Here’s the deal: Venom is not good. I don’t know whether it was a victim of the editing, or if it was the writing, but put together, there is little to salvage. I don’t understand how a movie that could have been a macabre take on the new Spider-Man turned out to be a fantastic mess, complete with what looks like unfinished computer graphics and a aspiring world-saver who also murders homeless people in a test lab. He says he wants to cure cancer and get the first human tourists in space. Listen to Eminem’s theme song for the film. However you feel about that song is how you will feel about this movie.
The film starts off with a very confusing group of scenes introducing our main character Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), who is a hotshot reporter in San Francisco. This is the kind of guy who develops a minor drinking habit and buys corner store packaged ham and Pepto in one purchase. Maybe that’s judgmental, but he looks every bit as ill as that purchase suggests. Eddie Brock is definitely Anti-Hero material, and lucky for him, things get better when a UFO crashes into the planet and an alien hijacks his body. It’s also when the film really gets kicked off, about halfway through.
To be fair, I think this is film is meant as both a traditional superhero drama and a dark comedy. Its plot is hella dumb. Maybe it’s a parody: I caught shades of noir, a nod to The Avengers, and a silly scene reflecting a totally unrelated Oscar-winning film. There’s a major tonal shift about halfway through so jarring that the film becomes kind of enjoyable. It’s both funny and bizarre to watch as Venom calls out everything it wants to eat and calls Eddie a loser, but that it also feels like he and Eddie are the same, and that on its home planet, it too is a loser.
The story of Venom comes out of the Marvel Comics world, but this is not a Marvel film. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you might know some things that the movie never bothers to explain, like why Brock “got run out of New York,” if that happened in the comics, or that there is any Spider-Man connection at all. None of that information is in the film beyond that throwaway line and Hardy’s New York accent.
I want to say that the first scene featuring Hardy and his costar Michelle Williams was part of the reshoots. Maybe it was supposed to follow the 30-40 minutes cut from the final version of the film. I wonder what that section of the film was like, but I suppose it was somehow not as good as what we got. Venom is a movie during which a scientist watches a monitor in the lab and says, “It’s equalizing,” and it’s followed by a shot of the monitor displaying 10 boxes with the exact same information.
IMDB says the film was almost 2 hours but I thought it was shorter. I think the screen time for the actual film was a little more than 90 minutes, and additional time was included for the end credit scenes. Make of that what you will.