Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate, Woody Harrelson,
Written by: Scott Rosenberg (screenplay by), Jeff Pinkner (screenplay by), Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie (based on the Marvel comics by)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Run Time: 1hr, 52 minutes
So many snacks, so little time...
As advance reviews of Venom began to pour in, I became frightened. People were throwing around comparisons such as Catwoman(2004), Fantastic 4(2005), and Batman and Robin(1997). Not very flattering, to say the least. I attended the press screening with zero hopes.
I should say up front that Venom was actually not terrible. In fact, perhaps because I expected a dumpster fire of cinematic garbage, I found myself slightly relieved as I left the theatre.
Most viewers who are even casually acquainted with the Spider-Man universe know the general story of journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who becomes literally entangled with an alien symbiote known as Venom. In this particular story, Brock is attempting to take down the big tech baddie, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is trying to build a fresh new future for mankind... with countless human guinea pigs.
At just over an hour and a half, this PG-13 cut of one of our cult-favorite Marvel anti-heroes suffered from all the usual issues. First off, the story was predictable (almost down to the line) from start to finish. How many times in a can we have a troubled but likable hero trying to do the right thing with an ego ridden bad guy who thinks he is the sole hope for mankind? Next, we have the underdeveloped girlfriend character (Michelle Williams) who just wanders into every scene of action there is. Lastly, there was enough computer-generated action infused goo and slow-motion fight sequences to make your eyes roll into your skull.
So why the sense of relief I mentioned earlier? The main ingredient that made this film more digestible was Tom Hardy. Casting a character actor made all the difference. His performance was superb as he brought incredible emotion and physical acting to what could have been a very shallow role. He carried this whole film on his shoulders and it showed. He made some terrible dialogue sound interesting. To be honest, Hardy gave Eddie Brock/Venom so many subtle layers that I would have almost preferred a one-man stage play to what I just saw in the theatre.
I liked Zombieland very much, so I can't exactly knock the choice of director here. Then again, Ruben Fleischer may have very well filmed a lot more and just had his work cut to pieces in editing. Frankly, that was how Venom seemed to me, too cut up. There were a couple good bones, but all the meat was missing, The only parts left to chew on were the gags and motorcycle chases that seem to please the average moviegoer. There is also a lack of character development in general. As quickly as the story moved, its impact might have benefited from a few smaller, lingering moments, particularly where Eddie and Anne are concerned. Again, it felt as though there were scenes missing that should have made all those climactic "emotional" sequences actually mean something when they finally happened.
In conclusion, I don't think it's very fair to compare Venom to something like Catwoman. It simply wasn't THAT bad. In fact, I can promise it probably won't linger in your brain at all for good OR bad. If you're curious, check it out. At least you can count on the lead actor.