Written by Jeff Pinkner & Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Sony ran everything off the rails with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After handing over partial control of Spider-Man to Marvel, you’d think they would just coast on that and let the money come in. However, they began looking at the other characters they got as part of their licensing deal and settled on making a Venom movie and a Miles Morales animated picture. While the Miles Morales decision made sense to me, I was a little confused about a solo Venom picture. The Venom character exists as an evil version of Spider-Man, a trope that is present all throughout comic books (Superman:: Bizarro, Green Lantern:: Sinestro, Flash:: Professor Zoom). To feature Venom without the character, he’s defined in opposition to doesn’t sound like a formula for success.
Venom was initially created by writer David Micheline and artist Scott McFarland and fully revealed in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 published in 1988. The path to Venom was a long one going back to 1984 when Spider-Man received his alien symbiote costume, an accident that led to the hero becoming more aggressive and violent as his mind was taken over by the creature. Spidey eventually separates from the alien.
Eddie Brock was a foil to Peter Parker introduced in The Web of Spider-Man #18 which came out in 1986. Brock had an impressive first arc as a reporter investigating the serial killer The Sin-Eater. He gets an exclusive interview with a man claiming to be the killer, and his story is greeted with acclaim by the people of New York. Everything changes when Spider-Man captures the real Sin-Eater, and Eddie’s confessor turns out to be a compulsive liar. Eddie loses his job and ends up holding a hateful grudge towards Spider-Man as a result. The symbiote and Eddie cross paths and the rest is history.
The film version of the story takes the expected dramatic liberties, skipping Spider-Man’s role in the process, and having the symbiote part of a quartet of beings captured by the bio-engineering corporation The Life Foundation from a passing comet. The symbiotes are brought to San Francisco where The Life Corporation and disgraced reporter Eddie Brock are based. Eddie’s girlfriend works as a legal sub-contractor for this company, and the reporter tries his best not to let his journalistic instincts intrude into their relationship. Of course, that won’t last, and Eddie confronts CEO Carlton Drake about human experimentation, and that ruins his personal life. Eventually, Eddie and a rogue symbiote merge and take on Drake and another symbiote with dark plans for humanity.
Venom is not a good movie, and it feels pretty cliche. It’s better than any of Fox’s Fantastic Four films and maybe some of the MCU’s low points. I would say it kept my interesting just as much as Doctor Strange or Thor: The Dark World. The best thing about the picture is Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, who is making decisions as an actor that are insane. I can’t say I understand why he chooses to play Eddie so wildly, but it keeps the audience’s attention. His New York accent comes in and out and sometimes sounds like something with no identifiable origin. It doesn’t help that the dialogue he’s given is usually devoid of character or meaning, just random reaction lines to things Venom does. It’s a fascinating trainwreck performance that I rank up there with Tommy Wiseau in The Room in terms of watch-ability.
The plot here is pretty hackneyed when you break it down, the villain is an undeveloped generic corporate bad guy. I am all for a businessman villain, but I think they need some more depth for me to get involved in the story. Otherwise, it plays like a sloppy Power Rangers baddie. He has shades of Elon Musk, and I wish they had played that up some more, emphasizing his hubris along with a mild personality, instead of the mustache-twirling character we get instead.
There’s is nothing special in Venom, but it’s not quite the utter disaster some critics have labeled it as. This is a middle of the road, lazy superhero movie with a central performance that is captivatingly bizarre. Seeing Tom Hardy’s stumble through this picture is definitely worth one watch. He proves himself once again as an actor who’ll basically try anything.