Journalist reporter Eddie Brock investigates the Life Foundation, headed by philanthropist Carlton Drake, who is using humans as an experiment to meld with alien life-forms to dire results. When discovering the truth about their purpose, Brock himself is infected with one of the life-forms, and discovers new abilities given him by the creature. Now he must stop an even more sinister plot unfolding from the Life Foundation which puts our world at risk.
That’s as official as I can make it sound. And with that, there are fundamental problems with the Venom film in its marketing and in its adaptation.
It posits itself as a horror/anti-hero film with Tom Hardy playing the reluctant host to a menacing symbiote in Venom. However, the writing takes the plot down all the usual routes of a traditional superhero film. I came into this film with very low expectations, and I was slightly surprise that it managed to deliver on some points. Yet there’s still the important aspects of plot, character, and polishing up storylines so the audience might suspend their disbelief. And it is in these latter points that the film fails to deliver on every level.
The Main Character(s)
Tom Hardy does not portray the comic book Eddie Brock at all. He’s a journalist for sure, but he lacks the machismo and almost jerk face qualities that made him an iconic villain in the comics. He’s more a hero for truth in this adaptation, and even at first, he might display a more confident tone to his demeanor. It seems like another team of writers came in to flesh out his character for the second and third acts to make him more neurotic, and more subject to the influences of the symbiote. For the first part of the film, Hardy came out like Brian Williams, confident reporter and journalist with acclaim both in New York and in San Francisco, then devolved into a Woody Allen type complex that really didn’t work well in the film.
If you’re looking for a comic book accurate Venom, the only thing they got polished was the look of the creature. When it comes to dialogue or feel of the symbiote, the movie does take liberties and makes it its own. The thing is, a lot of critics are tearing the movie apart for this portrayal of the Venom symbiote. However, I find it to be a fresh take on the menacing beast. There were some genuinely hilarious lines coming from the suit that had the audience laughing. It felt weird because I wasn’t prepared to be humored by a being that bites heads off of people, but I did enjoy myself during some of the dialogue between a paranoid Eddie Brock and the symbiote.
The Other Characters
Riz Ahmed’s character was forgettable as the villain Carlton Drake. It’s not really spoilers to talk about his bonding with the Riot Symbiote at this point, right? Well, even when he gets the symbiote, it does little to enhance his character, other than having a plethora of weapons he can form his hands into. Other than having a few scenes with the symbiote, we only see the creature manifest a couple of times, and it is a mess of a creature as far as CG is concerned.
There’s another character who plays a main security agent for Carlton Drake, and he has a few screens of getting beaten up by the symbiote. Although, he’s just as cannon fodder as the rest of his team of private security for the Life Foundation. So he gets tossed around without too many mentions of his name.
To be honest, every other character is a throwaway for this movie for me. Eddie Brock’s former fiancé Anne Weying, played by Michelle Williams, feels like wasted potential for more than just a side character. I actually had to look up what the character’s name was because I honestly couldn’t remember it. It was uttered maybe once or twice the entire film. Her boyfriend, Dan, is a bit more memorable because he’s hilariously unbelievable as the boyfriend when it comes to dealing with Brock.
Action on Point, to a Point
I have to talk about the action scenes without spoiling too much. Here, there is a concerted effort to make a fight scene where a giant black alien taking out a SWAT team is so impressive, that I forgot that what I was looking at was CG. The motorcycle chase through San Francisco that we’ve all seen in trailers was also a sight to behold. I know in early trailers for the film the bike scene looked a bit more ridiculous given the unfinished Cinegraphics. However, what came out in theaters was more than I expected.
What I saw was an Eddie Brock with a symbiote assist, breaking through trees, evading exploding drones, and taking out baddies without too much effort. Then I saw an intricately polished Venom in all the glory of the black suit, brushing off bullets and grenades with no effort at all. For the most part, the CG team did a great job.
And I emphasize, for the most part.
Without spoiling too much, but I think we’ve all seen it in the trailers, Eddie Brock in the Venom suit takes on Carlton Drake in the Riot suit. The CG is a mess with how the characters are designed to be liquid-like creatures. If that one shot you’ve seen in the trailer is an indicator, then you should already know what I’m talking about. I don’t think I’ve seen a superhero movie yet where a giant CG fight happening gets any critical praise. It’s one of the weakest points of Black Panther, it kept getting used for both the Hulk and Incredible Hulk movies, and got made fun of during Deadpool 2. The scene in question for Venom fits all those criteria and manages to make it worse by having something akin to a Transformers/Michael Bay big mecha battle, where one cannot tell what’s going on.
Yeah, I couldn’t tell what was going on. And I don’t think anyone else in the theater could either.
Sight and Sound
The sound throughout the movie isn’t just lackluster in parts. It’s actually pretty bad.
There are parts of the film where the voice of the symbiote almost exceeds in decibel level compared to voices of the actors in the film. And that’s mostly the voice over work that didn’t line up. The action scenes all suffered from the same thing. Screams, screeches, explosions, gunfire, the whole thing needed to be dialed back. The background noises were hardly noticeable in comparison.
The sound department actually needed to keep working on this one in post-production. There were really uncomfortable parts of the film when it came to sound where they needed to dial the screeching and explosions back a few decibels.
I talked about the big CGI fight at the climax of the film. The one we all saw in the trailers that looked like someone spagettified play-doh and tried to mash two of the colors together in slow-motion. That’s the best way to describe it. Well that’s only one scene.
They spent the time trying to perfect the look of the Venom symbiote. However, the CG department felt a little rushed for other parts of the film. The way the symbiotes looked when not attached to a host took me out of the movie. There were also more scenes with Venom in this form rather than the more traditional big toothy grin form. I think they banked on the suit accurate Venom so much, and we only got to see him in all his toothed-up glory for three really big moments in the film.
The No Man’s Sky Promises
There was this game developed a few years ago called No Man’s Sky. It was going to be filled with various planets to explore as we traipsed through the galaxy in an attempt to reach the center. It earned the lead developer of the game an interview on Stephen Colbert’s show, and several media spots to promote the game.
No Man’s Sky ended up being a broken game with generated planets that didn’t live up to what the developers had been advertising. No Man’s Sky fell short on every promise the lead developer had gone out to promote.
It was a bait and switch that pissed off the gaming community. The problems of No Man’s Sky reminded them not to get their hopes up about the promises of gaming companies. What they’re hyping up for their upcoming projects might be a far cry from the delivered material.
Here, we have a movie in Venom that teased us with the possibility of it being rated R. Heck, I have a picture of the rating right outside of my theater being NR. It’s as if the theaters didn’t get the memo about the rating. Well, the movie was put out as PG-13 almost last minute. Why? Because they want Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to be involved in it somehow? In future films, maybe. It was only until recently we found out they always intended for the film to be PG-13.
Speaking of Tom Holland, they teased us for months about how he could be in the movie. Then, we find out he isn’t in it at all. Now we’re getting teased about Venom’s inclusion into the MCU with vague statements and promises for future films.
Fool me once Sony.
The Bigger Problem
The fundamental problem with Venom is that it has no sense of what it wants to be. It makes itself out to be this big F.U. to the superhero films out there. Yet, it follows all the same tropes of the 90’s superhero films. It wants to be violent. It wants to be biting the heads off of people, slicing them, and stabbing them.
It’s like how the RoboCop reboot went for a PG-13 rating. And by so doing fell short of the gory glory of the original movie, which is a hard R. By appealing to a broader audience, it actually fell short of making the jump from being an okay movie to being a great movie. Orion Pictures Corporation handled the original RoboCop film. Guess the studio for the crappy reboot? And here we are again, Sony.
Venom as a character is a brilliant concept, if done correctly. I was actually hoping that Sony would surprise me. I was hoping they would give me a film that challenged me to embrace the darker aspects of my nature. This was based off of what the advertising gave me. Then I saw the film.
I think that’s why critics are lambasting the film.
And it’s not to say that there are some genuinely serviceable parts of the film. I think they can actually do a solo Venom title without including Spider-Man if there was better writing involved. But the writing team and direction just didn’t deliver on all cylinders. And it painfully shows in the dialogue, the characters, the plot, and the overall feel of the movie.
Venom suffers from its marketing as it fails to deliver on the promises of its promotions. There is nothing memorable about the characters of the film. There’s Tom Hardy playing a version of Woody Allen until the Venom symbiote takes over, and that’s about it. Actually, the symbiote is the only good thing about the film. The rest of the production feels like a rush job. It needed more time in post-production to fix the sound and other CGI aspects of the film.
- Polished CGI for titular character Venom
- Symbiote genuinely funny for many parts of the film
- Action/fight scenes were well done for the most part
- Forgettable villains and co-stars with added value to the film
- Typical climactic CGI big monster battle worst I've ever seen
- Audio painfully too loud during action scenes