As a movie lover and a comics lover, there can be a tremendous amount of inner conflict and inner turmoil when Hollywood decides to make these books a reality. I feel like I am constantly reminding myself to disconnect as a comic book fan for these movies. I don't think its particularly fair, even though I have been guilty in the past, to base my entire movie review around "oh, in the comics this character is this, or this character did that." Not everybody who buys a ticket to see a movie has read the comics. I see comic book fans all up in arms constantly, declaring that this superhero movie or that superhero movie is "the worst movie ever made," simply because the X-Men line-up isn't the original, or one character didn't get their powers like that, or they don't look right, or they leave too much out. Comic fans can't wrap their heads around that every move a filmmaker makes is to make a movie that appeals to the mass audience, not just the niche comic audience. Superheroes wouldn't be the big business they are right now if filmmakers only appealed to a small fraction of the movie going public.
With that said, I have learned to live in world where I am getting a "Venom" movie that is totally disconnected to Spider-Man. They reimaged Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) as a character, they've partially reimaged how he comes about getting attached to a symbiote, an organic, alien parasite that attaches to a host and controls them. This is not the hundredth percent Venom from the comics, but I don't care. I find it weird how I hold on to certain comic continuity but not to others. I guess because Hollywood can go so far to the extreme that its not the character at all, just read up on what J.J. Abrams planned to do with Superman back in 2002. I wouldn't say that the "Venom" movie playing in theaters right now is so stray that it doesn't feel like the same character. This is certainly Venom all right, so that is at least a good thing.
I went in with the lowest of low expectations. On the other side, I feel "Venom" is a mixed bag. I like Tom Hardy, but I feel if he were given a better script, he could have been great. I like Jenny Slate, but she was barely given enough to do here. I like the special effects and the crazy headgame going on with Eddie Brock internally once his body is infected with a symbiote alien, I just wish it served a better movie. For long stretches of the film, the movie is kind of a mess. It's tonally stunted. It tries hard to be funny, but usually comes up short. It tries to be light-hearted, even though Venom is the absolute worst light-hearted character. There are stretches of the film that are just, well, boring. No matter what I think of the character, Venom is a terrible, terrible PG-13 character. How can a character that leaves dead bodies everywhere and spouts on about tearing people's heads off be stuck in a PG-13 movie?
Like I said, I like Tom Hardy. I think he could have been a classic Venom. But as I said, he needed a better script. I have discovered that Tom Hardy can't do everything. Eddie Brock is a reporter with lots of fans, and he takes on a story about the Life Foundation, that may be doing some shady shit in the name of science. Brock is trying really hard to expose them, but it gets him fired. Still, a scientist of Life Foundation Dora Skirth (Slate) gets Brock secretly into the facility to report on the Foundation. A piece of an alien symbiote latches onto Brock, and he becomes Venom. Eddie Brock is a somewhat timid and not-so-tough character, two qualities that Tom Hardy lacks. When he tries to talk in a scared, high-pitched voice, it just comes off unnatural.
The Life Foundation is run by Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. I discovered Ahmed on HBO's "The Night Of," where he plays a young guy who gets in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also plays a rebel in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," and he plays a bright, energetic man who believes in the rebellion. There are things that Ahmed can't do either. He can't play a villain. He's got too sweet of a face for a villain. He can't carry the range to come off dangerous or even snobby. He's supposed to be this sometimes intimidated, vile figure. Ahmed never comes close to making the audience feel that way.
Michelle Williams plays the typical love interest, and that's too bad that this was the only avenue they chose to take with her character. Sure, she's instrumental near the end of the movie, but she's pretty much just a love interest. There is some really good special effects in the movie. But the ending will possibly frustrate some viewers who are getting sick of two people with similar powers having a big fight at the climax of the movie. The film accumulates to a CGI symbiote monster fighting another CGI symbiote monster. If they make more of these movies, its just going to be CGI symbiote monsters fighting other CGI symbiote monsters. I am not sure what traction this can get as a franchise and I think it has a good chance of getting stale really quick.
Early reports stated that the film was 2005 "Catwoman" bad, I am not sure its on that level. But it is for sure a very ho-hum, dragging experience. It's got some pretty good to mediocre performances and some stellar special effects work. The action scenes never live up to the promise the movie makes. I think the movie could have benefited from a better script, somebody who really loves the character. When two slippery liquid monsters are beating each other up with abnormally long tongues, and its the most boring fight in comic book movies, that's a problem. "Venom" is a PG-13 rated movie that wanted very badly to be an R-rated movie, and it shows. We are living in a comic book adaptation golden age, so making movies this mediocre shouldn't be happening at this point.
FINAL GRADE: C-