Wow...Something different...Something ACTUALLY different. No, Venom is no masterpiece. It's not perfect. It's not quite as great as I hoped it would be, but...It's ACTUALLY something different. And in an age where Marvel and DC give us the same comic book movie 500 times a year, that's incredibly high praise. Let me clarify; despite what you've been told, Venom is not a superhero movie. Venom is, at its heart, a horror comedy monster flick. It has much more in common in its characters, story, tone, comedy and action sequences with An American Werewolf in London or Evil Dead than, say, The Avengers or The Dark Knight. That's a wildly inventive and different take on the genre and enough to give it some much needed, genuine diversity.
As I said, the film definitely has its problems. Riz Ahmed's Carlton Drake is a terrible villain, one of the worst in recent comic book movie history. I'd like to say that he's better than most of the easily disposable MCU villains, but even compared to them, he's still low tier. Drake is your typical "evil corporate bad guy", but Ahmed is neither charismatic, over-the-top or intimidating enough to make it really work. The real shame is that the movie easily could have made him work as a perfect adversary for Hardy's Brock; a legally invulnerable, corrupt millionaire going up against an unlucky, lower class reporter with a chip on his shoulder. However, this dynamic is never really explored as much as it should be and, by the end of the day, his arc just ends in yet another case of 2 black CGI monsters smashing into each other.
The neutered PG-13 rating also hurts the film significantly. To its credit, the film is surprisingly violent (To the point where my theater occasionally gasped) and there are moments of genuine suspense and terror here. However, at the end of the day, this is still the kind of movie where someone can get sliced in half with a blade arm and not leave a drop of blood. The edits are clear and blatant and I couldn't help but occasionally cringe at the obvious censor job Sony did to get the film at a more marketable PG-13. Here's hoping for an R-rated Director's Cut.
I must say, Tom Hardy is perfect, as both Eddie Brock and Venom. As Eddie Brock, he's likable, goofy, charmingly dorky and incredibly sympathetic. As Venom, he's darkly hilarious, witty and commands an incredible screen presence. And his chemistry with Michelle Williams' Anne Weying (As both Venom and Eddie Brock) is off the charts. As somebody who frequently finds love stories in comic book films to be tepid and half hearted, this may be my favorite romance in a comic book film. It has its frequent adorable and sweet moments, but it isn't afraid to cover the more painful and stressful parts of their relationship either. It felt way more genuine to me than any other love story I've seen in a superhero movie. There's a scene in the 3rd act of the film involving Eddie, Michelle and the symbiote that is simultaneously sweepingly romantic, absolutely hilarious and incredibly bizarre. Without spoiling it, all I can say is that whether you love it or hate it, you won't forget that moment any time soon.
Michelle Williams is fantastic in her own right too. She does an excellent job portraying Weying's spunk, confidence and intelligence and Williams brings both charisma and emotional vulnerability to the role. Weying herself is a surprisingly strong character as well; she's arguably even more proactive than Eddie is and I loved watching her arc from distant and condescending to more empathetic and compassionate. I've missed the days when love interests in comic book movies had genuine character arcs, so Williams' Weying was another breath of fresh air in a comic book movie already full of them.
The comedy is definitely the highlight. This is by far the funniest comic book film I've seen to date, it puts both Deadpool movies to shame. It's very reminiscent of a John Landis or Sam Raimi horror comedy from the 80s. Complete insanity in the best way. There's a particular scene in a restaurant that had me laughing so hard my lungs hurt.
As for the story, again, it's not particularly deep, but its clever in its own way, and has its admitted emotional moments regarding Anne and Eddie's relationship. The film works as a very interesting anti-Spider-Man movie; Eddie's irresponsibility is as essential to the character as Peter's responsibility and the movie tells a very compelling journey of a deeply self absorbed man having to learn to finally put the people around him above his own self interests when the chips are down. Even Eddie's relationship with his suit serves as a dark mirror to Spider-Man; in Homecoming, Peter has to learn that he doesn't need the suit to be a hero. In Venom, Eddie needs the friendship of his own suit to save the day.
Venom is not the best comic book movie ever. It's not quite as great as I had hoped. But it's the farthest thing from bad. It has more heart and brains than critics are giving it credit for and it's a desperately needed original take on a genre that's admittedly been suffering from repetition, exhaustion and over-saturation. It's definitely more interesting, bold and rewatchable than 80% of the easily disposable and forgettable MCU films. It'll probably be more interesting, bold and rewatchable than any of the DCEU films post-Justice League (Including Justice League), which may as well be MCU-lite. I think I'm gonna go watch it again.
(Also, very minor point, but that Eminem song was awful. It felt like a Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer song, only unironic and played completely straight. It was actually lowkey embarrassing to listen to.)