So, as a character, Venom hasn’t exactly had a great time in Hollywood. His only other real film outing to date was the dismal Spider-Man 3 in which the murderous Symbiote made Tobey Maguire flirt with random women and dance in public. Thankfully, though it destroyed Maguire’s time as the web slinger, the 2007 film didn’t sign the death warrant on Venom’s time in front of the camera. When it was first announced that Tom Hardy was going to be starring as Eddie Brock I was extremely excited. Hardy is a fantastic actor and one that could really, under the right circumstances, bring the character to life. There is so much potential with Venom because it’s such a complex character. He’s an incredibly dangerous villain who, occasionally, finds himself fighting on the side of the good guys. It seemed like the perfect time to try again with the character now that we’re in the midst of the R rated comic book movie era. Though he lacks the humour of Deadpool, the idea of seeing Venom ripping people apart was too good to ignore.
Well until Tom Hardy went and told us that his favourite 40 minutes of the film had been cut. It’s not the best start when the star is so obviously removing himself from the final product before we’ve even seen it. Plus, the decision to always strive to get it a PG-13 rating just seemed nonsensical for a villain with such potential. I mean Venom is the kind of guy who just bites the head off another guy’s body and you want to make that kid friendly? What kind of fucked up shit is Sony trying to pull? I know, I know. Christopher Nolan has changed the face of film ratings since The Dark Knight was given a 12A despite its dark undertones. But that doesn’t mean that you should try to hold back on everything that deserves to move beyond the realm of family friendly violence. And if anyone deserved it, it was Venom. I mean after what Tobey Maguire did to him, man?
But let’s not get too bogged down by what might have been and, instead, focus on what was. Venom is the origin story of the everyone’s favourite Symbiote and tells the story of how it came to meet investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). The Symbiote, a CGI black shape-shifting blob, was brought, along with a few companions, to Earth thanks to mad scientist, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake secretly begins experimenting on humans to try to bond the Symbiotes to a host body. Upon being sent to interview Drake, Eddie manages to lose both his job and his girlfriend, Annie (Michelle Williams) and he finds himself in a downward spiral. Unable to leave Drake alone, Eddie investigates further and finds himself the new host of the Venom Symbiote. With a second Symbiote making its way to find Drake, the pair must decide whether they will work together to save the Earth or allow the rest of the Symbiotes to make their way to Earth.
I found it super difficult trying to sum up the plot of Venom. It’s so clunky and awkward and everything is as blunt as possible. It’s so uninspired that you can feel the writers just ticking off boxes as it moves on. And what’s worse is that you can see that the cast know how bad it is. Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams are two incredibly charismatic actors in the right roles but you kind of feel uncomfortable watching them go through this. Williams is given such a small amount to do that it’s just laughable. And Hardy finds a hard time trying to work out what kind of performance is expected of him. There are hints of physical comedy mixed with intense brooding and absolute hatred. It never quite comes together and he just looks a bit jumpy and on edge the entire time.
There was so much potential for Venom to be an amazing film but it lacks the humour and easiness that has made Marvel Studios so successful. Though the opening credits tell us that Venom was made in association with Marvel, this is a Sony film through and through. It’s rough, confusing, and unsure of itself. The plot drags and rambles along, the action is hardly sensational, and the comedy doesn’t ever really land. There are several stand-out moments but you do get the feeling this was building to be something bigger than it was allowed to become. I mean the action scenes are so badly handled and rushed that you often can’t tell that you’re watching one until they’re over. The humorous sections go on way too long and as though they’re from another film entirely. None of this film makes any sense. It manages to be exciting and fun in dribs and drabs but, mostly, I was just sat waiting for it to be over.
There are true moments of brilliance when the two beings talk to each other that suggest there is a winning bromance that can be played to great effect. If Venom had just been a film about a man coming to terms with sharing his body with an alien parasite who wants him to eat people, then I’d have been all for it. Instead, Sony tried to make a Marvel movie without having the skills to make a Marvel movie. It’s a mess from start to finish and it didn’t have the guts to do what it needed to with the character or its cast. For its sequels, Sony need to look towards Deadpool for its inspiration and maybe play up the lighter and more violent elements a bit more. Give us the Venom we and Tom Hardy both deserve and wanted.