Released: 4th October
Seen: 13th November
So today we lost one of the greatest creators who ever lived. The incomparable Stan Lee passed away, leaving behind him a universe of characters that have spent the last decade changing the film landscape. If you’ve been to a cinema to see a film in the last 10 years, chances are that Marvel’s logo popped up and so did Stan in one of his iconic cameo’s. The most recent in the tidal wave of films to come out is Venom, the last theatrically released Marvel film during Stan’s lifetime and it seemed appropriate for me to see it the day the news broke… for the record, he has a cameo in this one, and I won’t pretend I didn’t tear up a little. While I was doing that though, I was also thinking “Damn… I wish this was a better film right now”
Venom follows Eddie Brock (Played by Tom Hardy), an investigative reporter who is known for getting the story no matter who wants him to be quiet. He’s sent by his boss to do a fluff piece on Carlton Drake (Played by Riz Ahmed), because when I want someone to write a simple little puff piece I get the guy who was chased out of New York for his investigative journalism work… no way could that end badly right? Well, turns out it ends very badly when Eddie asks Carlton a question about a series of wrongful death lawsuits that ends with Eddie being terminated, his girlfriend Anne Weying (Played by Michelle Williams) gets fired and she dumps Eddie because of it… oh, also, he gets infected by a space parasite called Venom that eats heads so cleanly that you could drop the corpse on the floor and eat dinner off of it. Apparently, you can eat a head and not make a mess, who knew?
This film suffers heavily from trying to get that important PG-13 rating in America, you can almost feel when they want to break out into a bit of the old ultraviolence or swear like George Carlin after stubbing his toe on the dresser. Now, there is nothing wrong with a film deciding that it wants to try and be more family friendly… unless that film is about a space parasite that eats people’s heads and threatens to remove limbs to turn someone into a “Turd in the wind”, then maybe you might want to get out the bottle of corn syrup and food dye. It’s weirdly distracting how tame the violence is, I’m not saying I wanted a complete bloodbath but considering that I’m seeing the main character eating people’s heads, I expect some red at some point and when I don’t see that it makes me wonder just what else was cut to get that much-needed PG-13.
You can actually tell there was some serious cutting down going on here, and not in a good way. The key to this film is the relationship between Eddie and Venom, how they slowly come together and create a functioning relationship that they can use to take down bad people but it seems like the transition between hatred and mutual acceptance is too quick and reserved for a third act moment, like a switch gets turned on and suddenly they can work together. When Tom Hardy admitted that 40 minutes of his favourite stuff in the film was cut, I knew there would be something up and it feels like that 40 minutes might be to do with the relationship between Venom and Eddie since that’s where it’s missing the most.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, Tom Hardy is incredible in the lead. He puts so much genuine awkward glee into Eddie that it’s easy to love the character and when he’s inhabited by Venom, you find yourself enjoying the giant sentient oil slick. I also enjoyed the villain, even though he is the stereotypical 80’s Rich Billionaire that we’ve seen before. The actors are fine and deliver some great fun performances, they just don’t really have anything to work with while they’re doing those performances. It’s all well and good that Tom Hardy is giving his all to create a fun interesting character but there’s no real point to it if the material he has to work with is watered down and a little boring.
The action setpieces do work pretty well, the big chase at the start where Venom/Eddie are running away from hired goons is pretty incredible, and the finale is a pretty joyful watch too. The problem is that things like the weird apartment fight where Venom takes over are well done, but I’ve literally seen that exact scene done better in Upgrade. A lot of this movie felt like a rehash of that small budget horror film from earlier this year and while it’s understandable that films will share plots, Upgrade did the detail work so much better than Venom did and it’s hard for me to pretend that doesn’t bother me.
Venom is not, by any means, an awful movie. It’s a disappointing movie, it’s a film that has elements of good in it that are drowned out by sub-standard writing that doesn’t use the raw materials that it has available. I say just go watch Upgrade, it’s pretty much the same story but you’ll actually enjoy that one a lot more.
There are two end credits scenes. The first one is setup for a sequel (That had better be R rated, considering what they are specifically setting up) and the second one is a preview of the Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse which honestly looks really awesome and I’m excited as hell to see it.