‘Venom’ cannot merge expectations with reality


Sony Pictures

To save the world from some generic forces of evil, reporter Eddie Brock suits up with an alien symbiote in Sony Pictures’ “Venom.” Although reviews of this movie are split between positive and negative, we conclude that “Venom” is mostly a failure.

Ian Fertig and Sophia Bender

In their attempt to create a standalone Venom movie apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe, Sony Pictures created a strange and disheartening film that wasn’t entirely good enough to justify its creation.

“Venom” stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a half decent reporter living in San Francisco. After being led to a secret lab run by an evil businessman, Brock becomes merged with an alien symbiote, Venom, unlocking a vast array of abilities and powers. Sharing one body, Brock and Venom help each other complete the movie’s main tasks: saving the world and securing a sequel.

Despite an impressive opening weekend performance and decently positive audience feedback, critical reviews (like this one) were not pleased with the movie. Some reviewers felt that Venom, as a Spider-Man villain for most of his comics history, was incomplete on screen without him, but the main problems had nothing to do with Spider-Man’s absence. In every aspect, from the soundtrack choices to the plotline, “Venom” was simply a bad movie. Some moments were enjoyable, but a few good islands on an ocean of mediocrity just don’t cut it anymore.

Rather than using the intricate relationship between the symbiote and the man to tell a compelling story, “Venom” opts for the bland and overdone cheesy mess that’s been abandoned by respectable filmmakers for over a decade.

— A&E Editor Ian Fertig and Staff Writer Sophia Bender

Good films are not rare in this golden age of cinema — especially where superhero films are concerned. It is possible to take a good concept and bring it to the big screen and have a beautiful end result. “Venom” is profoundly disappointing because it could and by all means should have been good, but wasn’t.

Perhaps it was too much to ask, but since this film’s announcement we eagerly looked forward to it. We imagined Tom Hardy in an intense action/thriller that focused as much on the characters of Venom and Eddie Brock as the action. The movie could have delivered a thought-provoking take on the story as Brock struggles to coexist with the parasite living within him. There’s a lot to work with there. The theme of the film could have included connection, morality, obsession, or even humanity’s place in the universe. It was entirely up to the filmmakers to take it in the direction they wanted. And if the movie didn’t take a truly dark turn, it could have had well-developed characters, entertaining action sequences, satisfying commentary about some aspect of real life, and any other number of things that would have been great.

We hoped for a film similar to “Logan,” a movie that contained all the routine superhero tropes but was not limited by them in any way. What “Logan” did was astounding because it showed everyone that you can do more with superhero movies than just entertain — you can pack in human emotion and give audiences an experience that actually sticks with them. “Venom” had this chance and blew it.

Rather than using the intricate relationship between the symbiote and the man to tell a compelling story, “Venom” opts for the bland and overdone cheesy mess that’s been abandoned by respectable filmmakers for over a decade. There’s little difference in quality between this film and “Spider-Man 3,” the last movie that put Venom as a character on the big screen.

Even if “Venom” didn’t live up to the expectations that zealous fans set out for it, it still should have lived up to the promises made during its advertising campaign. The two big taglines that “Venom” repeatedly plastered on its trailers and posters were “the world has enough superheroes” and “embrace your inner anti-hero.” These lines give the idea that anti-heroism will be important to the movie, but Eddie and Venom still save the world with nothing but good intentions like every other hero would have. Venom does eat people (or their heads) a few times during the movie, but this was used as comic relief more than as a way to separate Venom from the rest of the good-hearted heroes we know. The only time the movie vaguely delivered on its promise to show some anti-heroism was at the very end, in a scene that was spoiled by the trailers already.

The next unforgivable sin “Venom” committed was its villain, Carlton Drake. Drake is a pre-packaged, lifeless, unoriginal character, giving audiences the same evil corporate CEO performance with absolutely no qualities to make him stand out. Riz Ahmed plays the character as well as anyone could have, but the script he was given was so tasteless and dry it makes hardtack envious. Drake spends the movie giving bad speeches and killing innocent test subjects before he gains a symbiote of his own: the equally boring, horribly ugly symbiote Riot. Together, Riot and Drake give Venom and Brock a half-decent fight that lasts about five minutes to finish off the film.

Another problem that burdened the movie was its incredibly cheesy, almost absurd scenes. Instead of any anti-hero vigilante justice at all in “Venom,” we got scenes like Eddie Brock sitting in a lobster tank at a high-end restaurant. They’re cringe-worthy enough that you want to sink a little deeper in your seat so as to not feel the pain of those truly unneeded moments.

Many of these awful moments come from the generic love interest who was awkwardly inserted into intense moments. Her only purpose was to emotionally derail Eddie’s character and provide a barely-present attempt at female empowerment that ended up doing the exact opposite. The movie hardly would have changed if she wasn’t there; it might have even been better.

After all this, once the bad (in all senses of the word) villain is defeated by a massive explosion and an awful one-liner from the hero and the credits begin, the final insult is delivered. As the credits roll, a brutally awful song performed by Eminem about Venom plays over them. It was physically discomforting to listen to, but it also felt appropriate: a bad ending to a bad movie.

Not all hope is lost, however. There were definitely a few decent scenes in ‘Venom’ that at least made it somewhat enjoyable. Dialogue between Venom and Eddie was often downright hysterical and gives a feeling of the connection that’s supposed to be forming between the man and his parasite. Even Drake has a few well-delivered one-liners. Some of these quick quips are easy to miss if you aren’t paying close enough attention, but hearing them will undoubtedly make you laugh.

If you’re going for just straight entertainment, Venom isn’t terrible if you watch it with some friends, so you can make fun of the cheesy scenes and enjoy the decent ones. The action sequences are entertaining enough — Tom Hardy is an great actor — and Venom’s internal monologue to Eddie is laugh-out-loud funny. But this doesn’t mean that you can expect a movie that lives up to the normal Marvel Cinematic Universe standards. If you go in expecting that, you’ll spend the whole time thinking about the ways that “Venom” could have been better.