“It feels like a movie born from a different era.” That is the thought that immediately flooded my brain upon leaving the cinema after watching Venom. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing of course. Hundreds of amazing films have been born well before superhero films became the successful genre they are today.
Nevertheless, in Venom’s case, what we have is a film that struggles to create a consistent tone throughout its rather succinct running time. But is the film still a success for Sony?
Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom – leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fuelled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
Director of the absolutely brilliant, Zombieland and its upcoming sequel, Ruben Fleischer seems like the perfect choice to helm a solo movie for Peter Parker’s arch nemesis, but the result is muddled – speckled with excellent moments that are lowered by frequently jarring editing techniques and a brawl for identity. Whether that’s down to studio interference or just a misunderstanding of the source material is up for debate.
Let’s start with the best bit: the cast. Venom’s cast is of such a high quality, it really needs reeling off to be believed. We’ve got Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed all in lead parts. Hardy is his ever-charming self in a role that is vastly different from his portrayal of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. His ‘bromance’ with Venom is by far the standout of the entire film with witty dialogue and amusing physical comedy. In particular, one scene set in an lobster restaurant had the audience in stitches.
Unfortunately, Michelle Williams, one of our most talented actresses is wasted in a thankless role as Brock’s girlfriend, Annie. She’s supposed to be a lawyer, but apart from a few lines of dialogue explaining that fact, she’s completely by-the-numbers WAG. Riz Ahmed suffers a similar fate. His Carlton Drake is so pantomime villain-esque, you half expect him to start twirling a moustache.
Then there’s the film itself. The special effects rarely rise above adequate and the cartoonish CGI used to create Venom himself is frankly, quite poor. You’re never under the illusion that the symbiote could be real, it just looks far too machine generated. With a budget of $100million, this is wholly unacceptable. It’s also noisy and pretty ugly to look at, constantly murky with a muddy colour palate that tries desperately to be edgy and cool – it fails.
Venom feels totally and unequivocally outdated and from a different age
The plot is typical origins story which is to be expected, but there’s very little to thrill or surprise and the first hour is poorly paced. It’s not until we see Venom in his full form that things get out of the gate and Venom finds its footing.
Part buddy-comedy, part superhero flick and part body horror, Venom struggles to maintain a consistent identity. Much like the titular antihero, the film feels like a parasite, latching onto different genres until it finally finds one that fits its needs.
This is a real shame as there are moments of brilliance here. The dialogue between Venom and Brock is great and while the story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, an origins plot for an antihero rather than a traditional superhero is an inspired choice. The lack of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker really doesn’t matter too much, though I can’t help but be disappointed that these two may never meet on film.
Finally, the bizarre decision to aim for a PG-13 rating in the US has inexplicably landed it with a 15 certification here in the UK. 15 rating superhero films include Deadpool and its sequel, Logan and Watchmen. If you’re hoping for gore to the standard of those, you’ll be very dissatisfied. Despite all his head-chomping glory, Venom doesn’t even have a hint of the red stuff.
In the end, despite its best efforts, Venom just comes out very ‘meh’. In a world populated by standout superhero movies like Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, Venom feels totally and unequivocally outdated and from a different age. Thankfully, it’s not Catwoman levels of bad, maybe X-Men: The Last Stand levels of average.