Review: “Venom” falls short in plot development, but entertains nonetheless


To a seasoned superhero fan, “Venom” is no atrocious “Iron Man 2,” but it certainly isn’t the one-in-a-million “Black Panther” either.

Despite critical reviews, “Venom” broke October opening records last weekend. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, known for “Zombieland” and “Gangster Squad,” the film placed first in the Box Office at a whopping $80,255,756. The first in a potential franchise, “Venom” also topped the opening weekend Box Office scores of Sony’s recent superhero disgrace “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

The film follows strange alien life forms, also known as “symbiotes,” which survive an unexplained spaceship crash to Earth, claiming human hosts in order to breathe on the oxygenated planet. Following a rough job termination, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is at the end of his wits when a scientist asks him to investigate a cryptic company handling the aliens. In his attempt to expose the truths at the labs, an alien fuses with Eddie. Together, the duo must work as a team to ensure their own survival even as humanity itself rests on the brink of destruction.

Yeah, it’s not exactly the most original plotline, and the execution leaves room for improvement. From start to finish, “Venom” is in no way wowing.

The supporting actors are painfully hard to watch, expressing a range of emotions from vaguely excited to mildly disappointed. Perhaps it’s the drab dialogue, but the characters were drier than saltine crackers. Hardy, in contrast, shines. Perhaps the best decision award-winning casting director John Papsidera could have made for this film was casting Hardy for the lead. His uncanny ability to switch from Venom to Eddie is stellar. His reactions are the funniest and most realistic of any superhero in Marvel’s expanding universe. His acting sparkles on screen.

However, the plot leaves much to be desired. After a chaotic crash sequence opener, the story drags into a baseless series of tedious events. The mess really kicks off once the villain reveals himself to be disreputable: a bland tyrant lacking purpose and ambition. Without a strong driving force, the plot crumbles. Even with a powerhouse of a lead actor, the audience can only stand so many chase scenes. New challenges stumble out of the blue, scrambling to fuel the action.

The blundering doesn’t end there. If you’re looking for excitable fighting, “Venom” sorely disappoints. Most of the action is limited to long, laborious chase scenes — in other words, excuses to film Hardy riding a motorcycle and extend runtime. The result is hard to follow, with the climactic battle swirling into a muddled soup of CGI.

In true modern superhero fashion, there are a few well-timed jokes, puns and crowd-pleasers. Outside of humor, the dialogue reeks of repetitive quips like an overripe banana. Some details are explained multiple times, droning on and on about the same facts, and others are glossed over entirely, as if they don’t even exist. It’s enough to put the audience to sleep.

All the same, the film signifies the best of the Marvel universe as well. Unlike typical superheroes, Venom is an anti-hero, exemplifying Sony’s attempt at new, unique material. Similar to other superheroes, Hardy’s character Eddie thirsts for justice and seeks to right human wrongs. Even as his life goes south, he pushes himself to the brink to save others. And then Venom controls a whole other side of Eddie. An alien on Earth by happenstance, Venom’s only motivation is its own self-interest, battling with Eddie’s morals. The conflict molded by two minds in one humanoid body creates a dynamic unusual in superhero films. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

In another bout of risk and reward, Venom has a much more artistic style than the normal superhero CGI monsters. At times, Venom is more of a painter’s imagination than supernatural slime. Then it eats someone’s head, and the reality check blindsides the audience.

Is “Venom” a cinematic masterpiece? No. But it is an entertaining superhero film. Critics will love to rip it apart, focusing on the poor writing, acting and plot, but the film is not a flop. Hardy’s performance, the Marvel-esque jokes and inventive ideas redeem the movie — albeit with room for improvement. With another movie no doubt on the way, we can cross our fingers and hope that Sony learns from its mistakes. For superhero fans craving a mindless action flick following the “Infinity War” drought, “Venom” provides an easy escape between the constantly replaying “Captain Marvel” trailer in the background.