When I first heard the announcement that there was going to be a stand alone Venom movie, that wouldn’t feature Spider-Man , I had serious reservations about the whole thing. Now after seeing the film, I realise I need to trust my gut more often! Before the general release of the film, the internet has been full of stories. They range from Tom Hardy distancing himself from the project due to numerous cuts in the final edit, to legions of Lady GaGa fans posting bad reviews of Venom, to ensure A Star Is Born has a better opening night. Regardless of what is true or not, it’s safe to say that this is a flawed film that frustrates and disappoints in equal measure. Perhaps I’m being over dramatic, but as a comic book fan that has followed Venom from his early days in ASM, this representation of him just seemed more two dimensional than the four colour comic he first appeared in.
The main problem here is the story. As a doomed space craft crashes to Earth with alien life forms, one of the specimens escape, while the others are taken to the not so secret base of billionaire mentalist Carlton Drake, who launched the ship in the first place. Meanwhile Eddie Brock, roving investigative reporter, is hot on his tail. Brock, played by Tom Hardy, is eventually taken over by one of the “symbiotes” and becomes a living nightmare with extraordinary abilities. The film then follows a series of chases, captures and escapes that show off the aliens powers, and it’s curiously misguided snappy sit com banter with host Eddie. Venom speaks with Eddie both in his head, then as a separate entity altogether and although this approach was at some points entertaining, it was tonaly wrong in every way.
Venom, the film, seemed initially to be marketed towards a more mature audience. The creature itself is quite intimidating and as an audience member I thought we were perhaps going to get some seriously scary activities from the screenplay. But we don’t. It would appear the violence, although implied, has been removed, and the implications of the Venom symbiote biting the heads off people, is discarded by everyone involved. It’s apparently OK to brutally murder and eat certain people, as they are bad. This film needed to commit to the bit. If these creatures are scary and violent bloodthirsty alien murderers prepared to wipe out entire planets, then at least run with that notion instead of diluting the threat and turning it into a big boss battle in the final act. Venom could have embraced the R rating that Deadpool proved can work in this genre, but instead it cuts its losses and plays it safe, giving an imbalanced watered down version of what should have been a sci-fi horror game changer. As a result, the comic fans are exasperated, the movie going public are confused, and ultimately I don’t really think anyone will care.
Director Rubén Fleisher may have lost control of this project somewhere down the line, as I imagine that somewhere there is a violent scary thriller that may have caused a buzz around Halloween. Instead we get a hotch pitch of ideas, strung along a non existent story and populated by a series of cliche ridden two dimensional characters. Really, this film needed Spider-Man, or at least a hero that would provide motivation and grounding. Instead we are given a B movie monster flick, that is using the mythology of Marvel comics, without any of the ground work required to allow it to stand on its own. The mid end credit sequence will only confuse movie goers even more, and *spoilers* the post end credit sequence is so self aware that the lack of anything Spidey orientated is a huge mis step, that it shows us a clip from the forthcoming animated flick Into The Spider Verse just to remind us that there should have been a superhero in here, but we weren’t allowed to use him.
Perhaps we will eventually see the darker and more intense Venom movie that must have been the first draft, but I’m afraid this is an unoriginal and dreary addition to the extended Marvel universe that should probably have been left to drift in space. Lady GaGa’s posse shouldn’t have bothered.