Here’s a bit of history for you, the reason that Marvel Comics took a chance and created their own production company is because the movies studios were churning out in the early 2000’s were never once taken seriously. Character and story were virtually ignored for the fast paced action scenes. Go watch the first Ghost Rider movie and tell me otherwise.
Zombieland director, Ruben Fleischer’s, new film, Venom almost feels like an unintentional callback to those early comic book films. The biggest problem is Spider-Man is not in this film. And Venom is to Spider-Man as Joker is to Batman. Without Spider-Man, the story follows Eddie Brock, the reporter not afraid to dig through the dirt to find the story. And this leads to the Life Foundation. Brock, suspecting Ria Ahmed’s Carlton Drake’s Life Foundation of subjecting homeless to illegal medical tests, breaks into the Foundation and becomes infected with an alien symbiote, Venom.
The story tries to set up a Jekyll and Hyde story between Venom and Brock that ultimately leads up to Venom going from villain to becoming the anti-hero we need. The problem is that anything this legitimately great cast can do to push this story is lost in large-scale action scenes. And Venom’s turn never once reaches the epic level the movie wants because the character and Spider-Man-level conflict just aren’t there.
And that is the most infuriating aspect of this film because this cast is so damned good that the movie is legitimately entertaining from time to time. Absolutely all of the credit goes to Tom Hardy as Brock and the dual role of Venom, the voice in his head. Going for Jekyll and Hyde but coming across as Laurel and Hardy, if Laurel was a psychopathic alien ooze that lived inside you and wanted you to eat every human he meets. Brock, true to the character is a bit of a loser that means well. It’s a trait that Hardy isn’t afraid to play up, much to Venom’s embarrassment. Every villain is only as good as their villain, and Ria Ahmed partially lives up to it as Carlton Drake.
Coming across as a visionary tech genius, Ahmed almost had me believing that he could make the human race stronger than it was. In every way, Ahmed, despite being probably the smallest person in this film, came across more dangerous than when he gets bonded with the symbiote, Riot. Mostly because Riot doesn’t show up until after the midpoint of the film. Backed up by a supporting cast of the best in the indie film scene, Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate, this cast is nowhere near deserving of the story and film they ultimately got.
Fleischer’s by pacing and timing haunts him throughout action sequences that, despite a good design, runway too long. To his credit, Fleischer designed some great scenes that showed off what superpowers, and an alien organism inside you, can help you do.
I didn’t want to enjoy this film, I really didn’t. The editing and pacing are awful and this story is a shadow of what you can see they wanted to do. But the fact is, Venom and Eddie were a damn entertaining pair. Venom is never going to be Avengers Infinity War, it’s not even Justice League. Venom is a marginally decent way to kill an hour and 12 minutes and well worth the 3 out of 5 stars.
As this is a comic book film, don’t bother waiting for the after credit scenes. It was 100% what I was hoping for. And thanks to Fleischer’s truly baffling choices, the after credit scenes 100% killed any excitement for the sequel I had. If you’re looking for a great character study of a superhero, I recommend The Dark Knight, not Venom.