Written by David Holland
I had my suspicions about a “Venom” movie without Spider-Man. It’s like doing a whole movie about Joker without Batman – crazy idea, right? But I think one of the best part about the general success of the blockbuster comic book movies is that filmmakers are getting more comfortable trying new things and exploring more obscure titles. Sony may have relented to partner with the MCU on Spider-Man, but they are holding tight to Venom and apparently trying to use this movie to launch their own shared universe, because why not?
“Venom” is distinct from the tone of the MCU, the DCEU, and the Spider-Man movies that preceded it. This edgier style makes it a nice change of pace from some of the other comic book movies. The dynamic between Eddie Brock and Venom is the driving relationship of the movie, and Tom Hardy does a great job playing a guy who has a lot of dialogue with an alien living in his brain. Venom doesn’t really care about civilian casualties, collateral damage, or even right and wrong. This means that if the anti-hero vibe is your thing, then you’ll enjoy watching him break stuff and eat heads – and let’s be honest, the only thing that gets chewed in most Marvel movies is the scenery.
This movie is also more willing to push the envelope with blood and profanity then your average comic book movie, to the point that I assumed it was R-rated until I looked it up. Like I said before, it clearly wants to be distinct from other comic book movies, and I think it does that pretty well. They didn’t mention Spider-Man or other superheroes at all, possibly because these comic book movies have become a nightmare of intertwined legal issues, but I think making “Venom” stand alone was better than making oblique references to an unnamed webslinging superhero in New York. I also appreciated the VERY timely villain – a successful businessman who got his start in one industry, then suddenly switched to space exploration, and who has a reputation for being difficult to work with.
It takes quite a while for the Venom symbiote to actually bond with Eddie Brock. We spend most of the first act getting to know the character of Eddie before he becomes Venom, which makes a lot of sense. During this introduction, Eddie is a tough, no-nonsense, driven reporter who doesn’t take crap from anyone. After Carlton Drake forces both Blake and his girlfriend to lose their jobs, leading to their relationship falling apart, Blake continues to act tough but clearly spirals. Then he bonds with Venom and Eddie’s character almost completely changes. He becomes sort of whiny and irritating. It’s not that Eddie’s reactions don’t make sense as a person who has been taken over by a symbiote – I would probably also be reduced to a screaming mess in that situation.
The problem is that Eddie seems like a completely different character from the determined investigative reporter we saw for the first forty minutes of the film and who put his life at risk to break into a scary rich man’s lab. This makes you wonder why we spent so long developing Eddie Brock if he was just going to be a completely different character.
Other than that, “Venom” isn’t bad, but it also isn’t great. The character of the Venom symbiote is selfish, foul-mouthed, and id-driven, sort of like Eddie got bonded with an alien parasite that has the personality of a teenage boy and that gets annoying after a while. If you’re going to make a villain/anti-hero comic book movie, it should take risks. “Venom” is different from MCU movies, not in a way that pushes boundaries. It seems like it wants to emulate “Logan” or “Deadpool”, but it doesn’t quite have the courage to go that far.
“Venom” is entertaining but not mind-blowing. It’s fun, distracting, and you don’t have to put a lot of thought into it.