Super hero movies are a staple genre. That’s simply a fact nowadays. Of course, with all the main heroes of Marvel and DC in the spotlight, it was only a matter of time before more secondary, anti-heroic, and outright villainous characters got their chance to shine. Which leads us to the theatrical headlining debut of one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, VENOM.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a down on his luck former reporter who lost his career, his credibility, and even his girlfriend Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) after he used confidential information he took from Anne to confront Life Foundation pharmaceutical CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). But when he’s confronted by one of Drake’s scientists, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) that The Life Foundation is experimenting on humans with alien organisms called ‘symbiotes’ his attempt at finding the truth and doing good lead to him becoming infected with the extraterrestrial being called Venom. Now bonded together, they must fight off Drake’s goons, protect his loved ones, and stop a sinister otherworldly threat.
Venom is interesting in trying to establish the characters of Venom and Eddie Brock as a solo act divorced from his origin in Spider-Man, in every sense of the word. Of course, Venom has had a number of starring series of its ow, most prominently in the edgy 1990’s. In that aspect, it kind of works, but as with many things with this film, it could have been better. Without spoiling too much, there’s more than a few fun easter eggs and foreshadowing of stories and characters from the comics that could potentially be used in a sequel.
So it only makes sense that the movie also has an odd feeling of deja vu for 1990’s genre comedy movies like The Mask and Men In Black. Directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer, it should come as no surprise that there’s a blend of action and comedy, though unfortunately not nearly as much bloody splatstick due to the rating. Especially in the story’s handling of Eddie Brock. Tom Hardy plays Eddie as a fairly serious reporter with a moral code at the beginning, which morphs into him being an awkward madman like a cross between Charlie Day and Jim Carrey as he deals with bonding to Venom and all the side-effects that come with it. Including talking to himself, eating a live lobster, and moved against his will in a slapstick manner. It works in part, but a lot of times comes off as a bit weird.
Unfortunately for horror fans, the movie is more in line with the typical super hero movie rather than something along the liens of David Cronenberg. Which is rather disappointing, as the character and trailers did allude to it going down a more body horror laden track as Eddie adjusts to the alien infecting his body. The main story does a decent job in adapting from Venom’s initial solo runs, but everyone is rather lacking in depth. Carlton Drake is more an antagonist as a device rather than a truly memorable villain. He’s a multi-billionaire utilitarian bad guy who wants to save the world no matter the cost, which unfortunately is a bit of a cliche archetype at this point. Granted, he does have some scenes of affability that gives him an almost Hank Scorpio vibe, which was funny, but didn’t really lend to his character. Eddie’s ex, Anne Weying has her moments and feels justified in her actions and motivations, but really should be giving a stronger reaction to the craziness around her and involving her former boyfriend.
It was interesting to make the Venom symbiote a character in its own right, especially having Tom Hardy voice the alien as well. In the comics, the symbiote didn’t usually have a dialogue, but here, it’s good to have a back and forth. Unfortunately, The characterization of Venom is rather hollow. There isn’t a lot of build-up between it and Eddie, and its motivation quickly moves from villainous, to anti-heroic, to heroic with very little justification.
If you are a fan of creature FX and monster fights, this is the movie for you. Venom utilizing it’s monstrous true form against mercenaries, SWAT Teams, and eventually another symbiote bonded baddie make for fun action pieces. Having seen the movie in 4DX with moving seats and other FX definitely enhanced the experience for mindless fun. And the FX used for Venom and the symbiotes, while almost entirely CGI, were pretty well done and flowed seamlessly as Eddie switched between forms. Unfortunately, don’t expect much gore action as the movie is rated PG-13. Though there are more than a few kills and monstrous acts that push the rating to its limit.
Overall, while rather cliche and typical of a mainstream super movie, Venom does have some cool monsters, violent action, and the potential for greater growth. If you’re in the mood for something more along the lines of a horror B-movie, then Venom has you covered.
Venom is in theaters October 5th.