Remember Topher Grace’s rendition of Venom, the black-gooed villain, in Spider-Man 3? Remember how disappointed comic-book fans were on how limited his screen-time was? Is it hard to believe it would take this long for a standalone film featuring Marvel’s most iconic villain? Maybe so.
However–neither Sam Raimi nor Marc Webb took it into account. Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland) and three screenwriters decided it would be a good time to bring him back into the spotlight, with Tom Hardy playing the titular role while leading an excellent cast in a film so derivative, dull, and preposterous that an R-rating wouldn’t have made any difference.
Eddie Brock (Hardy) is San Francisco’s most successful journalist. He has his own show called The Eddie Brock Report, where he attempts to tackle the city’s most corrupt corporations, and a beautiful fiancee named Annie (Michelle Williams). Everything seems to be heading in the right direction. Right?
After an interview with Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the CEO of the Life Foundation, goes horribly wrong, Brock loses his job and the love of his life. He later learns from Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) about Drake’s experiments with symbiotes, a form of black alien goo taken from a crashed spaceship, to bond with humans. When Brock becomes infected with the symbiote, he gains super-strength and healing powers, as well biting people’s heads off (of course, they occur off-screen).
Hardy is one of Hollywood’s toughest actors. Whether he’s a con-man entering the subconscious in Inception, fighting against Joel Edgerton in the ring in Warrior, a survivor saving six women after the apocalypse in Mad Max: Fury Road, or fighting off German bombers in Dunkirk, he can do it all! He is–without a doubt–familiar with the superhero genre, not to mention playing the villain Bane in Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy. He has barely starred in a bad movie. In Venom, he does his best with his American accent. But–he’s trying too hard. When Brock keeps hearing voices in his head once the symbiotes take over his body, it goes into Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde mode; resulting in some unintentional hilarity.
Marvel has had a fair share of bland villains over the years. Few of them have been effective. Ahmed’s Drake is nothing but the same stereotypical villain whose discovery of the symbiotes might destroy humanity. It doesn’t do any good by the end when he and Venom have their climactic fight by the bay. Williams, Slate, and the rest of the cast feel absolutely wasted.
Speaking of action sequences, the movie contains one of the most thrilling chases through the streets of San Francisco early on. Afterwards, everything begins to fall apart. The tone goes all over the place, the humor–either intentional or not–feels contrived, and there are enough plot holes to drive a cable car through.
It’s a shame since Marvel has been on a roll this year–from Black Panther to Deadpool 2. Venom is easily the worst of its kind since the infamous Fant4stic. It’s worse than Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and even Spider-Man 3 (to be fair, this makes the Venom in the latter look intimidating). With it ending on a cliffhanger, we might get more from the antihero after all. Woo-hoo.