Review: Venom (2018)




Ruben Fleischer


Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel


1h 52m


Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language

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Superhero fatigue hasn’t quite taken hold yet, but films like this won’t do the genre any favors. The film stars Tom Hardy as the popular anti-hero Venom as he tries to stop other symbiotes from killing all life on the planet.

Deep in space, a quartet of symbiotic aliens has found its way onto an Earth exploration vessel operated by entrepreneur Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). After that vessel crashes in its return to Earth, with all of its crew dead, Drake retrieves the surviving symbiotes and brings them back to his American facility where he plans to fuse them with human hosts in an experiment to find a solution to global disease and the human destruction of the environment.

Already suspicious of Drake and his rumored experimentation on unsuspecting human guinea pigs, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) breaks into Drake’s facility to examine these potentially dangerous symbiotes only to find himself the unwitting host to one named Venom. As he struggles to gain control over his invasive parasite, one of the other symbiotes, named Riot, that escaped the crash in Malaysia treks across the world in search of his fellow aliens and to seek a way off the planet so they can find the rest of their kin and bring them back to feast on the people of Earth.

Like Warner Bros. with their DC properties and Fox with their Fantastic Four attempts, Sony has shown an almost comical incompetence in translating these cinematic properties to the big screen. After the disastrous The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the studio took a break, cancelling its Sinister Six plans only to cave to Disney’s pressure to get Spider-Man back in their stable of characters, and produced the formulaic Spider-Man: Homecoming along with starting work on a new slate of films. The first, and unlikely last, is Venom, a hamfisted film that trades on Ruben Fleischer’s post-Zombieland mediocrity to create this tone deaf rendering of the well known character.

Venom takes myriad genre tropes and pulls them together in awkward ways in a film that never seems sure what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a brooding drama about a misanthrope trying to stop corporate malfeasance? Is it a comic take on a mental battle between two entities sharing the same body? Is it a mixed-genre attempt to cave to multiple factions while making boat loads of money? The latter is probably most accurate, but all three concepts can be found within the film.

Venom and Eddie Brock are meant to be an antihero version of characters like Spider-Man and Iceman, wise-cracking superheroes who save the day. Fellow Marvel antihero Deadpool is the closest comparison, but Venom is a lot less ludicrous. The problem with the Sony rendition of the character is that they insisted on a PC-13 rating when Venom is an R-rated character, also like Deadpool.

As it struggles to find a tone that fits the film, it isn’t until the post-climax scenes that Venom genuinely comes alive giving the audience the kind of film they might have preferred with the clever banter between Brock and his inner demon making for an engaging finale. Were the series to continue, as a strong box office performance might suggest, the film really needs to re-focus itself and try to find an adequate balance in tones and perhaps find a way to shift into R-rated territory, even if it means a slight dip in audience attendance. As Deadpool and its sequel proved, there is a larger than expected market for that type of film.

Oscar Prospects

Potentials: Visual Effects

Review Written

November 14, 2018

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