Sony’s efforts to expand Sony’s Marvel Universe– a series of films based on Marvel comic characters around Spider-man associated characters – reached a new milestone with the release of Venom.
The film starring Tom Hardy as the alien symbiote anti-hero Venom premiered too much fanfare a month ago and has been a force to be reckoned with at the box office thus far. And while the character the film is based on is one of the most interesting Spider-Man foes to date, the feature film is, in fact, the opposite.
It’s surprising when a film with so much star power can be as bad as Venom. Sure we have seen our share of DC Universe superhero films that have wasted the talents of big names like Ben Affleck, Will Smith and Viola Davis but those actors actually did semi-good jobs (minus Affleck later on, who pretty much helped ruin Justice League) with bad scripts.
Venom though brings out the worst from stars like Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed. Four times Academy Award nominated Michelle Williams has been relegated to the role of a worrisome movie girlfriend with a pitiful arc that is meant to be empowering and her performance is just as bad as the role she’s given.
British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed who dazzled American audiences with the somber mystery thriller ‘The Night Of’ doesn’t fare much better. Shown as a villain who will go to any lengths to save the world, Ahmed’s Carlton Drake is less threatening then he is irritating and sadly Ahmed’s sullen performance really doesn’t help his poorly conceived character.
Only Hardy is up to the task and he’s winning and likable in every scene he’s in, no matter how incredulous. Whether it’s him acting like an intrepid reporter or a man fighting with a seemingly demonic spirit, Hardy makes every action scene, every (horrendously bad) line count and it’s pretty clear that he’s the one having the most fun in this clumsy movie.
In fact, the highlight of the film is clearly him interacting with the Venom symbiote and had the film focused on the dynamic between the two more, there’s a chance that this cumbersome film would not have been half as grueling as it wound up being. There are scenes that sell simply due to the chemistry between Hardy’s character Brock and the CGI alien inhabiting him
Aside from that though, Venom is a complete mess. There’s no amount of comedy that can save Venom from how trite and insipid it is. I’d go as far as to argue that the comedy which has proven to be a strong crowd-puller ultimately stands in the way of what Venom is trying to be.
The part action film, part comedy the film wastes its chance to explore the darker depths of the beloved anti-hero comic book fans know and love. And although Venom is funny (unintentionally and intentionally), the comedic approach doesn’t lend any support to the story and often undermines both Brock and the Venom’s arc in the film.
A weak script ensures that the first half is ham-fisted and a chore to sit through, particularly since director Ruben Fleischer (of Zombie land fame) struggles to find the right tone for the film. At times (often when it’s at its best) Venom is a wacky comedy but at others, it’s a dark, grim action film that’s quite hard to watch.
Due to the weak films’ script, the three acts in the film all seem pretty different from each other and unfortunately none of them really click. While the second is a huge improvement over the excessively slow first half, by the time Venom approaches its third act, the action scenes that were entertaining to some degree are replaced by an abundance of CGI filled battles that are an eyesore.
It’s a shame that a film with so much going for it — from its uber-talented cast and director to its rich comic book source material — falls so short off the mark. But considering a sequel is very likely, hopefully, Venom can overcome its many growing pains and deliver a sequel that can truly showcase the might of Venom in all his glory.