When director Ruben Fleischer was first attached to Venom and the rumours of an R-Rated, more grown up superhero story (Logan anyone?) were floating around, I was pretty excited. The Zombieland director was potentially a great choice for the film and when Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams were attached as the leads – my excitement understandably grew. Hardy and Williams are two of my favourite actors working at the moment and I couldn’t think (off the top of my head) of an instance where either of them had put a foot wrong in terms of movie choice or delivery of performance.
This talented threesome could be exactly what Sony needed to leave behind their previous, numerous, failed attempts to breathe life into intellectual comic book property that they for some reason have yet to hand over to Marvel Studios. I had my fingers crossed that it would be less Fantastic Four and more…anything by Marvel Studios.
For those who aren’t familiar with Venom (and my experience with this malevolent force is pretty limited myself), it is an alien symbiot or parasite that latches onto the inside of a human host for better or worse depending on who you ask. Previous incarnations of Venom on the big screen are pretty much limited to Sam Raimi’s piss poor attempt at bringing Eddie Brock/Venom alive in the weakest installment of his Spiderman Trilogy. So the movie bar was just a line on the ground at this point.
Eddie Brock (Hardy) is a down-on-his-luck reporter who loses his job and his relationship for pursuing a big rich bad guy played by one of the few people of colour in this very white movie. Said bad guy, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) has been using these symbiotes (which he just so happens to have), of which Venom is one, to try and “improve” the human condition. Once a whole lot of his test subjects or as the film refers to them – “poor people” – die, one of his morally decent scientists (Jenny Slate – um) reaches out to Brock. Boring stuff happens for way too long before Brock is eventually bound with the symbiote Venom (a large, black, tentacle like creature with a very deep voice) and the two end up on a weirdly un(comical) buddy adventure.
The script is terrible. TERR-I-BLE. I am really annoyed that Sony weren’t more cautious of the quality of the script they were offered by Con Air writer Scott Rosenberg before heading into production. Sure, Con Air was great in the 90s. But film and writing expectations have changed. A lot. Venom struggles for the same reason a lot of blockbusters have of late in that it feels like it doesn’t really know what sort of movie it wants to be. It mixes together the elements of badly written gags that feel like they belong in the 90s to extremely childish plot elements mixed with pretty mediocre action.
Hardy tries admirably (and almost too hard) to make the dialogue work but he is too good for the film and so it ends up feeling like he is miscast. Poor Michelle Williams ends up attempting to play the most vapidly and irrelevant female character I have seen in a very, very long time. The whole thing fails miserably. The stakes never feel high, the action has been done before, the jokes miss at almost every turn and when they do land they feel like they are in the wrong movie. I was mildly entertained for a very minimal amount of time.
The direction is uninspired and lacklustre. Camera shots feel awkward, the pacing is almost non-existent and when paired with the terrible script the film barely had the chance to be mediocre, let alone memorable. Noticing continuity issues in the first 30 minutes doesn’t help you suspend belief and when it’s something you not only notice but is one of the more memorable aspects of the film (a lapel pin badge being given away and then reappearing in the next shot), you know you are in for a slow 1 hour and 52 minutes.
Deadpool works because it’s a comedy for adults with action for adults. Avengers works because it’s got the clear intention of catering to all audience demographics and age groups. Venom fails because it doesn’t knows who it’s target demographic is and therefore never adequately caters to anyone. It might suit teenage kids with little-to-no expectations and their mum or dad or babysitter or older brother who is just glad they aren’t watching…. um…actually kids films are amazing now – go see something family friendly by Pixar.
Fans who are eager to see Venom despite the poor reviews – wait until it’s on DVD/HDR. It will limit the disappointment. For the rest of you who were on the fence about whether or not to see it, climb back down and rewatch literally anything by Marvel Studios and wait until Sony pass this along to the rightful owner.
– Ashton Brown