RELEASED: October 5th 2018
DIRECTED BY: Ruben Fleischer
WRITTEN BY: Jeff Pinkler, Scott Rosenberg & Kelly Marcel
PRODUCED BY: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach & Amy Pascal
MUSIC BY: Ludwig Göransson
STARRING: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott & Jenny Slate
I had spectacularly low hopes for Venom, which no doubt helped going into the film. The fact that Sony seemed intent on pushing forward with their own Spider-Man universe despite all evidence suggesting they didn’t know what they were doing was the first worrying sign. Then, the suggestion that this universe wouldn’t actually feature Spider-Man was another mind-boggling factor. Finally, the film’s terrible marketing campaign cemented my thoughts that this would be a bad movie.
I had gone from anticipating a film featuring a character from a franchise I love, to being morbidly curious about how bad this film would actually be.
Venom follows Eddie Brock, a reporter disgraced after asking too many questions about the sinister ‘Life Foundation’, headed up by Carlton Drake (I actually had to look up his name just then, even though I only saw this film the other day. That is a bad sign. But let’s continue…). Having obtained a group of alien life-forms known as symbiotes, Drake recklessly hopes to upgrade humanity so they can one day live off-world. But in trying to out Drake’s schemes, Brock is bonded with one of the aliens, and becomes a monstrous anti-hero. Together, he and his symbiote become determined to stop Drake at all costs, as his unchecked schemes could mean the end of mankind.
I’ve described it a bit messily there, but the story, at it’s core, is fine. It works. However, the reason Venom feels lacking is because most of the writing surrounding that story is pretty shit. The dialogue, at times, is complete garbage, and yet again highlights why very few people have faith in Sony’s ability to make a ‘Spider-Man universe’.
Let’s just rewind a bit. In 2014, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out. It featured Spider-Man taking on Electro, the Rhino and a pseudo-Green Goblin. The film under-performed, which was unfortunate for Sony because it was meant to be the starting point for their new cinematic universe. That film was scripted by Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci & Jeff Pinkner. You’d think, going forward, that a studio, after one failed attempt at kick-starting a franchise, would maybe seek out a different set of writers on their follow-up attempt. But no, somehow, they didn’t consider that part of the failings of that film might lay on the script that was used, and bought Pinkner back. Pinkner, whose credits also include The 5th Wave, The Dark Tower and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. No offence to the guy, but it’s not exactly the finest résumé. But Sony don’t stop there, on top of a writer who hasn’t exactly had the finest track record, they also bring in Scott Rosenberg, who does a lot of stuff on a lot of different films, but when it comes to actual scripting, his only screenplay credits from the last fifteen years are Kangaroo Jack, the TV-Movie Salamander and the aforementioned Jumanji.
Now I’m no film producer, but common sense tells me that if I wanted to kick-off my own cinematic universe, I would a) not hire one of the guys who failed me on my first attempt and b) not hire two guys whose highest rated film from the last decade and a half is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
I mean seriously, what the fuck.
On top of that, this movie doesn’t seem to know what it is. It feels like it should be horror, but never quite gets there. The set-up of the film seems like it should be serious science-fiction, but then does a U-turn as it tries to be overtly comedic, but never commits to being all that funny. It’s a weird mish-mash of genres. Like the X-Men films, when they wanted to make comic-book adaptations, but seemed embarrassed to fully embrace their comic-book roots. Except, unlike this, some of the X-Men films actually made that work.
However, saying all that, there are some positives.
The film has a pretty strong cast. Most of it is wasted, granted, but they do the best with the drivel they’ve been given. The highlight, is of course, Tom Hardy, whose Eddie Brock is a bit weird, and feels like he’s starring in a different movie to his co-stars, but whose chemistry with the Venom symbiote (also Tom Hardy) is the strongest part in the movie, and leads to some amusing exchanges and admittedly cool action sequences.
The action, at times, is also fun to watch. Not in a ‘this is a quality directed action sequence’ a la The Winter Soldier, but in a ‘this is dumb fun and I’m enjoying it’ sort of way. Unfortunately, at other times, the action is borderline incomprehensible, because by the third act the story has just devolved into ‘two characters who have the same powers and similar costumes attacking each other at night in a CGI mess’, but whatever, in a film like this, I’ll take what I can get. But geez, if you’re going to do that, at least make the bad guy Carnage so there’s some colour contrast:
I was going to give this film three stars, but I’ve become so frustrated thinking about the idiocy that’s gone into this film’s production that I can’t even give it that.
So, all-in-all, I give Venom:
I have been somewhat negative here, but I want to stress that Venom himself, in the movie, is a fun character. If they were to cart Hardy’s Venom over to one of Holland’s Spider-Man films, I wouldn’t be against it.