A tonally-confused monstrosity wasting a perplexing Tom Hardy role choice in a conundrum of horror and goofy imbalance, messy CGI, & wildly undercooked in villain/storyline, Venom massively disappoints. 3/10.
Plot Synopsis: Eddie Brock is a journalist trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with an alien symbiote named Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Just got out of an early screening of Venom, and man, what has Sony conglomerated here? I was temperately hyped for this movie; Despite mediocre CGI in the trailers I was counting on them to fix come premiere time, the power and feel was right for one of my favorite and most iconic Marvel/Spider-Man movie. Plus, you have Tom Hardy, one of the top-tier actors of his time. What could go wrong? Well, apparently, alot.
Let’s start out with what the film gets right. First, Tom does wonders with what he’s given, a given considering the pedigree of actors we’re talking about. It even at times feels like he shouldn’t be here or he’s settling way below his pay-grade sulking to this level, but his down-to-Earth version, fast-moving, beaten-up-by-life journalist Eddie Brock is well-done and relatable, providing a crux at least somewhat propping up the movie to watchable. Michelle Williams also does well in her role, and Riz Ahmed is great as the brutal, twisted scientist with no regards for human life in the face of bioadvancement: Carlton Drake (although too underdeveloped, as I’ll get to later).
There are also great shots of San Francisco and the Bay Area setting throughout, as well as phenomenal horror and alien sequences when the film rightfully focuses on them in the opening scene and throughout the first act. Some of the scenes are downright chilling and even hard to watch for some like the symbiotes’ first bonding and seizing of Carlton’s “volunteers,” all the way to little girls and even pets – this film could have really been something epic if they would’ve embraced the horror of the source material and had the balls to stick with the hard-R rating Venom deserves. Venom’s voice and power/abilities are perfectly done, establishing him as the famous, powerful villain/antihero that feels straight out of the comic book pages. Finally, the post-credits scene (first one, second one is a glorified commercial for ITSV..) is phenomenal, teasing an intriguing and potentially twisted *SPOILER* CARNAGE!!
Now for the flaws. First and most importantly, the film is completely confused tonally. It never really decides what it’s going to be/going for. One minute, it’s horroful and brutal with alien sequences reminiscent of an early Ridley Scott. At others, it’s so goofy that you would think you’re watching an MCU movie. That is just poor direction and script-writing, or awful decision-making by the studio if the filmmakers wanted and presented a clear, one-direction script but the studio decided to interfere with the filmmakers’ vision and dilute it with lightness (we’ve all seen how brilllliantly that goes.. *cough* Warner Bros.). Whoever’s to blame – poor judgment.
Next, Venom himself. While Venom’s voice and power is spot-on and thankfully well-rendered making him a powerful adversary, his CGI and all symbiote-focused CGI in the film is just awful. It looks so messy and muddy, Venom’s head looks strange and body lacks the iconic Spider symbol they could have easily worked in at least a post-credits (maybe he reads a newspaper and discovers Spider-Man – possible in many ways without actually needing Tom or Spider-Man to cameo), and the fight scenes just look chaotic and unrefined. It also feels off having him be an antihero, instead of the iconic villain we know him to be and he feels most at home being. Such a shame.
Finally, Riot and the length. Riot had the seeds to be a great, powerful villain being the head of a race of symbiotes faking their way onto a scout ship to be transported back to Earth just to consumer the population in their never-ending thirst for destruction – badass. Plus, Venom goes on and on about how strong and “unbeatable” Riot is. But, then.. why is only given ~5 minutes of screen-time, and beaten SO easily?? They have no backstory or explanation on where Riot and his group came from, why they picked Earth, why Riot was chosen as leader, why Venom no longer wants to be one of his minions, etc.. The villain is so undercooked it’s practically raw, but that’s nothing compared to the storyline! I literally thought they were joking when the movie ended. I thought it was a fake-out or something, and Riot was going to come back or they were going to use the extra 20-30 minutes they left on the table and could’ve EASILY used to develop its characters further.. That could’ve boosted this film 20-25% in my eyes. But nope, the film ends so abruptly and unfullingly, it just feels off.
Overall, Venom was massively disappointing. There are glimpses of a potentially great idea underneath if they had stuck with the hard-R rating and horror/alien vibe teased throughout, gave their characters and villain much more backstory and development, properly used Tom Hardy, and improved the CGI ten-told so that the CGI-necessary symbiotes looked as good as their power and acting deserved. But, instead, the film can’t even decide what it’s trying to be, settles for muddy CGI hard to look at in parts, and an undercooked storyline and villain feeling wasted because we don’t get to know enough about them. Go see it with an open mind, but tempered expectations.
Overall Rating: 3/10