The road as of late for Venom hasn’t been the smoothest to travel. The trailer failed to live up to the expectations of salivating fans, and those hoping it would follow in the footsteps of Deadpool and Logan by embracing its more adult classification were bitterly disappointed when it was announced the film would be catering to a more general audience.
So now that it’s here, where does one stand? Feeling like a product ripped straight from the cinematic scene of 2004, Venom is immensely flawed, packed full of cheese and occasionally hokey effects, and far removed from any of the grandeur achieved within the Marvel Universe…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
After an uninspired turn from Topher Grace in the much maligned Spider-Man 3 (2007) the character of Venom hardly left an impression, so it’s safe to say that an actor of Tom Hardy’s ilk feels like a vast casting improvement. Re-imagining Venom as more an anti-hero as opposed to a straight villain, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and screenwriters Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower), Scott Rosenberg (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Kelly Marcel (Fifty Shades of Grey) have fun letting the reins loose on the character’s more playful nature, which in turn allows Hardy to completely unhinge and run the performance far from the grounds of reality.
Prior to Venom taking front and centre, it’s reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) that the film focuses on, showcasing his will to break any news story regardless of the consequences. His latest target is smarmy Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a millionaire doctor of sorts who is planning space travel and has been involved in a series of mysterious deaths due to his questionable experiments. Drake’s been successful in spinning positive PR for himself but Brock isn’t buying it, and when he learns about wrongful death claims he intends to corner Drake in a bid to evoke an admission. Losing his job and his fiancee (Michelle Williams) as a result of the unauthorised interview, Brock’s life begins to spiral out of control, but after being approached by a whistleblower working for Drake, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), he comes into close contact with a Symbiote that’s been brewing in Drake’s laboratory, essentially transforming him into an alien-like form who is near-invincible and has a thirst for eating humans. Sounds delightful, right?
The dark, more violent tone that was expected of the film in its initial stages is evident throughout some of the story beats – namely Venom’s lust for eating human flesh and Drake’s relentless experiments on the homeless – and whilst it’s violent in nature, there’s next to no actual bloodshed on screen, and the eventual jokey tone the film adopts leaves Venom to play out like an over-the-top creature feature that embraces its sense of humour. This isn’t masterful storytelling, but it would appear the film is aware of itself (or I’d like to believe it is) and is enjoying its ridiculous mentality. There’s a messy, 1980’s vibe about the film that will undoubtedly irk a lot of devoted comic fans, but for the uninitiated and those who have lowered their expectations, Venom could very well entertain with its nonsensical temperament and surprising comedic tone.
Though far removed from even the more middle-ground Marvel titles (Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World for example) Venom still holds as passable entertainment value, even if for nothing else than being inexplicably fascinating due to its uneven mentality of an R rated story watered down with tween-friendly shtick. Hardy is having an absolute ball, and the mental unbalance he displays throughout could very well be worth admission alone. This won’t convert comic book film naysayers, nor please the faithful masses, but when most productions within the comic realms are taking themselves seriously, it’s difficult to not be a little charmed by a title that seems to just not care about its perception.
Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
Venom (M) is screening in Australian theatres from 4th October 2018.