A pretty random review here, but I literally had nothing to do for two hours at the end of Sunday and so stuck this film on after seeing it on Netflix and going “Oh yeah, I always wanted to see what that was like”. So, what was it like? Erm… It was okay. I was originally turned off at the idea of Venom without Spider-Man, it seemed like it just wouldn’t work, but I’ll at least give them credit in finding a work-around that was good enough. What about the rest of the film? Read on!
While trying to take down Carlton, the CEO of Life Foundation, Eddie, a journalist, investigates experiments of human trials. Unwittingly, he gets merged with a symbiotic alien with lethal abilities.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Hey look, it’s that screenshot you’ve probably seen 1,000 times! Still, it’s a good one!
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the way they dealt with introducing Venom without Spider-Man was fine. Basically the Symbiotes are taken to Earth as specimens and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), still a journalist, ends up merged with one while investigating around the lab they were kept in. While I still think skipping the whole Venom fighting Spider-Man thing and going straight to anti-hero Venom is a shame (especially as our only live action depiction of the two fighting was… less than stellar) it didn’t go too badly here.
There are some good action moments in the middle of the film, Brock finding out about his Venom powers while they protect him from a bunch of thugs trying to assault him in his flat was entertaining, and a subsequent motorcycle chase down the streets of San Francisco was good bit of fun. There was also a big shootout in Brock’s old news corporation building that was really fun, plus one or two scenes of Venom chomping people’s head off, much to Brock’s disgust. All entertaining way to pass the time, even if they won’t win any awards for beautifully written drama or anything…(and if that’s what you expected going in, then… Huh?)
I’ve seen online criticism about Venom’s voice for being really cheesy, but… I mean, yeah. I found it the funny kind of cheesy though, given Venom is a product of his times and hard to actually take seriously I think it works. As a fan of the Spider-Man Cartoon growing up in 90s I wouldn’t want a more serious sounding, grounded Venom anyway.
That’s about it though. What about the villain and the supporting characters? How about the big finale? Well…
It’s our lead villain, which in a film about Venom you’d think would BE Venom, but there you go!
So we all know that with a few exceptions the main problem with Marvel, and indeed comic book movies in general, is the villain is often underdeveloped due to more screen time being devoted to establishing the hero. Well, the same is absolutely true here. Riz Ahmed as unethical genius Carlton Drake is extremely generic, to the point where “unethical genius” is literally his entire character, never straying from it at all. Towards the end he merges with the Symbiote known as Riot but that doesn’t change his character much beyond wanting to find a new place for the Symbiotes to conquer rather than finding a new place for humanity to live. Either way he’s killing innocent humans, just one is bit more dramatically… bad.
The final fight sees Brock/Venom face off with Drake/Riot which starts off fun but soon devolves into a CG effect-fest, eventually to the point where it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on, especially as it was at night. It was quite frustrating, honestly. Riot is trying to go back out into space and meet up with his fellow Symbiotes and bring them to Earth, but ends up burning to death in an exploding rocket, as you do. There is a mid-credits scene where Brock interviews a man played by Woody Harrelson in prison who turns out to be Cletus Kasady, the person who becomes Carnage in the comics. Sets up the sequel and everything, but I hope the final fight is better lit and has less CG blobby fights…
This is an actual screenshot from the final battle. There are people and Symbiotes in that blob somewhere…
Michelle Williams plays Anne Weyin, Brock’s fiancée who rightfully dumps him when he uses her secret, password protected legal documents to try and nail Drake in an interview. She comes back into the picture when he creepily hangs around outside her house as she and her new boyfriend Dan Lewis (Reid Scott) return home. Dan is a doctor and helps Eddie several times, while Weyin starts to feel sorry for her old flame as he goes through hell and helps him at several points, including becoming “She-Venom” briefly in order to transfer the Venom Symbiote back to Brock when it gets ejected due to soundwaves towards the end of the film. The problem is… well, I didn’t really care for either of these support characters, they’re both nice (especially helping Brock when he’s clearly a complete knob even pre-Venom) but neither exactly exude anything other than being slightly spoiled rich people with amazing, well-paying jobs.
That’s about it for characters, really. There is a female scientist who helps Brock for a bit, and a few recurring thugs but other than that it’s quite focused on Brock and his mental battle with Venom.
A nice friendly chat between new besties.
Venom is a mixed bag. It has some fun set-pieces and worked around the lack of Spider-Man quite well, but the finale is disappointing and every character who isn’t Brock is rather dull and one-dimensional. Still, it passed two-hours reasonably, especially given it was just a part of one of my regular streaming services, if I’d paid a bunch of money to see it in the cinema I think the flaws would’ve annoyed me a lot more. A middling score it is then!