Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, Will Beall
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott
Runtime: 112 min
One of Marvel's most enigmatic, complex and badass characters comes to the big screen!
When Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego Venom to save his life.
I think it's safe and fair to affirm that Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 is the weakest of the trilogy. Not only the first two installments are still to this date some of the best comic-book movies to ever be released, but this last one also didn't do a lot to maintain the high level of quality. Therefore, also having in mind the production issues with Venom, my expectations were pretty moderate.
Unfortunately, in today's world, a film isn't good or bad because it is truly good or bad. There has to be an excuse for each of these cases, especially if we're discussing a big franchise-related flick. Being Venom a superhero movie, obviously, there is no "middle ground," either you love it or hate it. Usually, if you think it's just "okay," you are the anomaly. This time that didn't bother me as much as the next thing...
Since every fanboy has to defend their favorite company, the excuse for Venom's poor critics' reviews was that Lady Gaga fans were talking bad about this film since A Star Is Born also premieres this week. How incredibly stupid and sad is this?! It's not even a DC x Marvel dispute! The reluctance that people have in accepting that a movie from their favorite universe/saga/whatever can be weak is baffling. Even more when it is, in fact, a complete boredom of a story, with a generic plot, paper-thin characters who only serve as plot devices and an extremely terrible editing.
There is some good stuff to write about, so I'm going to start with the absolute standout: Tom Hardy. When you have an actor like him, and you hear him say "they cut off my favorite scenes," you can't possibly have high expectations for this film. He fantastically incorporates the character of Eddie Brock, by delivering tons of scenes where he brilliantly shines. From his amazing range of expressions to the emotions he is able to emote, Hardy is definitely the best thing Venom has to offer.
The interactions between Eddie and Venom are the most captivating and exciting aspect of the movie. From the funny banter to the unusual method of character development, their relationship is, by far, the strongest in the entire film, which ends up becoming a negative as well. Unfortunately, there are so many useless subplots and secondary characters who don't add anything to the main plot or the protagonist. The first half of the movie has no Venom whatsoever which wouldn't be an issue if the story and characters were compelling.
While Eddie has indeed a fascinating personality, literally every other character in the film is either a cliche stereotype or an on-the-nose plot device. Michelle Williams blandly portrays Eddie's lover Anne, who has no development at all (I genuinely can't describe her character since she has nothing to her). Riz Ahmed, who I love in previous works, has to do his best as Carlton Drake, a paper-thin villain who wants to generically climb to the throne of power and everything else you know about 95% of the villains out there. Finally, there are a bunch of scientists who only serve as exposition devices, to make the bridge between the movie and the audience, by explicitly explaining everything when there is no need to.
The first half of the film is a very, very hard time to get through. Since Venom is nowhere to be found, we have to deal with these characters mentioned above, and it is so astonishingly dull and tiresome. Most of the comedic scenes don't really work without Venom's voice to provide a different take on them, and Hardy finds himself trying to carry the whole thing by himself.
However, the worst aspect of the movie is undoubtedly the editing. It doesn't matter if it is an action scene or a simple dialogue in a diner, the editing is a total mess. Remarkably frustrating, really. If Ruben Fleischer can't direct a simple dialogue without having to cut the scene on every single line and switching the characters' positions, then he doesn't deserve to work on a blockbuster like this.
The action scenes, while some are indeed riveting (great car/bike chase sequence and some cool initial fights with some random bad guys), most of them are filled with quick cuts and blurred camera movement due to the shaky-cam. The final battle is so underwhelming as it is impossible to understand most of what is happening throughout it. When an occasional fight between Venom and some bad guys is better than the supposed climax of the film, you know something's not right.
The PG-13 rating clearly affected the movie. Not only it is utterly noticeable that some scenes were cut because there was no way of toning them down, but the lack of blood or heavy language is definitely a setback. The score is actually pretty great, and it helps revitalize some slow moments. Visually, it looks good, Venom's design is actually pretty great. Tonally, the film is well-balanced overall, even if Fleischer occasionally loses its control here and there. It's like I wrote above, either you love or hate it, right? Wrong. It's not one of the worst movies of the year, but it isn't a good film as well.
All in all, Venom is another missed opportunity to deliver a great movie about this anti-hero. This time, the character of Eddie Brock is beautifully handled, and Tom Hardy elevates him tremendously. His interactions with Venom are the best part of the film, but unfortunately, the pros end here. The movie is ruined by a generic plot who lasts an incredibly boring first half without Venom, an unnecessary focus on silly subplots and cliche paper-thin characters, and a shockingly terrible editing which basically destroys any sort of excitement from the action sequences. I'm sorry, but this isn't Lady Gaga's fault, guys. The production issues condemned this film to be a letdown. Accept it and move on to the next one.