Venom isn’t a terrible film but neither is it on a par with any of the recent offerings from the Marvel cinematic universe. Stan Lee (RIP bless his cotton socks) has an obligatory cameo appearance but don’t be fooled, this isn’t Marvel as we know it.
You’d expect the first (and only) showing of the film early on a Friday morning to be quiet, but here’s what the cinema looked like twenty-minutes or so before ‘curtains up’ (and note it’s the smallest screen in the complex):
It’s a Marvel film right, so why the poor turn out? Well it’s actually a Sony Pictures film in association with Marvel and I think most people knew already that we weren’t going to see the now ‘back in the MCU’ Spider-man going head to head with Venom. Plus it has already been on for a few weeks and there was a plethora of newer films to choose from.
Four other people turned up while the adverts and trailers were playing and so I was a pretty happy little bear cub with a row all to myself and no-one sitting anywhere near me.
The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer probably best known for his fun 2009 film Zombieland. Stan Lee isn’t actually the originator of the (relatively new) Venom character – that accolade goes to Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie (probably more usually associated with Iron Man). Indeed while I was watching the film I was reminded of the 1997 Spawn film (which incidentally will get a remake next year with Jamie Foxx in the mix).
With a 15 certificate I felt that the film was already starting off on the wrong foot. To my mind, especially given that the wholesome character of Spider-man was out of the picture, I was hoping for an 18-cert (R-rating for any American’s tuning in) film to do the horror angle justice. What we got instead was a storyline which heavily emphasises the basic goodness of Tom Hardy’s character Eddy Brock and plays down any dismembering and head eating that his Mr Hyde type alter-ego gets involved in.
The story is essentially a fairly standard plot-point-by-plot-point ‘technology is bad / this what happens when you meddle’ tale with one down on his luck good guy pitted against a bad guy who has tonnes of money and the support of everyone (played rather poorly by mis-cast Riz Ahmed – most easily recognised from his excellent turn in Rogue One). Michelle Williams (I know she’s done all sorts since then but I’ll always remember from Dawson’s Creek) provides the love interest but is pretty much the equivalent of Parker’s Sarah Jane.
The special effects, especially for the alien life-forms and the Venom character when he finally shows his twisted Spider-man/clown face, are very good, but the motorbike chase sequence felt a bit unoriginal and dare I say unrealistic with a bunch of CG drones flying around blowing shit up. The film ends up in well-trodden territory more often associated with DC films with a mano et mano fist (and tentacle, spike, and tooth) fight between two computer-generated characters before drawing to predictable close.
Tom Hardy is excellent. Tough action hero when he needs to be. Dazed and confused everyman when he needs to be. The lines of dialogue exchanged between Eddy Brock and his parasite (Venom) are very funny, and so his performance – as you’d expect – is the best bit of an otherwise rather mediocre film. No prizes for guessing what I would’ve liked to have seen – yup; Spider-man versus Venom – now that’s a film I worth the entrance fee.
Better than being at work on a Friday, but not as enjoyable as I would’ve liked.