Many fans, myself included, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe went into the screening of Venom with cautious optimism. Okay, Venom is technically part of the Sony Marvel Universe, but that detail seemed to me to not matter much. After all Tom Hardy is the lead, and as anyone who has seen his turns in Dark Knight Rises (on the other side of the comic divide), The Revenant or the brilliant Dunkirk knows is one of Britain’s finest actors. Director Ruben Fleischer’s record is more spotted. He followed up the excellent Zombieland with the lacklustre 30 Minutes or Less and Gangster Squad. Still, the MCU has, thus far, proven itself to be the king of cinematic superhero antics, able to bring out the best elements of their central characters. In Eddie Brock/ Venom that pool of material is deep. I was set to enjoy two hours of action-packed comedic web (slime) swinging. I am truly sorry to say I was disappointed.
Before the knives come out I should first clarify something. Tom Hardy is the best thing about this movie. His performance as Brock is actually quite good buy is let down by an awful script containing cringy dialogue that you would never hear coming from his comic-book self. Similarly, Riz Armed who takes on the villainous role of Carlton Drake also does an OK job but lacks any real threat.
It is admittedly difficult to make a stand-alone film work without the wider ensemble.
Perhaps it is because of his other roles but there is something about the nature of Ahmed that doesn’t scream villain. As such his impact as the films main antagonist is limited until the films third act where the film does redeem itself. The dynamic between Brock and his ex-fiancé Anna Weying (Michelle Williams) is paper thin and lacking the kind of affectionate quirkiness you get from the comics. Williams is but one of the many secondary characters underused in the film.
It is admittedly difficult to make a stand-alone film work without the wider ensemble. Last years Logan being an exception. Watching the film, I couldn’t help but wish that Brock had a more balanced counter point to help him resist the infection. In other words, he/we needed some Spider-Man. Tom Holland would have been the perfect onscreen dynamic with Hardy and an opportunity feels missed. The film is too…messy. Too brash, noisy and disorganised. We as the audience should have been rooting for someone or anticipating some big clash. Instead all we got was a sort of badly planned out indoor rollercoaster. Full of bright lights, flashes and special effects splurges, the film untimely leaves one feeling unsatisfied.
The film is fine for what it is, and it doesn’t totally fail the character like the awful Spider-Man 3 (2007) did. Overall, it is passable but frustrating because it could have been much better with a more refined story. Four quick final points going forward. Change director. Bring in Marvel Netflix writers. Keep Hardy as Brock, and use your best asset – Spider-Man.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Last modified: 31st January 2019