Venom (2018) Review: Vicious, Evil, Nearly Overly Mundane
11 years ago, there was a frustratingly terribly movie called ‘Spider-Man 3’. It’s tyranny showed the world one of the most beloved villains of all time, a hulking, vicious being fueled purely by hatred, as portrayed as the guy from ‘That 70s Show’. Needless to say it was a portrayal that left fans hungry, nay, starved, for a more substantial meal. Fast forward to 2018, and the character is taking top billing. Played by oscar nominated actor Tom Hardy, and helmed by ‘Zombieland’ director Ruben Fleischer, it seemed the character was on a slow, but momentous, track to finally getting the treatment he deserved.
Yes, the character would be stripped of his connection to Spider-Man, a trait some would classifying as a defining characterstic. No, he wouldn’t be able to play with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The film makes that clear when “In Association With Marvel” comes up in the opening credits with very little fanfare). Was this film centered around a homicidal alien with no regard for human life rated PG-13? Yes of course it was. But at least the character was on a track to getting the treatment he deserved? Well…
You might be surprised. You might even be astonished. Flabbergasted; to hear, that despite the veritable cavalcade of negative word coming out about this film, I actually enjoyed it. Not in an ironic way, or in with a “so bad it’s good” energy. I thought ‘Venom’ was a solid, engaging, yet flawed superhero movie.
Perhaps it’s because ‘Venom’ is so simple. It’s about a man who through every fault of his own, becomes a downtrodden loser. The glimpse at his perfect life that gets blown up by his own self destructive tendencies is enough to make you feel for him when it all goes away. Seeing a character like that thrust into a tale of adventure with his new superpowered alien best friend, gave me everything I could have ever wanted.
It’s a strange thing to watch ‘Venom’ (2018). Superhero films have become much more sophisticated in the decade since the characters first appearance on screen, yet this film in particular seems to embody the films that preceeded even that. The film has been compared to the very worst of the genre such as ‘Daredevil’, ‘Catwoman’, and ‘Elektra’. In truth, those comparisons are not entirely unfounded. Many scenes in the film feel extremely dated. The scene of a Eddie Brock awkwardly coming to terms with his new abilities, in particular is the type of material these films moved past long ago. The only saving grace to these scenes is that the film goes at great lengths to revel in its absurdity. It knows you’ve seen what it’s doing before, and it tries to keep you awake as it does it.
Yet knowing this; recognizing the film’s obvious and glaring faults, I saw a film that was more concerned with its character than anything else.
At the centre of everything is Tom Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock. He’s a little more than unhinged before coming under Venom’s influence, and the character more than goes off the rails when the two become one.
Think back to Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider and you get a sense of what you’re in for. The two make for the most entertaining buddy cop pairing since ‘Upgrade’, a film with a startlingly similar premise, and main actor look alike.
It’s a shame that it takes such a long time for the two to join. The portion of this film dedicated to Brock’s fall from grace is meandering to say the least. Not only that, but it chooses to take its time in all the wrong places. It chooses to jump ahead by six months, but show you 3 days in meticulous detail. I suppose the film was trying to craft the sense of Eddie Brock’s pathetic little life, so that you can understand why he might consider submission as a host for an alien parasite.
The movie has a painfully bad villain, serious pacing issues, and a third act that devolves into messier visual effects than Sunday night on the syfy channel. It also has some effectively eerie gothic sequences like Venom lurking in dark, snarling hungrily at his prey, and Michelle Williams as an interesting romantic love interest, a role that so often feels like a waste of screen space. As Eddie Brock says about Venom himself, his power isn’t completely terrible, and neither is the movie.
Rating: Half Price