After a phenomenal year for the Marvel movies, with the record-breaking ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and the cultural phenomenon that was ‘Black Panther’, you can imagine my anticipation to see ‘Venom’, the next endeavour (the first in Sony’s Marvel Universe) into the universe only this time with an anti-hero. But how disappointed I would be. Two hours of the most cheesy, boring and clichéd monotony I have seen in a superhero film for a long time.
The film begins with the most uneventful prelude consisting of a rocket crash and an introduction to the villain, hardly provoking interest for what’s to come. Then comes forty minutes of nothingness, with the protagonist, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), going from top investigative reporter to unemployed down-and-out after an interview with villain Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and break-up fiancé Anne (Michele Williams). Only after this agonising soap opera does the ‘action’ begin with the parasitic Venom possessing Eddie, yet still little in terms of storyline and character development occurs apart from a few flashy action sequences reeking of cheap kicks. Like all badly conceived superhero films, all the action and suspense begins, occurs, and ends in the final half-hour with a literally explosive finale, making the preceding ninety minutes pointless. But when a film actually features the line, ‘let’s save the planet’, what hope does it have?
The film couldn’t decide if it was action or comedy. Scenes of quite often gory violence would be immediately followed by some cheesy line or mishap, one well-used line, ‘you bit that guy’s head off!’, being repeated to death. Most problematic were the dialogues between Eddie and Venom, whereas some was sinister and sympathetic towards helpless Eddie, others sounded more like a Laurel and Hardy sketch with one insulting the other and other cheap laughs. Mastery of the comedic-action balance has been a mainstay of MCU since it began and was expertly conducted in ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ if not so much in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, so to watch such an agonising patchwork-quilt of themes was very disheartening.
The acting was actually commendable but compromised by poor character writing. Hardy once again shows his versatility, portraying a socially-destroyed, psychotic, possessed host at the mercy of a murderous, psychopathic parasite with as much gusto and heartiness as one can for such a character and was certainly an improvement on the flaccid portrayal given by Topher Grace in Spiderman 3. Williams, whilst being no stranger to the blockbuster, ‘The Greatest Showman’ for example, is far more at home in gritty or heart-warming independents like ‘Manchester by the Sea’ or ‘My Week with Marilyn.’ So, to see such an able actress be reduced to playing the stereotypical helpless and often annoying girlfriend in a superhero movie was a shock, and whilst they do try to give her some feminist connotations it just doesn’t come off. Ahmed’s acting is overshadowed by his predictable and character, Drake. A typical evil genius rich, conscious lacking, ashamed of the human race…it’s a character as familiar and unimaginative as a Disney princess, robbing Ahmed’s opportunity to make the character his own and more intriguing.
Ultimately, Venom is a movie to see if you want mindless action and violence with cheap laughs after a meal with mates. If you want compelling characters or an exciting addition to the Marvel universe, you will be sorely disappointed.