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Going into this movie, I thought I would hate it. I was never that big a fan of Venom in the comics (I didn't hate him; he just wasn't my favorite character), and I suppose Topher Grace's disappointing turn as the character in Spider-Man 3 was still on my mind when I first heard about it. The behind-the-scenes struggles and the fact that the movie had such a huge Narm folder on this website even before the film came out only made me more skeptical.
I went into the film expecting a terrible experience... and was pleasantly surprised to find that it's a delightfully camp-filled modern B-movie with enough charm and (for lack of a better term) wit to make for a fun watch.
While the movie does have a dark atmosphere that makes it similar to all those subpar superhero movies from the 2000s, I feel that it at least goes out of its way to subvert that image through its surprisingly well-rounded protagonist, Eddie Brock. Between his rocky-yet-sweet relationship with lead female Anne, his off-beat "odd couple" dynamic with the Symbiote, and the fact that he reacts to these bizarre situations the way a normal person would yet still rises to the occasion as the "hero" of the story all make it difficult not to cheer for him. Tom Hardy's performance here is also on point, about on par with Bane in terms of his best roles; he displays the full range of believable emotions and reactions that help sell the character. Yes, the accent he uses is a bit odd to hear at first, but unlike say Tommy Wiseau, it's not too goofy or at all unpleasant to listen to, and gives the character charm.
As for the other characters, Anne is a great romantic foil; the Venom symbiote is delightfully twisted and hilariously douchey while still being oddly endearing; Carlton Drake and Riot are wonderfully sinister and despicable as villains; the side characters serve their purpose; Stan Lee, of course, makes a great cameo (and a very poignant one, especially as it was his last one before his death); and a certain cameo at the end opens the door for great sequel possibilities.
The story is the horror-fueled twist on the typical superhero story that Fant4stic wished it was; Venom 2018 was dark but not joyless, creepy but not bleak. There is plenty of humor and heart in the film, the effects are above-average, and all in all, I genuinely look forward to the sequel.
I don't expect Venom to be retconned into the MCU, but I wouldn't be complaining if it was. I also highly doubt that Sony will cancel its deal with Marvel and take back exclusive rights to Spider-Man. C'mon, guys, Spidey's had major roles in 3 MCU movies so far, and they've officially solidified plans for him to appear in future installments. They can't unring this bell even if they wanted to.
Okay, so I am gonna be real with you and admit that, especially if you're a fan of the comics, you will feel this movie had the potential to be more. I will say that Ruben Fleischer dropped the ball in several regards, but that does not undermine the fact that it's an all-around entertaining movie. So breaking down the movies several aspects from positive to negative:
- Tom Hardy carries the piece, alternating between taking his role serious with the craftsmanship you'd expect of him, and scenes where he just straight up hams it up to eleven.
- The Venom-Eddie dynamic is easily the heart of the movie and definitely warrants further appearances.
- Anne Weying is given a lot more to do than the typical love interest and her honestly delivers her part in Eddie's Character Development just fine; she even gets a twenty-second tenure as She-Venom, but damn if those aren't some of the most memorable twenty seconds of the film.
- Alternating between genuinely decently written comedy and unintential hammy hilarity, there is plenty of fun to be had watching this movie.
-The action scenes in general have inconsistent quality: The fight scene in Eddie's apartment is fine and the subsequent chase scene, specifically the way Eddie and Venom cooperate in it, is probably the most distinct and unique action scene the movie has to offer, but you don't watch a Venom movie to see a chase-scene; The Venom vs Police fight is competent and entertaining, but without the R-rating to let Venom really cut loose you could honestly have copy-pasted any other Marvel character in there to the same effect. The final battle honestly starts out just fine, being a decently choreographed fight between two shapeshifters using those abilities while the lighting contrasts with their dark figure, but after it briefly cuts away to Anne then comes back the scene honestly devolves into an unsightly CGI extravaganza between two amorphous blobs, both of them black, against a Dark background. Honestly the most satisfying part of the fight is when Brock and Drake duke it out as regular folk.
- In terms of Character Development, Eddie gets a servicable arc about regaining his will to fight for those who can't help themselves and, eventually, learning to accept his own responsibility in his misfortune. It never moves beyond servicable though, and beyond some scenes of Anne calling him out and Eddie himself contemplating it isn't given the most in-depth exploration. The Symbiote, meanwhile, has an at best limited build-up to his very sudden Heel–Face Turn.
- The reason only Eddie and the Symbiote's character development is mentoined above is because the entire remainder of the cast exclusively exists for the purpose of Eddie's story. Yes, he's the main character and yes, a movie needs to focus, but all of the other characters are fairly one-dimensional.Some of them sympathetic enough to care about, but painfully one-note.
- That goes double for the movie's villain, Carlton Drake/Riot. Despite bringning in an Academy-award level actor to play this role, he plays about every cliche in the "evolutionary mad scientist" book completely straight and, like some of the MCU's lesser offerings, also plays the whole "bigger, evil version of the hero with the same powers" role to a tee. I don't feel the need to rag on his motives, which are honestly self-explanatory enough and shouldn't really be too much of a minus, but they could have done so much more with this guy.
- The movie's pacing. Even for an origin story, it has a rather Slow-Paced Beginning and even after Eddie and the Symbiote bond it isn't until about halfway into the movie that Venom, as a singular entity, comes into play. After that the plot moves at lightning speed but it's not until tha last act that the main Symbiote villain even begins to seriously come into play.
- The music, mainly composed of rap tracks rather than stronger, more distinct orchestral themes a la the Raimi movies or the MCU, really gives this movie a weird early nillies vibe to it.
In conclusion, it's not that large parts of Venom dont work, it's just that they rarely move beyond being servicable. The things in this movie that do rise above that, however, definitely are enough entertainment to warrant a sequel. An R-rated, more well-paced and written sequel with it's own musical scores, preferably.
As a Venom fan I was cautiously excited for this movie, after all this is Sony, they don't have a good track record and the last time they had a crack at the character with Spider-Man 3 they got him VERY wrong. Thankfully I am happy to report that this movie makes up for Spider-Man 3. Tom Hardy absolutely knocks his roles out of the park, the CGI for Venom and Riot look great, Michelle Williams does a good performance of Ann Weying and the humor for the most part hits. However the one big flaw with this movie is the villain. Riz Ahmed tries his best with Carlton Drake but the character was never that interesting to begin with and is only slightly better here. While Riot is your generic alien invasion force leader. Not helping things is none of the other Life Foundation symbiotes appear, so its unclear why they went with the boring Riot, instead of the at least more interesting design wise Scream. Overall I give this a movie a B rating, its a fun ride and deserves a chance.
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