Ruben Fleischer’s cinematic treatment of the Marvel super villain “Venom” feels a lot like it someone was making this movie in 1997, and it remained in the vault for twenty years. Then Fleischer and Sony dusted it off and finished it. “Venom” feels so out of date and ridiculously nineties you can almost expect the home video release to come with a hologram. That might be due to the character of Venom who looks less like an amorphous sentient Alien organism that creates kind of symbiosis with its host, and more like alien Jello that covers its host and causes trouble. The titular Venom is so random and bafflingly stupid, especially in its basic behavior that varies between mischievous, to downright evil. How do we root for a being who tells the film’s hero “Do what I say or I’ll eat your head”?
Based on the hideously boring Spider-Man super villain created by Todd McFarlane in 1988, “Venom” stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter who is in the outs with his girlfriend Anne. When a space ship crash lands on Earth, four goo like alien organisms are taken by Carlton Drake, a genius scientist who plans to use the symbiote to help humanity—or something. When the symbiote escapes it bonds with Eddie Brock and convinces him to help the being survive Drake’s attempts to kidnap it. Meanwhile, Eddie must escape with Venom as its host inhabiting incredible super powers, and ultimately do battle against Drake who begins to bond with the fourth symbiote known as Riot. “Venom” is basically “The Wolfman,” meets “Brain Damage” with a hint of “The Mask,” and the writers work over time destroying every link the character has to the Spider-Man mythos.
Venom is more of a demanding sentient being with a sense of morality to it, the whole set up for the symbiote is human error and not Spider-Man’s error, and in the end Venom becomes obsessed with stopping other offspring of his symbiotic essence from committing to their devious plans. Eddie Brock is also massively rewritten in to a bit of a moronic everyday schlub who is accidentally thrust in to this spectacular situation that requires his assistance. Tom Hardy’s performance ranges from weird to silly to downright confused. Hardy is often a very talented performer who can steal scenes, but here he feels like he walked in from a Happy Madison movie, resembling Christian Slater with a Christopher Walken drawl the entire time. As Eddie Brock he’s a journalist attempting bolder stakes in his life and pays for it right through the very end as his alleged symbiote often threatens to devour his head whole.
It becomes more of a comedic gag than anything that Brock just cannot seem to find good luck during the narrative. Whether it’s as a reporter, or his girlfriend leaving, or becoming the unwitting host to the symbiote, to falling victim to its intimidation, it’s all about him being so unlucky. This element makes “Venom” feel so much less like a superhero/monster movie, and a lot more like a satire of the superhero time and time again. The symbiotes are also turned in to something of a horror based foe, with the ability to take hold of pretty much anyone they want all the while Venom insists he needs to match with someone to make their symbiosis. The film turns in to a monster movie buddy-comedy mid-way as Venom and Eddie works together to fulfill both destinies and learn how to work to benefit the other. “Venom” is all so terrible, dull, and ridiculous, and I’m weary at the thought of a franchise being built from these vapid, poorly built characters.