‘Venom’ is Toxic Without Spider-Man

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Published October 10, 2018
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The Montclarion
A symbiote takes over Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, in Sony Pictures' latest film, "Venom." Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

After years of reboots with different actors and new characters, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios sealed a deal that would welcome Spider-Man into the Marvel cinematic universe and mostly free him from Sony’s grasp. So, what does Sony do? They turn to the next best thing with “Venom.”

Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. Something that makes him so great is the array of supervillains he comes across during his time as the friendly neighborhood hero. Venom is one villain that has not only struck fear into the web slinger’s heart but also to comic book readers all over.

I was opposed to the idea of Venom having his own movie, especially since Spider-Man would be missing from it. However, I was rooting for this movie to do well and was curious to see how it would play out.

To give some background on the character, Venom is a villain who was created when an alien substance, called a symbiote, originally bonded with Peter Parker and caused his strength to increase. Spider-Man later removes the symbiote suit when he discovers that the alien wished to permanently bond with him. After becoming detached from the hero, the symbiote finds Eddie Brock, a depressed journalist that blames his downfall on Parker. Sharing the same rage and hatred for Spider-Man, the symbiote bonded with Eddie, transforming him into the monstrous villain that is known today.

The film took that origin story, threw out the important parts with Spider-Man and kept the rest. “Venom,” directed by Ruben Fleischer and written by Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel, follows Eddie, played by Tom Hardy, a TV journalist that goes after Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed, the suspicious founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating the lab, Eddie bonds with one of the symbiotes and is exposed to super-human powers.

There were some aspects of this movie that I liked. The action scenes were entertaining at times, watching the symbiotes take over their hosts was terrifying. The venom symbiote was both menacing and hilarious as he interacted with Eddie.

However, there were many parts of this movie that I did not enjoy at all. The supporting actors were bland. Michelle Williams’ talent was wasted on a love interest that had zero chemistry with Hardy, and Ahmed played a cliche and boring villain. The relationship Eddie had with the Venom symbiote was at times comical, but overall it was just bizarre. Hardy also delivered an awkward performance that seemed to belong in a comedy rather than a villain’s stand-alone movie.

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Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock in “Venom.” Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The symbiote speaks to Eddie in his head, constantly berating him and calling him a loser. This dynamic is funny on occasion, but it is never shown how Eddie would begin to appreciate his alien partner, especially when the film wants to portray them as codependent. This comedic relationship seems completely unnecessary and the film would benefit if a more serious direction was taken.

The relationship between Eddie and the symbiote seems to be done much better in the comics. Eddie enjoys the power and uses it to go after Spider-Man. The symbiote shares this passion, which creates a bond that the audience can believe in more.

Sony marketed the character as an antihero, but Venom’s actions in the movie portray him as more of a hero that was forced to follow the lead of the symbiote, in a sort of “Little Shop of Horrors” way. In the film, Eddie was never a vengeful character looking for something to help him punish the person he blames for his misfortune but rather a down-on-his-luck guy who treated the symbiote as an annoying illness.

As a fan of comic books and superheroes, I always love movies that aren’t especially good — take “Daredevil” and “Fantastic Four” as examples. I can see “Venom” falling in the same guilty-pleasure category with those movies, as I was surprised to discover my theater erupt in applause when the credits began to roll. However, I sincerely did not enjoy watching this movie.

“Venom” is a messy, bizarre film filled with weak dialogue and tonal issues. When Venom is shown in his full form, which is a pretty awesome and accurate depiction of the character, I can’t help but imagine him fighting Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Having Venom and the web-head together on screen would result in a superior story.

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