Venom Isn’t Out of This World

Venom killed at the box office like a symbiote leaving an incompatible host. Brining in more than $200 million for its opening weekend, it’s clear fans are loving it. Go online you’ll see a lot of critics hating it (venomous reviews give it 31% on Rotten Tomatoes).

We are somewhere in-between.

When we first heard we were getting a Venom origin story, we did a serious eye roll. Then we started to see compelling trailers and marketing and were intrigued and somewhat excited.

Then we saw the movie.  We walked out of the theater giving the film a resounding.. meh.

Fits The Formula

The story, which is the heart of any film, is barely beating. A psychotic, (all super hero movies involve a psycho baddie), Elon Musk figure played by Riz Ahmed, is trying to change the world at any cost.

Journalist Eddie Brock, played wonderfully by Tom Hardy, tries to expose him and loses everything in the process. Fate conveniently brings them together when one of the outer space creatures fuses with Brock.

Along the way there are several plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. One small, non-spoiler example: We’re supposed to believe this high-tech building doesn’t have surveillance cameras to identify Brock as the guy who broke into the lab?  Sure, maybe they don’t put cameras into the chambers where they’re killing people. But not even the lobby?!?!

Another plot hole is the development of Venom.  He’s bad, but good. Evil here but a loser in his home world, which is why he wants to stay on Earth and (literally) bond with Eddie. It’s an idea that could work if it’s written well.

It is not.

A Hardy Performance

It takes a heroic effort to save this anti-hero movie. And Tom Hardy delivers. He’s a brilliant actor that raises a mediocre script enough to produce an adequate film.  Maybe his New York accent is a little over affected, even though it’s supposed to make him stand out in a city like San Francisco.

But the grittiness and humanity shines through. And he sustains Eddie’s humanity throughout even though Venom tries to overpower it and producers underwrote it.

Making the feat even more remarkable is that he does it all on his own. Michelle Williams as his fiancée-turned ex-girlfriend is worthless. Her character is little more than a bridge to establish a relationship with her new boyfriend (Reid Scott), a doctor who tries to treat him.

Riz Ahmed’s psycho Carlton Drake is one-dimensional and predictable. You didn’t need to consult Miss Cleo to know well in advance what was going to happen.

Nothing Special Here

When Butthead, of the famed duo Beavis & Butthead, said “these effects aren’t very special,” he very well could have been watching this movie.

If this movie had come out at the height of the Toby Maguire era, circa 2004, we would watch this movie, jaw agape, Marvel-ing at the visual feast.

But it’s not 2004 and these effects feel tired and out of date. From the opening shot of the spaceship to the lava-like symbiotes, you know you’re not supposed to laugh, but you do anyway.

In a way, the effects match the script and tone of the film.

Whose Marvel Is It Anyway

There are three types of Marvel films. Disney-Marvel is the gold standard, giving us Ironman, Captain America, and a compelling Avengers series.

Then there’s FOX Marvel, which gives us Deadpool and an acceptable X-Men franchise but also a not-so-Fantastic Four.

And then there’s Sony Marvel. It did okay with the Maguire Spider-Man but then recast the role to Andrew Garfield, long regarded as the acting equivalent of Ambien, and it’s been downhill since. Sony re-leased the character back to Disney but is keeping a tight grip on the ancillary players.

And if you stay for the first end credits scene, you’ll see a sequel is already in the works and with the mega opening, we’re probably in for a trilogy.

When we look back at the 87 Marvel movies released this year, this will rank in the lower third. Not so bad that we’re talking about how bad it is, just very forgettable. Very meh.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

A shot of Jägermeister. It tastes the way Venom looks: black, thick, and licorice.

Cheers!

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