Don’t you just hate it when you rock up to an event not knowing a single thing about it? Like a wedding, where you’re just an awkward plus one? Or, like a geography exam where you spent zero hours revising, as you just assumed it would consist of colouring in maps? I’m definitely not speaking from experience if any future employers are reading this. Definitely.
That’s a similar experience I had to Venom – all I knew was that he was a blobby, gooey version of Spider-Man that was evil. (And sometimes made Tobey Maguire do horrific dancing and meme-worthy finger points.)
I can safely say, as a Venom-virgin, that Tom Hardy’s outing as the antihero is quite enjoyable. It has followed suit with recent Marvel outings and thrown in some snappy jokes, and the action is there by the bucketful. However, the pacing seems all off – we spend so long seeing Venom gradually take over Hardy’s Eddie Brock, and then six seconds later, Venom has wiped out his enemies and is happily enjoying his life again.
Venom sees Eddie Brock, a rogue investigative journalist interviews his partner, Anne Weying, (Michelle Williams) employer, Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. When Eddie asks some questions that Carlton would rather be omitted, he loses his job and Anne. We later learn that Carlton is experimenting with aliens, that he believes will help cure illnesses, but instead cause the human body to either die from exposure to the creature, or to become a big, squidgy alien monster, like Venom. Because… SCIENCE.
Unfortunately, when writing this review, I had to blank out several of the character’s names, only to face check when I got WiFi, because I didn’t have a Scoob as to who any of the main characters were actually called. No, not because I was suitably steamed on the free bubbly at the screening, but because – apart from Tom Hardy and Venom – every other character seemed so disposable. Michelle Williams is a fine actor, who only appeared to be Hardy’s love interest and to fill a quota of “strong female characters” who could be bad-asses and say bad-ass lines. Riz Ahmed’s Carlton played the antagonist of the story, and when he – SPOILER ALERT – forms with a symbiote himself, he becomes a monster like Venom. We’re told that Riot, Riz’s creature, is a master of combat with an arsenal of weapons, but apart from two hands that turn into spatulas and spikes popping out of his back, we don’t see any of these. In fact, the final battle between Riot and Venom is done rather quickly.
Tom Hardy, on the other hand, was fantastic. As expected. Despite being Hollywood’s go-to tough guy, he manages to portray a confused and often scared man, all the while without sounding whiney and injects a great sense of humour into Venom.
As mentioned, Venom has taken from the likes of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy; opting for, quite often, a comedic approach. One personal favourite is when Venom dares Eddie to jump out of a window, only for Eddie to reject it and take the elevator down. It’s at this point, Venom calls Eddie a “pussy”. It was so simple, yet so hilarious, and Venom could have done with more of this styling. From the trailers, I expected Venom to be filled with dark, spooky jump-scares (and thankfully for my diagnosis of Little Bitchinessitis, I was relieved there was none.) The character of Venom often said crude, crass comments, and I feel all of his lines should have been like this. Venom should have been a mischievous imp… That eats people. What a scamp.
In fact, it wasn’t just Venom’s writing that left much to be desired. While I enjoyed Hardy’s performance, his character of Eddie Brock was tired. I understand there needed to be a contrast between Eddie, a lovable, sweet guy, and Venom, the maniacal monster, but the way the picture indicated this was so, well, shit. Eddie handed over a homeless woman $20, when she asked for $5, because he’s such a good soul. He even watered plants, because he’s practically a sexy Mother Theresa. Eddie Brock was walking one elderly man across a road from me drop kicking my popcorn through the screen.
Venom seemed confused – was it a dark origin story, or was it a more light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek dramedy? At times, scenes were genuinely alarming – Eddie is thrown about in agony as sirens blare and lights strobe. At other times, Eddie Brock and Venom walk into the sunset comically arguing with each other. That’s not hyperbole. That actually happened. And yet, despite the constant shift in tone, I enjoyed it. It’ll never be the finest movie in the Marvel roster; it won’t even be the best in the Spider-Man franchise. But Venom was an enjoyable first attempt at the character, and I’m sure Marvel have seen enough dollar signs in their eyes to make a (much better) sequel.
And if not – I’ll eat the studio execs heads, a la Venom. (What? I get hangry after I’ve had a few glasses of fizz.)