Venom (2018) review

I try to leave expectations at the door when I go and watch a movie, but I have to admit, that I was prepared to hate ‘Venom.’ The trailers screamed generic, the plot looked run of the mill and the sheer lack of Spider-man mythos seemed to contradict everything the character stood for. I assumed the pacing would be bad, the characters undeveloped and the narrative generic. And while I was pretty much spot on with those assumptions, there was still something really enjoyable about this movie that is difficult to explain.

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As expected, the performance of leading man Tom Hardy, is the film’s greatest strength. Hardy provides great physical comedy as he alternates between down on his luck journalist Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote (who for some reason calls himself Venom before they even bond, but whatever). Both are likeable and the two provide the only real chemistry the film has to offer. Michelle Williams’ Anne Weying for example, is a horrendously boring stereotypical love interest that adds absolutely nothing whilst simultaneously failing to create any chemistry with the notoriously charismatic Hardy. From the moment we meet them, I don’t believe their relationship.

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Riz Ahmed, who was wonderful in 2014’s ‘Nightcrawler’ portrays Carlton Drake, the films villain. Ahmed brings a real engaging energy to the role, but even he can’t save the awful writing and lack of definable motivation that his character is built upon.  Drake ultimately becomes the generic ‘mirror image of the main character’ cliché leading to a predictable, lacklustre climax.

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In terms of tone, pace and style, ‘Venom’ is a total mess. The director can’t seem to decide if he’d rather embrace the character’s darker traits or focus more on his comedic side. The pace drags unbearably up until Brock becomes Venom. In fact, you could remove the first twenty minutes without changing too much of the overall plot. The style is dim and lacks the vibrant colour of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which would be fine if it had a style of its own. It’s not as if the film wants to be genre focused like ‘Logan’ was, for example; it’s just bland. What really fails though, is the writing, which is both super generic and bafflingly silly. Character motivations are all over the shop, the stakes feel far lower than they should and many of the jokes are frankly, awful.

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And yet, the movie left me feeling good. Perhaps I was just in a spontaneously good mood and was in the right frame of mind to enjoy it for what it was: a good-hearted mess. It is certainly far more watchable than something like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ with its disgusting exposition established purely for the creation of another movie. ‘Venom’ certainly leaves the door open for an inevitable sequel, but it feels self-contained. I think what sold me, however, is the creation of an on-screen Venom that doesn’t take himself seriously. He’s not the broody, sombre, revenge filled monster as in many interpretations, but a loser with a dumb sense of humour. He’s trying to be a cool, cliché antihero, but isn’t. Thus, even the ‘turd in the wind’ line got a laugh out of me, as it works for a Venom who really isn’t a badass killer, but a well-meaning goon who happens to eat people.

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In conclusion, ‘Venom’ is not a very good movie, but it sure is enjoyable. The portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom by Hardy is hilarious, even if that is unintentional. The action is passable and most everything else is pretty bad. The soundtrack however, was pretty rocking in some places and at least they got the look of Venom spot on. I wasn’t even bothered by his lack of spider symbol because he just looked so cool. If you can turn off your brain and appreciate it for what it is, you might actually have some irreverent fun with it.

★★★

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