Venom – Review

What do you do when you are putting together your first standalone film in your new cinematic universe?  You acquire the services of Tom Hardy.  This is a pivotal time for Sony.  Their deal with Marvel Studios / Disney in regards to Spider-man is somewhat convoluted and seems best understood using a venn diagram.  There is the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently headlined by the Avengers.  Then there is the “Sony’s Marvel Universe”.  Spider-man apparently serves as the only link between the two.  So Marvel Studios / Disney gets to use Spider-man in the avengers films and in turn Sony can use that as a launch pad for their own film universe going forward.

Enter Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, is Sony’s first chance to shine on their own.  The story serves as an origin story for Venom.  Riz Ahmed plays a tech giant CEO named Carlton Drake who does not have a moral compass.  Among his many projects includes space exploration and a recent mission has brought back alien life.  These organisms are amorphous and require joining with some type of earth life in order to survive on earth, hence they are termed symbiotes.

On the other side of the train tracks is Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy.  Brock spent time as an investigative reporter, digging up dark stories the powerful wished remained buried.  After an episode where following his moral compass leads to pretty much everything in his life going wrong, Brock ends up trying to investigate Carlton Drake, when a freak accident leads to his contact with Venom.  The rest of the film is pure insanity.

Really, this is a one man (well, one man and one symbiote) show.  Hardy is simply phenomenal.  For someone with so many talents and gifts, he really does well playing such an average and even somewhat degenerate Eddie Brock.  Things only get better for him once Venom comes along.

Unfortunately, Hardy is really all there is to the film as he pretty much has to bear the entire weight on his own.  Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake character is hyper-generic.  He’s billed as a sort of wannabe Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Elon Musk type but with dark side.  In reality the character is a mere caricature, and Riz Ahmed’s lackluster performance doesn’t help.  The character needed more depth and it needed to be played by someone with more presence.  The rest of the supporting cast isn’t much better.

If you can watch Venom with a mindset intent on enjoying the chaos and insanity, you will enjoy it.  This definitely isn’t the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and you can often tell where a lot of creative editing was utilized to keep it PG-13.  Really, Sony just needed to not have a dud.  Looking foward, if you can put Tom Hardy in a movie with Spider-man and/or whatever it looks like they are planning for the future with Woody Harrelson, things are only going to get better.


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