Venom isn’t the poisonous mess the critics would have you believe…but it’s not exactly good either.
The latest superhero movie offering, Venom, starring Tom Hardy, hits cinemas in the UK on October 5th. I caught a preview screening to see if they really could make a Venom movie work without Peter Parker.
Venom tells the tale of journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy), who is on a personal mission to take down the brilliant Carlton Drake. Rumours abound about nefarious goings-on behind the scenes at Drake’s Life Foundation. While investigating a questionable experiment, Brock is infected the alien Venom, and the two embark on a strange adventure of super-powers, rage and biting off heads.
In the role of Eddie Brock, Hardy does a passable job, revealing some surprising comedy chops. His interactions with the voice of Venom inside his head are well-acted, and funny, with highlights including the increasingly confused Brock climbing into a lobster tank in a fancy restaurant, and many an odd-couplesque argument taking place entirely in his mind.
The rest of the casting is largely forgettable; a shame considering this film has Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed. The material the cast is given is thin for the supporting characters. Nobody seemed to have motivations beyond existing, and Brock’s long suffering girlfriend Annie (Williams) was particularly dull. Even villain Drake (Ahmed) seemed to have no real purpose, with his deteriorating mental state shown entirely by the zip of his jacket getting lower and lower throughout the film.
Trailers for Venom made me expect a gory action-thriller, but there is a surprising amount of fun and humour. The interactions between Venom and Brock are often laugh-out-loud funny, and Hardy does an excellent job of delivering action sequences while being equal parts thrilled by his new powers and utter terrified bewilderment. While it’s not the romp of other MCU movies like Gaurdians of the Galaxy, it’s not trying to be, and the jokes are well placed.
The main plot is a little erratic, with strange pacing. Venom’s about-face from villain slowly devouring Brock from the inside to his new best pal is abrupt, with no real explanations given. The middle of the film sags badly, with too much time dedicated to split-personality hi-jinks, a pacing error that makes the final showdown feel too rushed. The ultimate climax is disappointing and underwhelming, despite some brilliant CGI symbiote showdowns just before it.
The cinematography is often jarring, which at times is a perfect reflection of Brock’s mental state as the camera swings wildly, but at others just makes it hard to work out what’s going on. The soundtrack is strong, with a new track from Eminem, as well as lots of those creepy ambient noises from the trailer.
All in all, Venom is a bit of a mixed bag. It is generally enjoyable, but is nowhere as strong as any of the main MCU offerings. I do think it’s setting the groundwork for a more interesting Venom franchise, and I’m interested to see what comes next, especially as Hardy is apparently pushing for an R-rated sequel. I’m hopeful for a link-up with the Spiderman films, as while this movie works alone, the best comic book moments all involve the web-slinger.
Stay for the post-credits scenes. There’s a wonderful tease mid-credits for comic fans that suggest the next film will involve one of Marvel’s scariest and most popular super-villains. Hang on through the credits for a real treat; I won’t spoil it, but I will say it’s not part of the Venom story and instead is a short from the wider Spiderverse.
Venom is out on Friday 5 October, and is a 12A. My rating: 6/10.
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