When Venom was first announced, my Spidey sense tingled with excitement. My anticipation for the film grew even more so when the legendary actor that is Tom Hardy was cast as the lead.
Whilst I was thrilled that Sony Pictures were exploring the wider Spiderverse and bringing us films about popular characters in the Spider-Man universe, I was more excited about the fact that Venom would once and for all erase the atrocity of Spider-Man 3, which I felt didn’t do the character justice. However, after watching the film at last night’s New Zealand premiere, it pains me to say that even Tom Hardy couldn’t save the film from being a washout akin to Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern or Halle Berry’s Catwoman.
As expected, Venom is an origins story following down on his luck journalist, Eddie Brock (Hardy), as he assimilates with an alien symbiote to become the villain/anti-hero Venom. The plot is simplistic, catering for filmgoers experiencing the character for the first time. Not that this was a bad thing, but compared to the likes of Deadpool, Wonder Woman, and other superhero origin films in this day and age, the plot of the film felt somewhat, predictable and incredibly rushed.
Right off the bat we are introduced to Brock, the characters around him, and of course the villain. The lack of character development in the film is staggering, with little effort into truly connecting audiences to the characters. Often, with superhero films, I feel some kind of kinship with the main hero or the villain, depending on the characterisation. A well done film always manages to hook me in emotionally and capture my attention.
Venom certainly did not.
The lack of character development resulted in my not feeling anything for any of the characters. The villain of the film, played by Riz Ahmed, wasn’t a diabolical maniac, nor was he truly evil in any way, or at least, his portrayal didn’t make me feel threatened by him at all. If anything, his character, Carlton Drake, was nothing more than a rich brat attempting to play God, and even this was poorly illustrated. I would put it down to bad acting, but I’ve watched Ahmed in other roles before and his acting is always top notch.
As for Brock a.k.a Venom? Here’s a character that attempts to be version 2.0 of Wade Wilson a.k.a Deadpool. Brock’s characterisation was simply wasted on Hardy. The cheesy ‘humour’ that his character brings felt forced and out of place given the dark and rather bleak tone of the film. In many ways, Topher Grace, who played Eddie Brock and Venom in Spider-Man 3 was far more believable as a downtrodden journalist with a chip on his shoulder. Not only was he more believable, his version of the character was a lot easier to sympathise with.
What really irked me was Brock’s casual acceptance of the parasite within him. One would think that a Venom origins story would have the character of Brock struggle to deal with having a creature in him, and take some time to assimilate and adjust to his new found ‘abilities’. However, in this film, Brock’s ‘horror’ as to having a creature in him, speaking internally to him and healing his wounds, felt like just another day. “Oh, my leg was broken earlier, but now it’s fine. Ho-hum. Moving on”
The film felt incredibly rushed. The impact of having Carlton Drake become a symbiote’s host was lost as is the great threat to mankind that he posed. The film spent more time with flashy action that was so fast-moving that it was unbearable to the common eye and loud noises that made me feel that subtitles were required to understand some of the dialogue, than actually showcasing Venom’s full potential. Perhaps the screenwriters were holding back in order to allow for Venom’s growth as a character in subsequent films, if there is any planned.
To be blunt, the film felt lazy, with even the relationship between Brock and his ex-girlfriend (Michelle Williams) feeling absolutely dull. The transition from being engaged to becoming friends had no emotional substance whatsoever, and much like Brock’s acceptance of his fate as a symbiote host, felt much to easy a breakup. It almost made Brock come across as more than just a ‘loser’ but one who simply didn’t care, but yet, cared enough to want to save the world? The mismatch in personality felt confusing and difficult to connect with (as mentioned above).
Typically most films, especially superhero ones, would include a crucial moment where the hero feels lost, struggling with some kind of defeat before finding the strength and courage to rise up to the occasion and overcome challenges. In addition, the final battle scene usually proves to be the most intriguing and captivating part of a film as audiences are able to cheer the hero on as they fight to defeat the villain. Often, this comes with a certain level of build up and tension, where audiences are left unsure of whether the hero will succeed, the suspense driving audiences to the edge of their seat.
All of this was lacking in Venom. There was no crux in the film, no point in which Brock struggled with himself and with his new found ‘abilities’. Not only that, but the fight between Venom and Riot (the symbiote villain that Carlton Drake becomes), ends far too quickly in an incredibly disappointing way. It simply felt as if no thought was really put into the final few scenes, yet alone the film as a whole.
On the plus side, the CGI effects on Venom himself was done well, though that certainly can’t save the film either.
Venom was certainly a watchable film, one that didn’t have me wanting to bolt out of the cinema half-way through unlike the Fantastic Four reboot film, however, it wasn’t enjoyable and isn’t a film I’d watch again. All in all, I much prefered Venom in Spider-Man 3, and hope that Marvel regains the rights back to the entire Spider-Man universe.
In other words…Venom is a stark reminder of what Marvel films were like prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.