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Venom (2018) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom
Michelle Williams as Anne Weying
Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot
Scott Haze as Roland Treece
Reid Scott as Dr. Dan Lewis
Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien 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.

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Venom was on my most anticipated movies of 2018 list. A Venom movie has been in development ever since Spider-Man 3, and they eventually got it made by Zombieland and Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer. With the involvement of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed, I was intrigued by a solo villain movie that’s more darker and different than most comic book movies nowadays. With that said, there were some reservations about it. This Venom movie doesn’t feature Spider-Man at all (something which is hard to picture considering Spider-Man is instrumental in his origin in the comics) and knowing how Sony botched some of their Spider-Man movies, you can see why people would be nervous about what they would do with this movie. Sony also are building their own Spider-Man cinematic universe (without Spider-Man) not connected to the MCU, and while that sounds interesting, it sounds rather peculiar and very familiar of Sony trying to build up the Sinister Six before they canned it. Nonetheless, I was sure that Venom would be a very entertaining movie, and I was actually somewhat right. Venom isn’t a very good movie, it’s very messy, the writing is flawed, it feels dated and all around there are a ton of problems. However, it is at the same time unbelievably entertaining, crazy and hilarious and I had such a fun time with it.

The first act of Venom is necessary but its quite slow, drawn out and is not very interesting. It doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a problem, but it is one of the worst parts of the movie because it’s not entertaining like the rest of the movie is. Not to mention despite how dull it feels, it feels really rushed and even the editing is really choppy, like they knew it was not as interesting or fun as the rest of the movie but wanted to keep the essentials of the scene so edited them down to the bare minimum. Venom picks up a little after a random 6 month time jump (which it really didn’t need) and especially once Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock comes in contact with Venom, just before (or at) the second act. Just so you know, it takes about an hour into the movie before we see Eddie Brock in full Venom beast mode. I think one of the biggest disappointments of Venom is the fact that the plot as whole is very generic and familiar. What’s in the trailers is pretty much what’s in the movie (in fact in typical Sony fashion they actually showed a little too much). Honestly I think plotwise there’s not really anything to spoil. With that said, what could actually be spoiled is some of the insane moments, particularly the things that Eddie does in the movie (I’ll get a little more into that aspect when I talk about Tom Hardy). The second act is really good and is full of insane Tom Hardy/Venom moments that are endlessly entertaining. One of the best (if not the best) part of Venom is the dynamic between Eddie and Venom, which is done almost perfectly. It’s hilarious and entertaining watching these two interact with each other and from what I can tell it is straight out of the comics. The third act however feels rather abrupt and loses a lot of the energy from the second act, it becomes a pretty standard comic book movie at this point. Also, throughout the whole movie its been building up this character of Riot and while at certain points he’s great, in the third act he doesn’t feel like that much of a threat in the end. Really, it’s the second act that works the best. Venom is an hour and 50 minutes long which is a little short, I kind of wished we got a longer movie (and by that I mean a longer second act with more of that kind of content). In terms of other problems in general, the dialogue can be weak, even terrible at times, and the film in terms of writing can feel very dated, in fact the writing on the whole wasn’t that good. It actually had 3 screenwriters who did the script, which probably explains one of the biggest problems of the movie: Venom wants to be so much, a buddy comedy between Eddie and Venom, a cheesy creature feature, a body horror movie, a really dark comic book movie and it all tries to do all of that and more at the same time and it doesn’t quite work. It tries to do multiple things at once (with only some of them succeeding) and it would’ve worked a lot better if it just settled on one type of movie. The movie actually worked fine enough without Spider-Man, when it comes to the long list of problems that Venom has, the lack of Spider-Man is pretty low down on it. Venom has two credits scenes, one setting up for a sequel, and the other is another Sony Spider-Man related movie. With the first of the two, I like the implications of it but some aspects of it came across as a little goofy and hard to take seriously. Both I think are worth staying around for.

Tom Hardy is one of the best actors working today, putting everything into every one of his performances, and his performance as Eddie Brock/Venom is no exception here. This is a less villainous take on Eddie Brock (let’s just say that Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3 was much more villainous than Hardy’s version), this version of Brock is much more likable and while it is a departure from the comics, it does actually work well for this movie (especially when he’s contrasted against the Venom symbiote). There is no other way of putting it, Tom Hardy is the reason that this movie works. A lot of his performance is very comedic and most of the insane things that happen in this movie involves him, and Hardy absolutely commits to these scenes. For example, without revealing anything there’s a scene that takes place in a restaurant involving Tom Hardy and it’s probably one of the most hilarious scenes of 2018. Even for all the other good aspects that this movie has, this movie would not work without Hardy, he’s the glue that is holding everything in this movie together. He is great at the comedy but also sells the emotional moments that his character has, when he’s scared finding out that he’s having all these powers and finding himself doing weird things, it is really believable. He really does seem like someone who is forced to share a body and mind with another alien being. Earlier I mentioned about how the Eddie and Venom interactions are some of the best parts of the movie and Hardy really helped to sell that aspect (it helped that he actually voiced Venom as well). The rest of the cast are decent enough but don’t reach Hardy’s level (not necessarily their fault however). I think the problem is that there’s almost a disconnect between Hardy and the rest of the cast. Hardy seems to know that he’s in a cheesy and comedic comic book movie, whereas the rest of the cast play everything very seriously, and whenever Hardy isn’t on screen, things fall a little flat. Michelle Williams does play the ex girlfriend character to Hardy and while she does get some things to do than most characters that fit within this type, most of the time she isn’t really used to her fullest potential. Williams does elevate her performance slightly however. The chemistry between Hardy and Williams is a little hit or miss sometimes but it works okay enough. Riz Ahmed plays Carlton Drake, the villain of the movie and he is a little cartoonish, having these long speeches about humanity and how symbiotes combined with them are the higher life forms and other things like that. He isn’t a very memorable villain and is pretty generic but Ahmed does play up the silliness of the role well and ultimately still gives a pretty good performance.

Ruben Fleischer directed Venom and it is a bit over the place with some aspects being good, and some other aspects not being quite as good. The CGI on the whole is a mixed bag. The CGI on Venom actually looks pretty great and impressive. When it came to other parts though, especially in the climax, it could looked look a little cheap at times. Almost all of the action scenes are pretty good, especially when Venom is involved, they really made him such a hugely powerful figure. The last action scene however wasn’t that good, as it was a little hard to see what’s going on. As for whether Venom needed an R rating, it worked fine without it, they still do well enough with the PG-13 and push it as much as they can, managing to still have some dark and scary imagery at times and even featuring Venom eating people. However, an R probably would’ve allowed them more freedom with the things that they could show and would’ve made it a little more entertaining as well. I think there may have been some heavy edits and cuts to the movie, and you can feel it a little in the first act, for example there’s a scene between Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams and the sudden cuts and the lack of continuity is really obvious. Most of the time its fine but you can really notice it sometimes. I also have mixed feelings about the look of the overall movie. At times it can look great but at other times it can look really dated, like it should’ve come out in the early to mid 2000s.

Venom is an odd movie to say the least and one of the most unexpectedly entertaining movies in recent years. No it’s not really that good, it has a ton of problems, but it has a lot of entertaining aspects, the highlights being Tom Hardy’s performance and his dynamic with Venom. With the potential that a sequel would have, I really want to see the teased sequel. Hopefully this sequel will be R rated (which would probably be wise considering the implications of the credits scene), focuses up on what kind of movie it actually wants to be and is just overall much better than this first movie. Honestly, I can’t tell whether or not you’d like this movie, you will just have to take into account all of what I’ve said about this movie and decide for yourself if this is something that you feel like you would enjoy.