Venom is a movie that’s not without faults. And while the comic book genre is competitive, we can’t dismiss that Venom is an enjoyable entry nonetheless.
For a movie that’s currently living in the shadow of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can tell everyone involved in Venom really wanted to do their best to show off. In the movie, Tom Hardy takes on the familiar comic book character, Eddie Brock, who bonds with the Symbiote known as Venom. And though there are a few messy moments in the condensed hour and fifty-something minute movie, let’s just get this out the way now: it’s a big improvement from Spider-Man 3.
The key to seeing this film is coming in with a fresh mind. It may be hard to not think about the smashing success of Avengers: Infinity War or Black Panther, but we have to remember that superhero and comic book movies are about having fun. Sometimes they don’t have to have a profound message or make leave a huge mark on pop culture, and that’s where Venom sits.
Described as a movie that somehow escaped from 2004 and found its way to the present day, there is certainly a pre-MCU movie feel to it. They’re not reinventing the wheel here; things are quite formulaic.
Hardy starts out as a man who has everything until things get turned upside down, and he’s suddenly a loser. His fiancée, Anne (played by Michelle Williams), dumps him for another guy and he’s out of his high-profile job. The character building for Eddie is a bit elusive at the start, and it’s not quite clear what we’re supposed to think of him. We know Venom is an anti-hero, but that’s not really what Eddie Brock is about until he meets Venom.
Although, it’s hard to engage my suspicious of disbelief that Tom Hardy is a well-meaning loser when only a few years ago, he was kicking Batman’s butt as Bane. Needless to say, he’s still pretty ripped from that movie, and it makes it hard to believe that this guy is supposed to be as sweet and innocent as a basket of kittens.
The pacing is a bit slow until Venom finally bonds with Eddie. There are a few jokes here and there before that, but it’s Venom’s character that really livens the movie up. It’ll make you ask why he wasn’t introduced much earlier. And it’s his character that ultimately saves the day — or, rather, the movie.
Venom’s whimsical moments are also why you’ll understand that this movie definitely deserves a rating of PG-13 and not the R-rating that so many people had imagined. It also seems like a marketing snafu, where many assumed by the trailers that it would be a much darker movie than it actually is. Venom is definitely a more light-hearted movie. And while there are definitely some PG-13 moments, the action and comedy are something akin to the Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.
In contrast to Venom/Eddie is the powerful Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed): the Wilson Fisk kind of guy who appears to be nice on the outside, but on the inside, he’s pulling some series illegal strings (like testing Symbiotes on unwilling subjects kind of strings). Ahmed’s performance isn’t terrible in this. He’s just playing a cut-and-dried villain whom we’ve seen so many times before.
Really, he himself is hardly a thorn in Eddie/Venom’s side until the very last moment. And this brings up one of the most glaring problems of Venom: the pacing. With most action/comic book movies reaching well over the two-hour mark, Venom sets itself aside. Technically, the official runtime is 1 hour and 52 times, but that seems to be because of the long credits and two (yes two) mid-credits scenes. The actual movie feels a lot shorter than that.
With supposedly around 40 minutes of scenes being cut, you might actually find yourself wondering, “is the movie actually winding up? It seems like this is the end, but everything is happening so quickly.” So much so, in fact, that it might be hard to see what the whole point of the final “boss battle” is about in the first place.
All that being said, yes, the movie deserves a bit of criticism. It isn’t perfect, and if you hold it up to the MCU’s or even Fox’s Deadpool’s light, you might come out disappointed. But if you’re just in for a fun time that includes some laugh-worthy moments and a great spin on an old character, then you’ll be in for a pretty enjoyable time.