Look, I went into Venom with incredibly low expectations and I was still somehow left disappointed. The real tragedy is that Venom is a film with much potential, as nearly every aspect of the film could have been done better. Pressure from Sony to water down the film for a PG-13 rating, and to cut it down to under 2 hours seems to be, at least partially, at fault. However, that does not excuse so much more that is wrong with the final product.
Venom fails miserably at so much, that not even Tom Hardy’s explosive performance as news reporter Eddie Brock (the subject of the Venom parasite) was able to serve as a saving grace. The poorly written script resulted in the film being laced with dozens of annoyingly overused tropes, and the dialogue being laughably cringe-worthy at times (“Aren’t you Eddie Brock” “I used to be…”).
Comedy is actually something that the film is able to do relatively well in most cases, despite much of it being based on over-the-top slapstick. However, the shabby editing not only ruins the pacing of Venom, but subsequently makes it seem like the film could not decide if it wanted to be a dramatic thriller or a dark-comedy in the same vein as Deadpool. As a result, neither the particularly dramatic nor the comedic scenes are able to induce as much of a reaction as they should have. This tonal dissonance gets worse as the film progresses and serves to be its major flaw, as at times, Venom either takes itself way too seriously, or not at all.
Visually speaking though, the film is surprisingly impressive; the neon-drenched nightscape of downtown New York, or the high-tech Life Foundation facility serve as an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for what were, at best, passable action sequences. In some instance, the overuse of shaky-cams and quick cuts turned what could have been edge-of-your-seats superhero brawls into a blurry, incoherent mess.
The film begins to find its footing somewhere around the second act. The story progression starts to feel a little more fleshed out and Tom Hardy amps up his act. Nonetheless, the fact that the rest of the cast delivered such shallow and lukewarm performances meant that there was still much room for improvement. Michelle Williams’ character felt one-dimensional and predictable, while Riz Ahmed, who played Carlton Drake (the primary antagonist), was unable to convey the sense of menace so characteristic of a supervillain. In all fairness though, the disappointing direction by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) was definitely a bottleneck for the actors.
In conclusion, Venom – with its reputable cast and crew, both in front of and behind the camera – had the premise of an enjoyable and entertaining comic-book film. Sadly, it was unable to deliver on all fronts and left much to be desired.
Oh, and it also had the single worst Stan Lee cameo you’ll ever see.
by Musa Ali
Class of 2020