bland characterization. Bland reactions with a lack of depth. This felt like everyone was going through the motions. Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate were especially disappointing, in this regard; especially since I admire both as performers.
I’ve had issues with Hardy in the role of Eddie Brock, from the outset. I couldn’t tell you why, before, he just didn’t seem right. Upon viewing the film, I’ve decided that Tom Hardy is a performer that should not be given too much leeway to do his own thing. His portrayal of Brock was choppy. It had peaks and valleys and lacked any kind of consistency. It just felt off and Hardy never found his stride in the role.
“Venom” has been a very popular punching bag, among critics, and I feel bad about that because it’s not 100% deserved. The film is not good but that doesn’t mean it didn’t do good things. Venom was a fun character, the dynamic between him and Brock provided some legitimate laughs. It’s a beloved, if not infamous, character. But, as a movie, it just needed… more.
There were things that the film did well, but we did not see enough of those things. Something I walked away with was that the thought that we needed about three more scenes to establish the proper intimacy and reason that the film really needed. Without it “Venom” was forced and lacking in basic storytelling.
“Vemon” suffered from the same problem as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” in that it was trying to do too much with one movie. The film lacked focus, across the board, but this was most evident in the villains. Yes, villains.
It’s okay to have a “mad scientist is blinded by his own ambition” story and it’s okay to have an “evil alien overlord seeks to take over Earth” story. It doesn’t work as well when you try to cram both of those things into a 1 hour and 50 minute run time.
Aside from a lack of focus and serious holes in the storytelling, “Venom” suffered from what I’ll call General Choppy Syndrome. This movie looks like it was edited all to shit. There are things that appear to be missing. There are moves that don’t make sense. The overall tone of the film is off and confused. I feel like, somewhere out there, is 30 minutes of movie that would have fixed most all of these problems.
What’s most unfortunate about “Venom” is that it could have saved itself by doing something resembling anything. There were good things going on but they get totally lost in the lackluster. Action scenes were okay, but nothing special. Visuals and CGI work were okay, but never really went to the next level. Even the tried and true (tired?) Stan Lee cameo was underwhelming and out of step.
In true 2018 State of Film fashion, we have a sequel setup featuring Woody Harrelson in a gawdawful wig. Which… is not exciting news for this critic.
My verdict is that it’s totally skippable and only worth a rental for the typical comic book movie fan. Bland. Blah. “Venom” packs no punch.
“Venom” unleashes in theaters on October 5!
Featured photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.