My expectations could not be set any lower for Venom. With some bad trailers, my impressions of what I was seeing was not good. I managed to get to see Tom Hardy’s take on the iconic character last night, and I was surprised for good and bad reasons.
We see Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) a journalist who tackles crooked powerful men and brings them down by shining light on their schemes. After trying to ask hard questions towards Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) his career and life go downhill in attempting to take down one of the most influential people in San Fransisco. After trying to get evidence on Drake’s company, the Life Foundation, he gets infected with one of the symbiotes captured by Life. Drake sends man after man to apprehend the creature, and Eddie Brock goes from journalist to the anti-hero Venom.
The pacing is so weird for the first 30 minutes or more. The first 10 to 20 is bizarrely too quick seeing the negative changes in Eddie’s life, but I had no time to see development in his character to care about him. Not until the end of the film I actually could care for him and his new friend. Then we get into a slow crawl of him getting drunk and being an absolute mess. Once he gets infected with Venom, then the film picks up to an entertaining ride.
The tone is all over the place. Elements of horror, superhero action flick, drama, comedy, and just about anything you can think of is thrown into the mix. The horror aspects would have worked if Sony decided to keep the R rating, and overall help the movie’s quality. While many of the creepy moments work, there was always something missing. The drama of what Eddie was going through was too quick but overall kept some powerful moments. The typical superhero and comic book features went well and felt like an actual Marvel movie despite many moments of inconsistency. The humor felt off. While there were two or three genuinely funny scenes, a lot of it felt confusing. I was unsure if they were trying to be serious in some scenes or just goofy.
The writing is just as inconsistent as the tone. Some lines are at a cringe level of terrible to handle that breaks my suspension of disbelief. Characters have lines that are sometimes painfully bad. Sometimes I question if it is the acting or merely lousy dialog that cannot be said properly. The acting was well done despite some painful dialog that had to be delivered. Tom Hardy carries the film on his back. While Eddie had some flaws as a character that was annoying, his relationship between Anne and Venom were the highlights in the story. Seeing his chemistry with these two allies made up for some somewhat problematic storytelling. The development of his relationship with Venom was beyond my expectations and was the best part of the movie. Riz Ahmed had quite the generic antagonist, but his performance made up for the lackluster character. Michelle Williams played Anne, Brock’s love interest, who was excellent despite lacking in much development of her character earlier in the film. The powers of the symbiotes felt unpredictable. At times how the symbiotes take over people or animals and how that creature reacts with its host felt wrong at times. Seeing people or animals take in the symbiote with no problem or some with deadly consequences. The film explains it rationally, but I could not buy some of what they were selling to me.
The action was not as much as I had hoped, but when we got some fighting or chases, it was worth the wait. One of my favorite car chase scenes in years is seen right here. I was surprised by how well the choreography was executed. The action would not pop up for a brief moment then back to slow storytelling, we got a good lengthy car chase along with plenty of other fight scenes across the film. The only problem with the action is Venom would eat people and have other brutal ways of killing people, but with the PG-13 rating, I felt cheated out of some good old fashion blood and guts. If we ever get an R rated cut, the original cut, then I will rewatch the movie in a heartbeat.
The quality of the visual effects was out of control. Practical effects looked fine, nothing extraordinary, but worked with the film. Venom and the main villain Riot looked unrealistic. While I understand these are hard characters to make right with CGI, but the technology is there to make realistic looking characters. I could not unsee a CGI character instead of having some suspension of disbelief to see a real life creature. Other moments in the film sometimes look like the team needed some more time to touch up some of the special effects.
Ruben Fleischer’s Venom has a great movie inside somewhere but has some quite terrible writing and pacing issues along with bad CGI. Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg might not have been right for the job or maybe needed some extra time. Some of these issues will never be known since the film shot vs. the film delivered are entirely different. Who knows how much better the anti-hero movie would have been with an R rating? I know the action would benefit, but the story and characters? That will remain a mystery. The best way to describe Venom is that it feels like an early 2000s superhero movie by its messy tone, bad special effects, and an overall entertaining film that is not remotely good.
Image via Sony Pictures