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TL:WR—Ignore the critics if you’re a superhero movie fan, especially if you follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and/or are a fan of Tom Hardy, and see Venom on the big screen; all others skip this flick for better choices currently playing at a theater near you. 3/5 STARS but a week from now I'll probably wish I gave it less.
BIG TIME SPOILER ALERT!
Director Ruben Fleischer has the experience to make a decent comic book inspired movie, as do the writers. Hell, even the music director Ludwig Goransson has the right resume for this flick. But Venom suffers from the same ailment as most movies in this popular genre: too much action and not enough storytelling. Venom had a final cost of $115 million and runs 112 minutes. That’s almost a million dollars a minute because massive amounts of the movie are CGI fight and chase scenes. And the CGI is good. Very good. But hey, all CGI is good these days. I’d rather have sat in my comfy recliner at the Marcus-owned Ronnie’s 20 Cinema in St. Louis, Missouri, where I saw the movie, for another 30 minutes and gotten some background on the symbiote, Eddie Brock and Carlton Drake. But hey, that would have required letting the writers write. So the blame falls to Fleischer who, ostensibly, didn’t allow that to happen. And probably plenty of blame goes to the head of the studio and also whoever in marketing said that movie-goers are stupid and want more action and less storytelling. Those marketing people piss me off royally.
It’s fair to ask if the actors have the chops to even tell a bigger story. Well, Tom Hardy sure as hell does. Hardy was Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), how most of us probably know him, but the guy is a serious British actor with an impressive list of serious parts in serious movies like the serious The Revenant and the super serious Dunkirk a serious shit ton more. And Hardy is one of those rare actors that at times you’re not sure is a genius or doesn’t know acting from scratching his ass. He’s like Sylvester Stallone way back in 74 in Rocky. Stallone was Rocky, right? Watching Rocky is like watching a documentary about a poor slob of a nobody who makes it to the top of the world because he wants it more than anyone else. Venom the movie really shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Rocky, I know. But Hardy is every bit the actor that Stallone was then and is a better actor than Stallone has been since, with the exception of his excellent performance in Cop Land (1997).
As for the rest of the cast of Venom, Riz Ahmed, another serious British actor, is a major disappointment but would have been much less so with more screen time to fill in his character. The rest of the cast fade quickly from memory as you walk out of the theater. You can argue it’s due to bad writing or directing or acting. I’ll go with all three. The only supporting actor that barely stands out is Scott Haze as the relentless chief henchman Roland Treece. Him, I liked. The others, meh.
Whenever a movie moves as quickly as Venom, it’s usually because there are plot holes big enough to fly through a spacecraft. And that’s what we have here. Carlton Drake’s huge conglomerate, The Life Foundation, has a space exploration division that somehow, with no explanation whatsoever, managed to capture four symbiotic life forms, out of millions, that were traveling on a comet somewhere out…there. Wherever there is. We don’t know if The Life Foundation knew there were lifeforms on that meteor or simply got lucky or how they managed to capture four of them that, throughout the movie, prove to be incredibly dangerous. Insanely dangerous. But they did. The symbiote tells Brock early on that you (humans) didn’t find the symbiotes. “We found you.” Really? How exactly did that happen? The symbiotes hitched a ride on a comet knowing that Earthlings would explore it? And why is that even important? Who cares who found who. Then, for a reason that either wasn’t stated or went by too fast for me recognize, the spacecraft crashed in Malaysia during re-entry. One astronaut survives because one symbiote broke out of its container and infected him. The other three containers, each with their own symbiote, crash safely into the jungle. You gotta wonder what those containers were made of and why wasn’t the ship itself made of the same material? The escaped symbiote, Riot, jumps from host to host on its way to San Francisco to meet up with the other symbiotes. How did it know to do this? Could it sense the other three from over 8,000 miles away? If so, did it know that two of them were dead and that the other symbiote, Venom, had changed its mind? Yeah, really. Venom is a symbiote, one of at least millions, who can only live by infecting a host, and seemingly has one purpose which is to eat whatever species it finds, and yet it decides that it likes humans, or at least Eddie Brock, who Venom calls a loser. The completely unbelievable explanation is that Venom considers itself also a loser. Watch the movie and let me know if you think for a second Venom ever acts like a creature that believes itself to be a “loser.” Hint: it doesn’t. Venom, loser or otherwise, likes Eddie so much that it’s willing to fight to the death the one other remaining symbiote, Riot, who having infected Carlton Drake, is trying to make its way back to the meteor to bring back more of its brethren to consume all of humanity. Naturally, Venom/Eddie prevail and Riot/Carlton die in an explosion. Hurray!
As this is a Marvel movie, there’s a Stan Lee cameo, which is great, and a mid-credits scene teasing the next movie. The tease might be my favorite scene: Woody Harrelson as serial killer Cletus Kasady. Those of us who read Spidey comics back in the day (i.e., the 80s and 90s) know that there is another symbiote, Carnage, and you can bet your first edition of The Amazing Spider-Man #300, that it will live up to its namesake in the Venom sequel.
That’s my take on Venom. What do you think?