The benefit and sometimes hindrance (but mostly benefit) of making a comic book movie …
… is the abundance of source material to draw from and the inevitability that its original fans will champion your project in the hope that the source material is realised and magnified.
The hindrance and sometimes benefit (but mostly hindrance) of making a comic book movie, is that with big budgets come big box-office expectations; and your need to attract a larger audience than said original fans.
The ability to do both well (Deadpool, Logan, Thor: Ragnorak) or one of the other (The Dark Knight, Avengers: Infinity War, Watchmen) breeds mainly successful results. If you fail to do either? Well, you have a problem on your hands. With ‘Venom‘, Sony might have a problem on their hands.
Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer, has tonal problems, whether that’s down to the director or too many hands in pots on the script (Writers: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, and Will Beall) is anyone’s guess.
The story is easy to follow, journalist ‘Eddie Brock‘ (Tom Hardy) picks up a scoop on Elon Musk incarnate villain ‘Carlton Drake‘ (Riz Ahmed) and his plan of merging a stolen alien substance named symbiote, with humans. Whilst investigating Carlton’s experiment, Eddie’s body merges with the alien symbiote Venom leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
Which is the ‘hindrance‘. We essentially have to endure a film that is a little too simple, early 2000 superhero movie simple. The first 30 mins feel like mundane backstory with dated quips and two-tone characters. It’s no easy feat to make an Oscar-nominated actress look like it’s her first gig but Michelle Williams as Eddie Brock’s love interest ‘Anne Weying‘, leaves little to the imagination or dimension. Their chemistry isn’t believable; it’s almost laughable, especially a scene when she gives him his engagement ring back abruptly with a lack of internal build up, and at this point, I feared the worst.
However, when the symbiote does connect with Brock, the film begins to pick up. Though we’re used to a darker tone from the source material of Venom, Fleischer’s attempt at creating a buddy actioner dynamic works. The dialogue between the symbiote and Eddie is funny with good pace, and we’re blessed with the fruits of what Tom Hardy can bring to this role. His Jekyll and Hyde physical act brings some stand out moments; including entering a lobster tank like a bubble bath to cool the fever that Venom causes him as his body deteriorates, whilst he eats an alive lobster like a maniac to simultaneously feed Venom (you had to be there). Some good action scenes follow, where you get to see the full extent of Venom’s armour and violence surprisingly graphic for a PG, and as a viewer, you’re momentarily satisfied.
We can even bypass the convenience of a villainous head symbiote ‘Riot’ finding a flight to New York via taking over the body of a 7-year-old girl, and eventually connecting with Ahmed’s Carlton Drake for an anticlimactic showdown with Venom…. or maybe we can’t bypass it. I dunno.
Venom is ok, sometimes we forget that superhero films are based on old comic books where the lines are cheesy and the plots simplistic; but what won’t be forgotten from fans is the transformation of a dark and sinister world into a PG-friendly slapstick account, something Sony possibly planned so they can imitate the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s’ success. What it lacks in the in-house family input Kevin Feige provides over at Marvel Studios, it at least makes up for in potential for growth.
If Venom is indeed the first of many of its own films let alone a Spidey-verse franchise, then we can at least look forward to the only way being up.
Stay for a post-credit scene that teases a sequel.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer(s): Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, Will Beall
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate,
UK Release Date: in cinemas now