[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he critics have spoken. This movie is horrible, right? Not exactly. Going into Venom, I had my worries. During the rumor phase of its rollout one thing in particular stuck out to me. They were to pretend as if Peter Parker never existed. Naturally, this bothered me. In the most famous story of Eddie Brock, his hatred for Parker is what led the Symbiote to attach itself to him. This mutual disdain made their bond compelling to follow. Without Spidey there isn’t much of a story. However, that did not stop Sony from greenlighting this picture. Following the initial teaser trailer, I had hope for the film. The Tom Hardy reveal was cool. Yet the subsequent trailers left me less than content. The story seemed vague at best, while the special effects appeared to carry most of the load. CGI has a certain kind of mysticism to it.
Though I’m a story-driven guy first and foremost. I can only care about effects for so long before they bore me to tears. From the very beginning, Venom is a plot-point pigsty. Scenes disregard the need for sensible fluidity. Everything moves at a frenetic pace. If they summed the entire first act up into a five-minute scene, perhaps it would have made a greater impact. Due to a complete lack of actor chemistry, and humdrum dialogue, this film’s only theme is inconsistency. We see Eddie Brock as a freelance journalist with a viral investigative show. He asks the tough questions and earns the respect of the Bay area residents. Director Ruben Fleischer portrays this notion in a montage, however, which hinders its plausibility. He and his team of writers tell rather than show Brock’s passion. This hiccup left me with continual anticipation for the Venom midpoint.
As brilliant of a performer as Hardy is, he barely gets the chance to embody a ferocious reporter. One measly, half-assed scene attempts to showcase his talents, though fails to do so in an entertaining or convincing fashion. Let’s be real here, folks. Tom Hardy is a hunk. Conversely, most journalists are not. The only way to convince an audience of this portrayal is to write an opening scene highlighting his signature tactics. I don’t need five to ten minutes of Symbiote-infected zombies slicing and eating people. It makes for generic cinema. The Symbiote’s crash-landing on Earth missed an opportunity to artfully infer what occurred. Rather than build tension ahead of Venom’s reveal, Fleischer and crew laid all their cards on the table. This creates a compilation of happenings instead of layers of clever storytelling. Ultimately, Eddie Brock appeared more like a scripted character than a real human being.
However, once he and Venom unite it is a bromance for the ages. Hardy’s dual performance is nearly worth the ticket price alone. His modulated voice works wonders as the anti-heroic Symbiote. The alien infiltrates the darkest corners of Brock’s psyche, aiding him to grow a pair. They feed off each other quite well. While Venom desires endless amounts of raw flesh, Brock sets him straight so that they don’t terrorize innocent people. This back-and-forth conjures multiple funny moments throughout the film, which I mostly enjoyed. Unlike other Marvel movies, Venom doesn’t go out of its way to make puns, though not every joke hits. Nevertheless, timely humor adds to the overall fun this film presents. Fleischer did not craft a tasteful cinematic experience. Yet this marks a noticeable shift from the unbearable cheese of the MCU. Despite clumsy pacing and a head-scratching script, I didn’t leave the theater upset.
If only the characters were more believable… Whether these lapses are a performance or writing issue, I do not know for certain. They anchor this film into mediocrity nonetheless. Oscar and Tony-nominated actress Michelle Williams is a unique talent. Over the years, she has played excellent roles such as her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe and a heartbroken wife alongside former partner Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. In a New York Times article from 2014, Williams stated that she prefers indie roles. Well, here we are four years later. And she finally caved. Although she is more than capable of playing any role, her casting here made little sense. Her Venom performance lacks range of emotion. Working with a script as bland as this must be difficult. I don’t wanna be too hard on her. However, by the end, it felt like anyone could have given a more memorable effort.
Also, this film’s antagonist was extra wack. Played by Riz Ahmed, Carlton Drake is essentially an Elon Musk counterpart. One thing I’m not liking about contemporary superhero movies is the need to make nerdy or non-threatening dudes into villains. As a visual medium, film relies heavily on image to evoke certain feelings and perspectives. Ahmed has shown incredible skill in his career. So, it’s not his fault. But when someone looks like they would go down with one punch, I have a hard time connecting with them as menaces. That’s like casting five-foot-nine, 125-pound me as Lex Luthor — or Jesse Eisenberg. Anyway, if there was a scene showing the extent of Drake’s power, that would have helped tremendously. Overall, though, this batch of talent fails to live up to their potential. Maybe next time these producers will pay for more meticulous, story-centric screenwriters.
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