Movie Review: Venom
By: Cale Berger
I’ll be honest. As I walked into the theater for the early screening of Venom, I had low expectations. I was expecting another basic superhero origin story, chalk full of average performances, poor visual effects and a subpar plot. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. While much of the plot did falter, Venom provided some compelling performances and stunning visuals that make it worth a watch.
Venom serves as an origin story for the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, Michelle Williams as Anne Weying, and Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake. This is the second time the character has appeared in a film, making its original debut in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 portrayed by Topher Grace.
The film follows Eddie Brock, a journalist who comes into contact with the alien symbiote Venom while investigating a suspicious organization called the Life Foundation and its sinister leader Carlton Drake. Brock and the symbiote struggle for control over his body as they attempt to evade Drake’s forces that seek to use the symbiote’s powers for evil purposes. Eventually, Brock and Venom are able to reconcile their differences when an otherworldly, extension-level threat places the entire human race in danger.
Venom is far from a perfect film. But, it does have some bright spots throughout that make the movie fun and entertaining. Tom Hardy shines as both Eddie Brock and Venom. The two entities are presented as separate characters in the film and they play off of each other extremely well. Hardy genuinely portrays a man that is losing his mind as he comes to terms with the symbiote that has infected him. His ability to pull this off demonstrates the brilliance of Hardy’s performance. The character of Venom is also much more developed I than expected. He is charismatic and hilarious at times, which I did not anticipate. The CGI is smooth and realistic, and only adds to the vicious and horrific traits of the symbiote. Walking in to the film, I had doubts that (even in 2018) the CGI would be up to par, but I was pleasantly surprised with the visuals.
The impressive CGI made the numerous fight scenes involving Venom that much better. They were successfully able to demonstrate the truly horrific aspects of the character, while simultaneously showing creativity in how the symbiote was dispatching enemies. Venom displayed numerous methods of eliminating threats, and Brock utilized surprisingly cohesive and nifty hand-to-hand combat for the average man. Venom was terrifying, jumping in and out of Brock’s body at will both in and out of combat. This was another advantage of the fighting in the film, as the character was shown as more of an extension of Brock at times, as opposed to an alter ego that always replaced its host body entirely.
While Hardy’s Brock/Venom portrayal is fantastic, nearly every other aspect of the film fails to meet expectations. The pacing is sporadic throughout. The film starts with about 45 minutes of exposition and Venom doesn’t even show up until almost an hour in. Once the film’s namesake appears, the movie picks up dramatically. The climax also starts abruptly and is over after about five minutes. When it comes to pacing, the movie is just a mess.
Riz Ahmed is a great actor (Rogue One, Nightcrawler, The Night Of), but he was simply not the best choice to play deranged, psychotic billionaire Carlton Drake. Perhaps Ahmed just didn’t provide the most convincing interpretation of the character, but Ahmed’s Drake was not ideal. He was too passive throughout, not really leaning in to the psychopathic aspects of the character enough. His personality was more Elon Musk than serial killer, which is what the villain needed to encapsulate more. Drake had clear motives, but they were the generic “I want to save humanity” goals that all evil billionaires seem to have in movies these days, such as Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or Samuel L. Jackson’s Richmond Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Overall, the film is still fairly enjoyable once you get past the plot issues and lackluster villain. Hardy is great once again, and seems to be the only actor in the film that actually comprehends the tone at all. The film had laughs and some impressive fight scenes, and to be honest, that is all I really needed from Venom. Check it, you might have some fun with it too.