By Lucas Owens ’19
Venom is a movie that at times is a tonal mess, and at other times is a slog through exposition, but ultimately becomes what I hoped for it to be around the halfway point of the film: an insanely fun relationship between a man and a slimy CGI monster.
Venom’s first half is what, in the end, weighs down the film. All of the plot details feel necessary to establishing what Venom will become, but the way the film gets there is bogged down by trying to push symbolism and drainy ideas onto the audience. One scene that shows this exactly is when Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the main antagonist of the film, is speaking to a group of students about his totally-not-identical-to Elon Musk tech endeavors when a young girl speaks up about a question out of turn. Drake then goes into detail about how it is important to not silence those who want to be heard, before ultimately leaving the room without even hearing the student’s question. That scene represents to me what in its entirety the first half of Venom feels like.
However, thanks to some absolutely amazing character acting from Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock once he’s ingrained with the Venom symbiote, the second half of this film becomes a very fun and exciting jaunt into a man with something else controlling his body. This leads to some hilarious scenes, including one where Eddie jumps into a lobster tank in a restaurant before biting the head off a very living lobster. Venom and Eddie’s relationship is, in the long run, what saves this movie from simply being boring to being an insanely fun movie.
The plot, nonetheless, falls flat of meeting the expected benchmark given by various Marvel Cinematic Universe films and leads to some weird moments where character motivations switch in an instant with only small explanations. This story ultimately feels harshly compacted into its slightly under two-hour runtime and could have been given much more room to breathe in the second and third acts. Some things feel like they happen much too quickly, and some parts drag on for just a little too long, leading to a film that has heavy pacing issues.
Despite what Hardy brings to the table as an actor, most of the other performances in this film play off as belonging in a different movie. Riz Ahmed plays as a very generic villain, with included henchman Roland Treece (Scott Haze), often times weighed down by a script which is driving him to be that stereotypical Silicon Valley tech head, and an even more uninteresting Riot, who was not fleshed out nearly enough except for some lines about “bringing back a symbiote army to conquer the world”. Michelle Williams as Eddie’s love interest Anne Weying tries to be a different kind of leading woman in a male-dominated superhero movie, but falls flat of that goal on numerous occasions. One performance that surprised me in some parts was that of actress Jenny Slate as Dr. Skirth, who plays her as a very courageous whistleblower and, in the end, somebody who sacrifices themselves for the greater good of the world.
When all is said and done, I feel if you go into Sony Pictures’ Venom with an open mind and a willingness to laugh at the weird dialogue bogging down the first half of the movie, you will have a good time at a very funny comic book movie.