Like the titular anti-hero of the movie, my opinions about Venom was definitely of two minds and here’s the two cents on it. Attempts were made to keep this review relatively spoiler-free!
Catch Venom on Singapore screens from October 4th.
The movie does decently with the lack of reference to Spider-Man by using a different origin story for Venom, including comic story arcs such as Separation Anxiety & Planet of the Symbiotes and there are notable nods and (potentially) pandering moments that would definitely make a comic book fan gawk and chuckle in approval, including Venom’s constant hunger for brains.
The best parts of the movie are when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I thoroughly enjoyed the comedic parts more than the serious and a major core of that is Tom Hardy bantering with himself as both Eddie Brock/Venom, which actually only ramps up and gets more interesting in the last third of the movie. This is probably one of those few movies where you can actually enjoy an actor literally talking to himself while acting silly and it works much (much!) better than the Tobey Maguire Dark Spider-Man we got in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.
One of my favourite quotes in the movie is Eddie saying to Venom: “NO! YOU DO NOT EAT THE POLICEMAN!”
Another part that brought a smile to my face was how the opening scene of the spacecraft crash takes place in East Malaysia, (yay for South East Asia representation in blockbusters), including smatterings of Malay being spoken.
Great props have to be given to the extra scene (before the credits) that lays the groundwork for a potential sequel as well as an un/expected cameo! (100% spoiler territory so I’ll leave it out, catch the movie to learn more)
As mentioned, the story works to explain how the symbiotes arrive on Earth without much allusion to Spider-Man but it starts crumbling at the edges as the movie progresses and I felt it was due to the pacing of the movie.
While it went by surprisingly quickly for its length of 1 hour 52 minutes, I constantly wished that scenes and interactions were longer to create more exposition for side characters, helping to establish more of an understanding and appreciation of the world that surrounds Eddie. It would have been better for the movie also to take slower steps in terms of showing the development of the host/symbiote bond. The thought that flashed constantly in my mind during the movie was “Well, that escalated quickly…”
The movie feels like it would have worked out better as a Netflix adaptation across a number of episodes rather than a full length feature, giving it an air of disjointedness across scenes. Perhaps director Ruben Fleischer was going for a roller-coaster ride in terms of pacing in order to give the audience an adrenaline rush, but it felt more like the wave of nausea and confusion that you might get after multiple rides on one.
Obviously questioning the story wouldn’t cross your mind during the movie but it definitely gnaws at the back of your head when you’ve had time to think and sticks out like a sore thumb for a movie that’s meant to be an origin story and is attempting to lay the groundwork for a Venom movie universe.
The action scenes have a lot of ‘Wow & Pow’ but they don’t add a lot to the movie or the characters other than to show the overwhelming power of Venom and to inflate the movie’s CGI price tag. Even the final fight wasn’t overly appealing in terms of how it felt like a standard format superhero fight. I even felt it was strikingly similar to the Iron Man/Warmonger fight in 2008’s Iron Man in terms of its fight rhythm.
There are moments of cringe with the horror movie scenarios akin to Alien/Aliens (because the symbiotes are extra-terrestrial and ‘not-from-this-Earth’ so we needed a scary moment which included smoke machine and ominous lighting effects apparently) just to heighten the dramatic horror which makes the movie more convoluted. Trying to be an action-horror-superhero-comedy is not quite the challenge Venom is capable of handling and we don’t need the Xenomorph comparison.
The side characters, save perhaps for Michelle Williams as Anne Weying (Eddie Brock’s girlfriend/fiancée), present themselves as single-faceted individuals who barely manage to prop up their own parts of the movie. The villains felt flat in terms of their personalities and motivations, including the final big bad which made it even more disappointing.
Anne is probably the most grounded character in the movie and I felt the little moments with her were some of the more interesting parts in the movie. But all in all, it feels like the movie was trying to fill shoes that it hasn’t grown big enough for and the sum of its parts isn’t enough to make it one to remember.
The movie itself stands relatively higher on my tierlist of Sony-produced Marvel movies for its nods to the comics but you will be sorely disappointed if you’re expecting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s experienced level of polish here. It has some great flashes of potential but it falls short of basic expectations that most fans or ardent movie-goers would have.
However, Venom is still a movie worth catching if you’re a fan of the comic series as it does do quite a decent attempt at capturing the chemistry/bond between Eddie and the symbiote in a live-action setting, but I would give it a miss if you’re looking for something more thought-provoking other than a popcorn flick to tide over the weekend.
Oh and do catch the movie if you’re looking for more reasons to catch the other movie Sony has been promoting and that’s due out in December – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which appears as a post-credits teaser.