As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.
Venom is a film that highlights the divide between critical and public opinion. The critical consensus was almost universally negative, although audiences reacted more positively. While it’s clear that Venom is no masterpiece, it’s not entirely devoid of merit.
With Tom Hardy as both the titular alien symbiote antihero and his human host Eddie Brock, Venom is a film that’s most widely been described as more of a buddy comedy or romcom than a superhero film. While there are clear sci-fi and action elements involved, there’s very little that ties Venom to the superhero genre other than the character’s comic book roots.
Hardy’s performance is what makes Venom fun. He brings an element of comedy to his dual role that sets him apart from the rest of the film’s cast, who all play it decidedly straight. In some ways, this makes Venom‘s tone feel inconsistent, but it also highlights how different Eddie is from the other people in his world, which does subtly feed into the film’s narrative. All of Venom‘s funniest moments stem from Brock and Venom’s interactions, with the rest of the film feeling somewhat generic.
Venom‘s story doesn’t much help matters, either. It’s a by-the-numbers origin story, complete with a cartoonishly evil villain whose madcap plan to destroy the world must be foiled by the film’s antihero. However, despite its bland and unoriginal story, Venom manages to use Hardy to comedic effect just enough to keep the film interesting.
By its very definition, Venom is heavily reliant on CGI. Luckily, the film’s visual effects are solid, although Venom‘s final fight scene in particular stands out as lacking any real human touch, which lowers its stakes significantly. Much of Venom‘s action incorporates elements of the comedic dynamic between Brock and Venom, making them more entertaining thanks solely to Hardy’s bizarre performance.
The characterization of Eddie Brock is an interesting one. He’s shown to be morally flawed, but ultimately good, and at no point does Venom sexualize Hardy’s character in any way. This is an important distinction, as Venom is primarily an antihero/villain – resisting the temptation to use Hardy’s own appeal in order to inform his characterization is a commendable choice.
Ultimately, Venom is a little disappointing. Its got potential, but issues with its tone and pacing prevent the film from achieving it fully. Its predictable story and lack of any real narrative depth are equally disappointing, particularly as the film (and Hardy’s character) clearly had the potential to be something more. Though Venom is ultimately predictable and generic, it’s redeemed in part by Hardy’s performance and its willingness to push the boundaries of the superhero genre.
Summary: Unoriginal and ultimately disappointing, Venom tries to do something a little different with the established formula of its contemporaries. It may not entirely fulfill its potential, but it’s not without a certain odd charm.
Highlight: The isolated comedic element of Venom and Brock’s dynamic might be responsible for the film’s inconsistent tone, but it also saves it from being thoroughly tedious.