Right from the opening credits, audiences are made aware that Venom is NOT a Marvel Studios movie, despite how much Sony would like you to believe the two are related. The familiar flippling comic book pages Marvel logo flashes on screen but with one big difference; the inclusion of “In Association With” above the Marvel font. Those three words make a huge difference apparently because despite the familiarity of Venom to comic book fans, there are things about the film that feel off including it’s drastic shifts in tone. It’s an absurd film in which Tom Hardy is the only one aware of the fact and fully embraces it. Like a runaway train, Venom teeters on the edge of the rails, inches away from becoming an absolute wreck. Like it or hate it, you won’t be able to to look away.
Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is set to interview the questionable CEO of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), about his company’s rocket division for a simple story but ends ups questioning him about alleged human experiments that have resulted in multiple deaths. Following their confrontation, Eddie is subsequently fired from his job and loses his girlfriend, Life Foundation lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), whose computer he hacked in order to get information about the experiments. Months pass, and a despondent Eddie finds a new lead that he believes will finally bring the truth about Drake to light. Driven by revenge, Eddie breaks into the Life Foundation’s labs and discovers alien creatures called symbiotes that Drake has been trying to bond with humans but to no avail.Coming into contact the symbiote called Venom, he finds out that two are a perfect match for each other. While Eddie initially wants nothing to do with Venom, the symbiote shows him that they’re stronger together and how they can bring Drake and his whole company down. With his newfound powers, Eddie learns that sometimes it’s good to be bad.
Venom’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t know what type of film it wants to be as it struggles to find balance between horror and comedy, with the constant shift in tones making it quite confusing. On one hand, the symbiotes can be absolutely terrifying as they infect and take over their human hosts. With the exception of the final fight between symbiotes that boils down to a CGI mess, the action scenes are done well. Venom is a beast and has no problem ripping limbs off or eatting heads, much to Eddie’s disgust. Then again, his constant joking with Eddie doesn’t scream “fear me” either. Dialogue, like the “turd in the wind” line from the trailers, makes you wonder if the script was written by a 16-year-old who grew up watching nothing but MTV in the 90s.
That being said, everything isn’t all bad. Tom Hardy is clearly having fun in the role, as both Eddie Brock and the voice of Venom. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic between the two as Venom takes over Eddie’s body. The motorcycle chase through the streets of downtown San Francisco (Atlanta) are exhilarating as Eddie sees what Venom is capable of for the first time. And despite being confused by the constant change in tone, Hardy does such a convincing job with both characters that it’s hard not to laugh at the ridiculous moments. It’s a shame that everyone else wasn’t on the same page.
Venom is a superhero film out of sync. It has plenty of great individual ideas going for it, yet when you put it all together it just becomes laughably awkward. There’s just enough glue to keep everything together, although it could have easily fallen apart at any moment. Venom isn’t exactly a turd in a wind, but it definitely doesn’t smell right.