Remember the bad old days of superhero movies that Marvel and DC have worked so hard to overturn? The films made you laugh for all the wrong reasons and the CGI looked like something that a backyard filmmaker would produce. Then along came The Avengers franchise. Suddenly Marvel added characterisation to Iron Man and even managed to make the dull and boring Thor and Captain America more interesting than what they ever appeared in the comics. Yes suddenly superhero movies were something to be proud of… well prepare yourself for some bad news… because now Venom sends all that good work crashing back to the 1980s with a film that fails to inspire on any level.
I would love to write the synopsis up for Venom as a CGI monster goes on a rampage for two hours because that is what it feels like for a great chunk of the film, but I must give credit where credit is due… there is some attempt at a story here. We follow Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy – Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) San Francisco’s hard-hitting journalist who has made a career on exposing the truth – especially when it comes to homeless people being mistreated. He is cocky, good-looking… and he knows it… and is dating young lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Wiliams – Blue Valentine, Manchester By The Sea).
Eddie’s life changes forever though when he is asked to interview one of the world’s richest and most intelligent men, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), whose recent space exploration journey has brought something sinister back to Earth. When Eddie finds out that Anne is working on a legal case involving Carlton he confronts him about the case during his interview which results in Eddie being fired, Anne being fired and Eddie losing Anne.
A few months down the track Eddie is contacted by Dr Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate – Gifted, The Secret Life Of Pets) a doctor who works for Carlton and is appalled at the experiments she is having to conduct where homeless volunteers are being killed one-by-one after Carlton tries to infuse them with his space monsters. When Dora goes to show Eddie what is happening he is accidentally contaminated and then the fight is on as Anne and her doctor boyfriend, Dan (Reid Scott – Zoo, Veep), try to cure Eddie while Carlton tries to reclaim his monster and the monster itself tries to take over Eddie’s body as they become one.
Reading through the synopsis of Venom it sounds like a lot happens in the film… it really doesn’t. Any heart and soul is removed from the film and while this could have been a heartfelt movie touching on the way that homeless people are mistreated by society it instead basically becomes a movie where director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less) lets it become a bash and crash as cops, Carlton’s henchmen and ultimately Riot try to take down Venom. Given that he also doesn’t bring anything new to the action genre, there are no stunts etc that we haven’t seen a hundred times before, the film offers up a very dull watch indeed. To be honest it feels like any inspiration for the action in the film came from watching two three year olds smashing their Marvel figurines together during play-time.
The team of screenwriters try to lift the film a bit by giving Tom Hardy some supposedly humorous lines, but given what Eddie is going through the humor here is as out of place as the comedy in Thor: Ragnarok. Venom is a dark story and the writers and directors should really have kept it that way rather than trying to ‘lift the mood.’ In fact a lot of the comedy just makes Eddie appear drunk throughout the film… even when he hasn’t been drinking or battling with Venom inside him.
Having said that though Tom Hardy is the best thing in this film. Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams are completely wasted in their roles but Hardy does try to battle on. He does the best he can to make one of the worst screenplays ever written something watchable but as the old saying goes ‘a good script can make a bad actor look good but a good actor can’t make a bad script look good’. Hardy is peddling uphill for most of the film and you have to admire his tenacity. To be brutally honest you really have to wonder what made Hardy and Williams agree to make this film in the first place… normally they are both great at picking good scripts.
Tom Hardy once made a great superhero movie, it is called The Dark Knight Rises. Save your money and watch that on DVD rather than going to watch Venom as Venom just fails on all levels. It really is just two hours of CGI monsters fighting and to be honest that CGI isn’t even that good. One to avoid.