Spider-Man 3 is now no longer the weirdest film to have the character of Venom in it.
Beginning around 2008, Hollywood have since grown and established a formula for the modern superhero film. Studio giants have learned and almost perfected it, creating easy cash cows every year that are also generally considered enjoyable entertainment by most. We’ve come a long way from late 90’s and early 2000’s attempts at the genre. The likes of Affleck’s Daredevil or that weird Fantastic Four no one likes are virtually unseen today. Jump over a decade later and in 2018 we have Sony’s first entry in their Spider-Man-less Spider-Man villain-verse: Venom. An anti-hero movie so weird, disjointed and uncategorisable in today’s plethora of superhero cinema, it feels like it time travelled from 20 years ago.
When Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a field journalist with his own show, crosses the line on an exclusive interview with an “Elon Musk-esque” tycoon named Drake (Riz Ahmed), he loses his job, his apartment and his fiance (Michelle Williams) all in one false swoop as he learns he shouldn’t have been digging around in Drake’s secret illegal business. That business being: the study and mastering of an alien symbiote that Drake believes is the key to prolonged human existence. A morally conflicted scientist working for Drake (Jenny Slate) contacts unemployed Brock to take down her boss, but when his investigative journalism goes wrong, he bonds with symbiote: Venom, unleashing Brock’s dark alter-ego in the form of a raging alien creature in a race against time to save the human species.
That was a mouth full. That’s because Venom’s plot is overly complicated and unnecessarily prolonged. The plot summary I just begrudgingly entailed takes a total of 40-50 minutes to establish. That’s right, we don’t get any “Venoming” for almost an hour. The first act’s pacing is so off as it tries to establish a realistic, drama narrative, yet when Tom Hardy finally bonds with Venom, it becomes a weird, mix of edgy Sci-Fi action but also strangely enough, a sort of buddy comedy? This movie is funny. However I can’t fully distinguish what “type” of funny: am I laughing with it, or at it? There are moments so laughably bad, you can’t help but chuckle at its ridiculousness. Yet there is a sense that director Ruben Fleischer knew what he was doing and is inviting us to laugh along, saying “Hey, we know, just go with it”. I was lost for words during most of the second and third act. Trying to nit-pick the film’s logic, incomprehensible action and terribly generic story almost seems pointless, cause if the filmmakers didn’t care, why should I?
Having said that, I did not hate this film. I am actually applauding it’s bizarre and outlandish swing, being genuinely entertained by it. Hardy gives the most enigmatic and eccentric performance of his career. He goes all in, becoming this schizophrenic and so over-the-top character when with Venom, I couldn’t turn my eyes away. Venom himself isn’t terrible either! The best part of this film is the relationship between Brock and Venom. They both have similar traits and desires, finding this common ground of needing each other. Seeing them work together to achieve shared goals was thoroughly enjoyable and sort of… wholesome..?
See what I mean? This film is so chock full of everything that a superhero movie isn’t, but also has the cliches of one. I can’t put my finger on what this film is trying to be, what it’s trying to say or if there is a message at all. Let’s conclude with that although Ahmed, Williams and Slate are wasted, Hardy’s performance is worth the price of admission alone with the film totally collapsing without him. It’s just a shame that the film he’s in shrouds it in mediocrity, that could have been easily solved if there were a certain Friendly Neighbourhood opponent for him to battle against.