As someone who is not familiar with Venom, other than its relationship to Spider-Man, I went into this film with not much of a reference point. Other than remembering Topher Grace as Eddie Brock (Venom) in Spider-Man 3, I had not seen or read much about just who or what Venom was or is. I asked someone if Venom was a bad guy or a good guy. “He is the anti-hero, but he is not altogether a good guy nor is he altogether a bad guy, per say.” “Hmmmmm, okay”, I thought. If my memory serves me correctly, Venom was kind of in the middle. Regardless, Ruben Fleischer’s Venom with Tom Hardy as the title character has been savaged by most critics for not being authentic enough to its source material.
Apparently, the source material has a much darker vision of the Venom character, enough so that most people thought this newest film should have been rated R instead of the watered down PG-13. Since this is the first release from Sony Marvel Universe with only a nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe briefly in the opening credits, Sony wanted to play it safe. Distributed and released by Sony, they clearly wanted to crawl before they walked into Deadpool territory with a hard R rating and I did not really miss the R rating. This seems to be the biggest problem with the fans of Venom and the devotees to the comic.
Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter with his own show and column. Engaged to Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) who is a lawyer for the Life Foundation, one of the companies Brock is trying to expose for various crimes. Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is the head of the Life Foundation and is at the center of Brock’s wrath. When push comes to shove, Brock loses everything. Fallen on hard times, in debt and without any future, it seems that Brock is in free fall, until he gets a tip from a Life Foundation scientist. After they break into the Life Foundation, through a series of actions, Brock is infected with the parasite that is Venom.
What follows is a semi-serious but often quite humorous film as Brock tries to balance his human side with the side of Venom which wants complete control of its host. There are some very funny, albeit, routine scenes in which Brock and Venom converse back and forth. There are some fun action sequences that are peppered throughout the film as Drake’s goons try to capture Brock alive and bring him back to the Life Foundation for study. Of course, no one believes what is happening to Brock, most notably Anne who has moved on with her life with a doctor.
Venom’s supporting characters are largely wasted and not given much to do, but what they are tasked with, they do deliver, most notably in the cased of Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams. The heart and soul of this film is Tom Hardy and Hardy delivers. As I said, the conversations that Brock and Venom have are quite interesting and humorous and Hardy is having fun. It is too bad that the rest of the film is pretty standard comic book fun. I enjoyed Venom, for the most part, but I could see why and where die-hard fans of the comic book would be let down and disappointed. Still, for me there was enough to Venom, that I was not sorry I saw the film.
This may not be the ringing endorsement that the filmmakers were hoping for but with Venom hovering at about thirty percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, I am sure they will take any praise they can get. Even middle of the road praise from people like me. But to be fair, Venom could have been a lot fresher and inventive. I mean, Venom is not an altogether good or bad character so imagine what they could really do with this character and this material? Hardy and the filmmakers do have some fun with the character but end up following an all too familiar story of corruption so Venom falls short of what it could be.
Still as an origin story, for me, Venom worked well enough I could recommend it. In addition to Hardy’s performance is an outstanding score by Ludwig Goransson. Is Venom as bad as they say it is? Not to me, but then again I am probably the wrong person to ask if you are a stickler for authenticity to the source material. Regardless, Venom was not a waste of time and there was enough here, that I was not disappointed. There are two post credit scenes. One is halfway through the post credits featuring Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady and the other is a rather lengthy animated sequence featuring Spider-Man at the end of the credits. Go and enjoy and leave everything else at the door.
Venom – *** out of 5
Venom – Rated PG-13 for violence, some gore, language and adult situations
Venom – Run time is 113 minutes
Venom is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.