There has been a lot of (mostly negative) buzz about this movie. For one, there was much umbrage when Sony announced that after porting Spider-Man over to the MCU, they were still going to hoard the remaining Spider-Man IP and barrel forward with a raft of movies about second-tier characters, denying us the chance to see Marvel make an actually good Venom movie. When the trailers started dropping people were weirded out by Tom Hardy’s dodgy accent - and truth be told, it’s really anyone’s guess why he chose to spend the movie doing a Rain Man impression. Director Ruben Fleischer has been coasting off of his one good movie (Zombieland), and has a history of creating monsterous turds despite a deep well of talent and potential (Gangster Squad).
And, indeed, the people making this movie have clearly done their best to fuck it up. The villain is awful. The action sequences are absolutely horrendous, frequently so dark and confused that you legitimately cannot tell what is going on. During a chase scene in a woods, I actually started counting how long each shot lasted before it cut to another equally terrible shot, and none lasted longer than 2 seconds. Michelle Williams is wasted. Character beats and plot points make little or no sense at all.
Yet despite their best efforts, the movie is not terrible. It’s quite entertaining, for the simple fact that Venom (voiced by Tom Hardy) and Eddie Brock have good chemistry. Vox nailed it in their review: “Venom is a fun, twisted rom-com disguised as a bad superhero movie.” From the moment Tom Hardy’s weird reporter character starts to hear this booming, diabolical voice in his head you know the fix is in. They are great together.
The problem with this movie is that the people making it did not seem to realize where their bread was buttered. It takes a needlessly long time before Venom even shows up in the film. Almost all of that set-up is dead-weight, and whats worse, it takes time away from exploring some of the weirder, darker, funnier and more interesting things they could have done with the Eddie Brock-Venom symbiote relationship. According to Tom Hardy, fully 40 minutes of that kind of stuff was cut from the film. And for what? So a cardboard villain character could waste time shouting evil orders at people?
The fact that Ruben Fleischer sort of accidentally made a good film is proof that the DNA of a much better film is hidden in this one, if only it had been developed better. The design of Venom is very good, but the film definitely should have been bloodier and more violent. How on Earth do you have Venom bite someone’s head off without showing a single drop of blood? It’s stuff like that where the film handicapped itself. I suppose if we drilled down into the internal politics of its making, we would find that a lot of this was studio notes from Sony trying to make it as broad and accessible as possible. The result is a movie that is sort of entertaining and funny when it lets itself be, but at other times is a trash bag full of garbage.