Director: Reuben Fleischer
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Review Rating: 2.5/5
Hard-nosed maverick video journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is intent on exposing brilliant but ruthless science capitalist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) for the unscrupulous business practices that got him where he is. A space ship crashed on re-entry carrying a number of samples. These samples turn out to be symbiotes, alien life forms that need a host to survive on our world. Eddie Brock’s first attempted takedown results in his life crashing down around him as he loses his job, his girl and his prospects. A whistleblower persuades Brock to break into Drake’s facility and he ends up sharing his body with a symbiote, that gives him superpowers albeit at the cost of housing an amoral creature that appears to be perpetually hungry. Drake wants his symbiote back, and it all goes off from there.
I should, at this point, make a confession. I do not like the character of Venom. I didn’t like him in the comics, or in the Sam Raimi film (neither did Sam Raimi.) As a result, I was coming at this film expecting it to be every bit as awful as the reviews it received upon release would suggest. From that starting point, I must say that his film was a pleasant surprise, although overall it doesn’t achieve much more than being a “check your brain at the door” action film.
The special effects are OK, the fights are OK but not brilliant, they come along at the right sort of intervals and don’t go on too long. There is enough of a plot to hold it together, but it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or particularly original. The supporting cast all do their job, but no one stands out particularly, there is no one really to rival Hardy, but equally, there is no one that really drops the ball in this film.
The best thing about this film is Tom Hardy. He seems to be having a blast playing this role. His mumbling to himself and his bickering with the symbiote inside him are the best things in the film for me, as it tries to give him advice on his love life and persuade Eddie to do the things it wants to do. It is Hardy’s performance that makes this film watchable and elevates it from “rubbish” to “entertaining rubbish”
If Tom Hardy is the best thing in the film, I found Venom to be the most wearing. Venom is definitely not a hero, not even really an anti-hero. Mostly, he’s just a bit of an asshole. Venom is an amoral creature driven by base instincts and desires, which can be fun to watch, but in this case, I didn’t feel that the creature had the likeability factor to get away with this. As a result, I found it difficult to root for him during this film, which meant I didn’t really invest too much in the film as an experience. If this film is to launch a franchise for Sony, it will be down to Hardy, and it will depend on whether the character of Venom can be tempered enough to work by Hardy’s performance as Brock.
The film has probably done enough commercially now to warrant a sequel, and this may well be the start of a “Dark Spiderverse” for Sony, which might mean them either co-operating with, or taking Spiderman back from, Marvel. I have my reservations about whether this will work. If they are going to make it work they will need to step up from Venom, which I feel is an absolute baseline for future films.
Overall I would say that this film is probably fun on a Friday night with a couple of drinks on board, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.