Venom Review: A Not So Marvelous Misfire
There has been a lot of demand for a standalone Venom movie. The iconic Spider-Man villain made his big screen debut in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, but Raimi’s reiteration of Venom received a very negative response from fans and critics. Since 2007, there has been a lot of talk about a new Venom movie and what exactly that would and should entail. One of the biggest concerns from fans was the film’s rating and that they believed it should be R rated. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios stated over the past few years that they were shooting to make an R-rated film, but about two weeks ago, it was revealed that the film was going to be PG-13. After this announcement, the internet went nuts and thousands of fans boys and fan girls took to social media to hate on the film weeks before seeing it.
When I saw the trailer for Venom, I was very disappointed. I felt like the tone was all over the place, and I found that Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom was a bizarre casting choice. However, over the years, I have learned that you should never judge a film by its trailer. There have been dozens of films with terrible trailers that ended up being good or great films. While my expectations for Venom weren’t very high, I did go into the film hoping for a surprise and one that would, at the very least, be a lot of fun.
Venom is directed by Ruben Fleischer and is written by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, and Will Beall. Venom is an origin story about the rise and fall of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a muckraker journalist whose career has been all about taking down corporations for their wrongdoings. However, when Eddie tries to expose Life Foundation founder Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) during an on-camera interview, he learns the hard way sometimes trying to do the right thing doesn’t always play out as planned.
After the interview goes south, Drake uses his reputation and connection to those in power to get Eddie as well as his fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) fired from their jobs. Six months later, Eddie is approached by Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), a Life Foundation research scientist who has proof that Drake is up to no good. Excited for the opportunity to redeem himself, Eddie sneaks into the Life Foundation where he is exposed to an alien symbiote which enters his body and turns him into Venom.
I grew up collecting and reading comic books. However, after graduating from high school, I stopped buying and reading comics. I realize that this isn’t the coolest thing to admit nowadays when Comic Book movies are all the rage but its the truth. I still have fond memories of reading comics and remember reading so many different adaptations of Batman, the X-Men, and Spider-Man, just to name a few. Venom was my favorite villain in the Spider-Man comics so seeing him treated the way he was in Spider-Man 3 was quite disappointing but like most, I figured that was just a misfire and that we would get an excellent Venom movie one day.
Ruben Fleischer‘s Venom is not the movie I wanted nor is it the Venom movie that I believe most fans were hoping for. The reason why Venom doesn’t work isn’t due to the PG-13 rating but because the film is an absolute train wreck. This is one of those rare times where I am struggling to find something positive to say because after sitting back and looking at the film in its entirety there just isn’t anything about it that stands out as decent, let alone good. I do realize that it is incredibly rare to say that nothing works about a film works but with Venom I feel like its the truth. This film is horribly miscast, the CGI is horrendous, the script is awful, the soundtrack is forgettable, and the direction and production value comes across as lazy and uninspired.
Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, and Ron Cephas Jones are all very talented and capable actors. While I can’t say that I have seen every single project that each of these actors has been a part of, I can say that out of all of their work that I have seen, their performances in Venom are easily the worst that I have seen. I say that not because they don’t try to make the material work but because they all come across as cartoonish, miscast, or entirely out of place. I guess some could argue that Hardy’s performance could have worked with a better script because he enjoys being “meta” when it comes to acting but I didn’t buy him in this role at all.
There are a few scenes with Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams where it seems like Williams is trying to ham it up for the camera, but these scenes just come across as awkward and so beneath her. Williams is given such horrible dialogue that I couldn’t help but cringe whenever she popped up in the film’s second half. After seeing Williams in I Feel Pretty earlier this year, I would like to see her embrace more comedic roles as long as the material is good. While I wouldn’t say I Feel Pretty is a great movie by any means, her role in that film was hilarious. It was nice to see Williams do something different and she ended up being one of the most memorable aspects of that film. In Venom, I couldn’t stop shaking my head and wondering why she was in it. Oddly enough, there have been few articles recently released that claim that Williams took the role solely to work with Hardy and the paycheck.
For those who criticized Zach Synder for casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, you should all know that Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake is 100 times worse. While I have openly admitted to enjoying Eisenberg as Luthor, even though he wasn’t anything like the Lex Luthor I remembered from the comics, seeing Ahmed in this role was pretty painful to watch. In almost every single scene, Ahmed came across as wooden as though the actor had no clue what type of film he was in.
Drake as a character was so one note the entire time that after a while I found myself laughing unintentionally whenever he came on-screen. I am a big fan of Jenny Slate, but just like Ahmed, she was horribly miscast. I never saw her playing a character but rather Jenny Slate playing dress-up. She looked so awkward and out of place. I kind of felt bad for her as she seemed completely confused by the material and storyline.
Critics often criticize DC Films for shoddy CGI but watching Venom proves that Sony and Marvel are guilty of this as well. With how far technology has come it is surprising whenever I see a $100 million dollar film have such bad special effects nowadays. Over the past few years, we have seen smaller films like Colossal and The Shape of Water prove that you don’t need a massive budget to have some awesome visually striking monster sequences. The CGI in Venom is simply atrocious and at certain points even feels like you aren’t watching a movie but rather looking at a video game. I realize that the budget on Venom wasn’t as much as a typical MCU film but I don’t know how the studio heads watched the final cut and said, ‘yep this looks good.’ But then again, the entire film is a massive misfire so since they couldn’t fix the acting, the story, or the direction, the bad CGI was just water under the bridge.
Often times there are movies that fall into the category of so bad, its good. There were moments during Venom that I almost wanted to believe this was the case with the film but then I thought back to the source material and looked at the level of talent involved. There is no way whatsoever that this should be one of those films and it was definitely not the intention of the studio. This is just a waste of talent and a lazy attempt to bring to life one of the most iconic comic book villains.
Venom is so bad that it makes Suicide Squad look like a Best Picture Oscar contender. This ranks up there with some of the worst comic book films ever made including 2015’s Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and The Spirit. Venom is a film that although I found myself laughing at it while watching it, made me rather angry by the time the end credits started to roll. This is the second time that Sony failed to bring Venom to life and after seeing the film’s mid-credits scene, which was also really bad, I don’t have much hope that the sequel and the character being teased for the next entry will be much better.
This might be one of those films where Sony should stop immediately and try again. Hopefully, they have learned from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and the two Amazing Spider-Man films (films I really liked by the way) that if the first film isn’t well received that they should stop instead of digging themselves further into a hole. I would hate for Venom to become a franchise that ends up becoming a huge failure because they didn’t take the time to look at the feedback. I am very curious how Sony is going to play this one as I know millions of fans are sure to be disappointed when they venture out to see this one in theaters this weekend.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Venom is a 2 out of 10.