Knock knock let the devil in. These are lyrics from the accompanying Eminem song for Venom. Unfortunately it seems Marvel took this literally when they signed over the Venom rights to Sony. Anybody who knows anything about Venom knows that he is first and foremost a Spider-Man villain and that the anti-heroism came afterwards. I say anybody but that seems to exclude Sony pictures, Tom Hardy and the screenwriters of this film because it seems none of them know anything about Venom or even how to make a coherent, watchable film which is strange really seeing as that is the focus of their movie studio.
The film sees Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock get contacted by a scientist at the life foundation who is concerned with their use of human subjects to test compatibility with alien symbiotes. While there Brock bonds with one and attempts to stop the life foundation’s vague and generic evil goals. First of all the performances in this film are ridiculously bad for the most part. Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake is the villain but he is not at all imposing at any point. All he does in this film is stand around monologuing about human inferiority and “the next evolutionary step”. His plan isn’t too clear either. He wants to bring the symbiotes to Earth so everyone can get one but I don’t see how that would stop the collapse of human society. He also wants to go to space and have the symbiotes live in humans in space but to achieve that he launches a rocket with only him on it. I fail to see what this would achieve also. He just comes across as really bland and uninterested.
Tom Hardy, however, seems enthusiastic to play the part but his acting is all over the place. His voice is ridiculously high and a fair amount of his lines are spoken in gravelly whispers. He seems to be trying but the dialogue just will not cooperate with him. If you were to remove the Venom part of this film you would be left with what appears to be a film about a recovering crack addict, as Hardy is just running about vomiting and sweating. He also just looks homeless throughout the whole film, and really could benefit from a shower and a shave.
The other characters were fairly bland and forgettable, and nothing of note really springs to mind about any of their performances. The action is fairly bland too, with the symbiote fights looking like an indiscernible, writhing black mass with odd shots of Tom Hardy’s face interspersed. There is also an action sequence where Venom/Brock flee from the Life Foundation and are pursued by kamikaze drones which try to kill Brock which doesn’t really make sense seeing as they want him alive. Venom’s inability to produce weapons the way the other symbiotes can also leads to flat action and uninteresting scenes.
The film also skips the second act, going from the setup for Brock’s character to symbiote “action” which leads directly into the disappointing final fight. I assume this is the 40 minutes that Tom Hardy mentioned as being cut from the film. This film kind of feels like how I imagine a phantom limb feels. You know there is nothing there but there should be something there. The difference though is that people with missing limbs are still able to function whereas this film cannot function the way it is.
The film’s CGI is nothing to boast about either, with the symbiotes just looking rubbery and bounceable instead of solid sentient beings. The worst bit though by far is the first end credits scene. The scene sees Eddie Brock visit Cletus Cassady in prison. Cassady is, for the uninitiated, the Venom ally/enemy Carnage, and is played in this scene by Woody Harrelson wearing a Ronald Mcdonald wig. This is his only appearance in the film, yet it is set up as if it follows a prior exchange. The wig looks ridiculous, but the worst bit is that Harrelson damn near winks at the camera before saying “When I get out there’s gonna be Carnage”. This is sequel bait of the worst kind. It is so lazy and shoehorned in it feels unearned and undeserved. If anybody remembers the infamous “grab a backpack now you’re a villain” basement from The Amazing Spider-man 2, it is arguably worse than that because of how out of left field it is. In TASM 2 at least we knew Oscorp was doing shady villain things, but in this there is nothing to telegraph this and it is just so hamfisted and desperate of Sony to try and cash in on Spider-man and his surrounding mythos.
VERDICT: Overall, I think my feelings for this film can best be summed by a line from Eddie Brock himself. “Oh actually that was pretty cool not gonna lie”. I should add this line is followed by his collision with a truck. The truck here represents Sony and their villainy. Overall, I would give it a 3/10 for being a shoddy, half cocked cash grab. Sony screwed Venom up once before, and they seem to have learned the wrong lessons and screwed him up once more. The fact that Sony plan to move ahead with a Morbius The Living Vampire movie starring everybody’s favourite edgelord sex pest Jared Leto even after Venom irritates me. Sony just give the rights back for all our sakes. This is just embarrassing now.