Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have had muddled interactions over the last three years, with Spider-Man’s introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe being one of the few products of a deal we got to see. After the box office shortcoming of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Sony agreed to give Marvel the reins to the web-slinger, with the guarantee that they would get a slice of the profits of any movies made with Spidey in it. However in 2016, Sony decided to take advantage of their rights to the plethora of Spider-Man comic characters, and to establish their own parallel but separate movie universe (Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters). Venom (2018) was the “hail mary” of this new universe into Hollywood, and although its current gross is impressive, is it worth seeing?
I went into this film with a very open mind. I do consider myself a massive fan of superhero movies, Marvel especially, but I never shy away from analyzing and looking back at them. Sony’s Marvel movies in particular have left several miniature wounds in my mind, especially the time we saw that Venom ‘attempt’ in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007). I rid myself of expectations so that I could actively differentiate the cinema experience from the quality of the film as a piece of art, a difference I believe is going to be the splitting factor between the critical and general audience reviews. However, finding myself in a position between the two, I’m unashamed to say that I had a great time watching this film.
The story follows local San Francisco reporter Eddie Brock who is accidentally merged with the symbiote named Venom, giving him immense power, but not without consequences.
The lead characters, Eddie Brock and Venom, were the ones that had the potential to make or break this film. If director Ruben Fleischer let either of them sink, this film undoubtedly would’ve been a box office flop. It made me beyond thrilled to realize that this was not the case. Tom Hardy’s performance as both characters was absolutely incredible, and he carries the entire film experience on his back. He makes the nervous, confused, and disturbing experience of sharing a body with another entity extremely believable, and the audience is easily able to follow his thoughts through the dialogue and Hardy’s physical performance. Brock and Venom have a very interesting dynamic that dips between hostility and camaraderie, and Hardy plays them both in a way that’s very entertaining to watch. You never get tired of him being on screen, and you even to begin to miss it in the scenes where he’s not. The introduction to both Brock and the plot is very well done and had me visually and mentally engaged, but there are some flaws that stick out like sore thumbs.
The supporting performances being one of the most prominent of these flaws, I was waiting for moments of redemption that never came. Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed as love interest Anne Weying and baddie Carlton Drake, respectively, had some good moments between the two of them, but never made enough of an impression for me to particularly care for either of them. Williams’ performance was especially dry and unconvincing, and the film’s plot suffers from this as well.
Now I’ll compare the narrative to going out on a great date at a fancy restaurant. You’re really enjoying yourself and you can see the rest of the night unfolding perfectly in your mind. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, your date develops a horrible odor right after telling you they’re already married. If this would confuse and upset you, that’s very understandable. I found the narrative and general pacing very well done up until the third act. An entirely new villain is introduced and you’re given little to no character depth or time to make them relevant at all. It feels very rushed and confusing, and I think I’m gonna call this villain incompetency pattern the ‘Sony Syndrome’ for future reference.
I’ll maintain that I had a really good time watching Venom, despite these nitpicks. How they impact your moviegoing experience is entirely subjective in this case, depending on what you’re looking to get from it. Superhero movies as a genre aren’t renowned for their underlying messages, nor are many of them considered cinematic masterpieces. If you want to enjoy your night, whether it be at the theater or on the couch, this film is a good dose of entertainment. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, and I found that many if not all of the flaws were easy to ignore in the shadow of Hardy’s performance. In light of the success of rated R superhero movies such as Logan and Deadpool, Venom could’ve used the R for more comic-accurate violence, but this wasn’t of much importance to me. I laughed out loud, I made unnatural geek sounds, and I left trying my best to impersonate the Venom voice. If you’re a fan of superhero films or just want to enjoy a night out, put a dollar in and go see this.