Film Review: VENOM by Jo Hyde


Venom has taken a lot of heat in early reviews. Usually, I don’t like to read reviews before I see a film, but it was almost unavoidable.

Therefore, I went into the theater expecting very little, but it was better than I thought it would be. I can give you two reasons to see Venom: Tom Hardy and the second half of the film.

Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a brash, barely likable investigative reporter who, at the beginning of the film, has a fairly successful career going in San Francisco and is happily living with his fiancée, Anne (Michelle Williams). He’s a do-anything-for=the-sake-of-the-story kind of guy, and that ends up costing him, well, everything. He’s at rock bottom when he receives a communication from a scientist, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), who works for Brock’s self-chosen nemesis, Life Foundation.

Life Foundation, headed by its questionable founder Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is experimenting with symbiotes, alien life-forms whose amorphous, liquid-like shapes need a host, human or animal, to survive on Earth. Dr. Skirth has become alarmed by the dangerous turn the experiments have taken. Through a series of catastrophic events, Brock ends up sharing his body with Venom, thereby acquiring the being’s superpowers. Another symbiote, Riot, also finds a human host, but I’ll leave that for you to find out if you see the film.

The film’s opening feels promising as a spacecraft crashes into a Malaysian jungle in the middle of the night. A symbiote escapes and leaps from one human host to another. Meanwhile, the audience is stuck watching an annoying Eddie Brock self-destruct in San Francisco. The pace of the film becomes unbearably slow, and the story feels disjointed. Hardy’s character, at this point, is just aggravating.

The narrative finally gains steam during its second half when Brock/Venom argue and fight their way out of one dangerous situation after another. Their “conversations” are hilarious and provide much-needed humor. Hardy also voices Venom, and his performance is at its best when “he” becomes “we.”

Michelle Williams is a fine actress, but she seems wasted in this film. She has a few good scenes near the end, but she mostly feels superfluous. Riz Ahmed’s villain, Carlton Drake, comes off as tepid at best, and I’ve always said that an action film is only as good as its villain.

Venom’s plot is generic: An ominous, superior life form from outer space desires to take over Earth. Too much of the dialogue is trite, and too many of the sweeping, cinematic shots (accompanied by rock music) seem dated and tired.

Nothing new or inventive here.

If you’re a Tom Hardy fan, Venom is worth seeing. If you make it through the first half, the second half is so much more entertaining.

Be sure to stay for the two after-credits scenes. – Jo Hyde