Venom, as a concept, is a good one. It’s the guy who has a devil on one shoulder and no corresponding angel on the other trying to teach an alien life form the concept of right and wrong. “Venom,” on the other hand, is heartbreaking. The last Marvel-related film that Sony produced, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” is arguably one of the best Marvel films to date, but on the Disney/Marvel scale, “Venom” ranks somewhere between “Thor: The Dark World” and “Iron Man 2,” and possibly below both of them. It’s unfortunate, because Venom is the perfect character to open up new doors in the MCU, but from a creative standpoint, it’s woefully lacking.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is an investigative journalist who’s managed to rebuild his life in San Francisco after burning all of his bridges in New York City. Eddie draws the ire of billionaire tech guru, Life Corporation founder and outer space geek Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after an interview designed to be a puff piece goes off the rails, which leads to Eddie losing both his job and his fiancé Anne Weying (Michelle Williams).
Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake’s top scientists, contacts Eddie after Drake has begun human testing with alien symbiotes he’s recently brought back to Earth, the logic being that the merging of the two species will give humans better odds of survival on other planets. Eddie is exposed to one of the symbiotes, which calls itself Venom, and the two form an uneasy alliance. Venom will keep Eddie safe from Drake’s goons, while Eddie will try to feed enough that Venom won’t eat Eddie’s vital organs instead.
The idea of Dr. Skirth bringing Eddie to the Life Corporation headquarters is just dumb on a number of levels. Dr. Skirth may not know where the bodies are buried, but she knows there are bodies, which means she knows that if she brings someone like Eddie into the Life Corporation compound, she stands a good chance to become the next body. But she brings him anyway, because the plot needs to expose Eddie to Venom somehow. Likewise, it is awfully convenient how some symbiotes are never able to adapt to a human host, while others are 100% successful at adapting to hosts regardless of age or size. In both of these instances, the human host died once the symbiote left the body, yet there are symbiotes that can jump hosts without harming them. Maybe the original comic book series explains this. On the screen, it reeks of plot contrivance.
Speaking of plot, can we please kill the ‘billionaire philanthropist with a dark secret’ trope once and for all? It’s been done, and done, and done, and its presence here immediately lowers the bar for all that follows.
Two more things: the big chase through the streets of San Francisco, where Drake’s goons, in addition to a phalanx of drones, injure dozens of people and do billions in damage. If there are consequences for this, we don’t hear about them, which is just lazy. Movies need to stop blowing things up for funsies.
Lastly, there’s the big showdown between Venom and another symbiote/host, which plays out like a “Transformers” movie, as the big baddie wields his hands into various weapons of mass destruction. (Curiously, both Venom and Transformers came to life in 1984.) Wouldn’t a symbiote with that kind of power, I don’t know, kill a few of the people it tries to bond with? You’d think so, but no.
To get Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams on board for your film, and then give them a script this hackneyed, is just tragic. “Venom” isn’t even aggressively bad; it’s just not trying very hard to be good.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Woody Harrelson, Ron Cephas Jones, Reid Scott, Sope Aluko, Michelle Lee
Director: Ruben Fleischer