Venom without Spider-Man! How absurd is that?
Apparently, it's not that ludicrous. For many fans of Spider-Man who grew up reading Spider-Man comics and watching the Spider-Man cartoons, the idea must have came across as something completely insane - since Venom is notably one of Peter Park's arch enemies. However, in execution, the film isn't all bad, despite what other critics have been saying. 'Venom' is in its own way a unique film that Sony needed to stand out from their cinematic rivals the MCU and the DCEU, given that they plan on this film kicking off their own cinematic universe revolving around Spider-Man related characters.
STORY & CHARACTERS
'Venom' revolves around Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock go through his personal hell, losing his job, his finance and his apartment - basically, his life is ruined, and here comes this Symbiote that Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) brought back from space to aid him as he gets his life back in order. Majority of the story focuses on the dynamic between Brock and Venom which is one of the highlights of the film - the odd chemistry they have plays well into the action sequences as well as provide comedic relief. It's clear from the moment Venom and Brock started interacting that all the skepticism surrounding Tom Hardy's casting as Eddie Brock was unfounded, as I could not think of anyone better to lead this film. Hardy brings an adorable charm in the imitate moments of the film, such as those involving his ex-finance Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), and his natural likability and goofy nature surprisingly provides the perfect comedic relief during scenes when Venom is savaging beating Carlton Drake's agents asses and chomping off people's heads. Unfortunately, Hardy's charm can't make up for all the story problems in 'Venom'.
One of the more glaring issues I have with the film is the motivation for Venom wanting to stay on the planet and be partners with Brock. The film's only attempt to set this up was during the scene where he climbs to the top of the building that Brock used to work at. Venom looks at the view of the city and admires its beauty, saying that it's not all that bad. Other than that, I can't think of another instance that could have changed Venom's mind, one strong enough to make him turn against his kind. Towards the end of the film, Venom reveals to Brock that he too is a "loser" and believes that the two of them together could be something more for this world. It's baffling that the writers actually thought that this was sufficient to justify the actions of a creature like Venom who the film showed from the start to be a ruthless killer. Another instance where the writing fails the character is during the scene in Anne's car where Venom just casually reveals that he sound frequencies in the 4 to 6 thousand hertz range is lethal to him, along with fire. The problem there was that there was no foundation for trust between Brock and Venom then - in execution it just came out completely random. However, what started out as an absurd scene turned into a heartfelt moment between Eddie and Anne as he listens to Venom and apologises to Anne for what he had done to her. That alone set the stage for severity of the final act and the development their relationship in the future.
Anne Weying is a particularly interesting character that I grew to love as the movie went on. She started out as a basic love interest that got taken away from Brock, but as the film went on, we see more of her and how she handles tough situations. When Brock went to her apartment after the break up, she wasn't hesitant to shut him down when he asked if there was a way they could work through it. She stands as her own woman throughout the movie. Joining with Venom to save Eddie from Carlton Drake (one of the best scenes in the movie), her reaction when she found out about Venom and Brock, and of course her helping Venom and Brock during their final battle with Riot and Drake. The writers did a great job in writing the character and not relying on cliches. Her relationship with Brock was one I didn't care much for at the beginning of the film, but towards the end, I'm interested, and with her already experiencing what it's like to have that power, I'd be down for more She-Venom in the future.
As much as I want to, I can't skip on discussing the film's primary antagonist - Carlton Drake. In my opinion, Drake is worst character in the film. Said to be a genius, Drake showed no thought in his decisions - you would think someone as smart as he is would make smarter decisions that be led by anger and desire. From start to finish, his motivations are clear - he despises humans and desires to achieve the next level of evolution. But why? Whistle-blower Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) said that it was because he believed that the Earth is dying and he is trying to save the human race by looking to space. Again, I ask: But Why? What's motivating him to take such drastic actions? Why does he have such a god-complex? I don't believe the film ever addressed any of these questions, at least not one that I would accept. Drake is by far the least memorable character in the entire film, even Dan Lewis is far more interesting, and all he did was do his job as a doctor. Carlton Drake is the poster boy for throwaway villains.
Let's not forget the 'Venom' is an action film. I'd say 99% of all comic book inspired movies rely heavily on their action sequences, with the 1% going to films like 'Watchmen' and 'Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice' - whose stories deal with more depth, often dealing with tough philosophical questions rather than the emotional ones. The fights in 'Venom' are fast paced, and while i've read that some have called it messy, I personally found them to be perfect. It's not too fast that we can't see what's going on. The only time the speed became a (slight) problem is during the final act where Riot was churning out weapon after weapon against Venom. Even then, I didn't have a problem with it because of how beautiful the fight was one. That final scene was all serious, as it should be. I have to admit that when Brock said "Let's go save the world", i did cringe a little, because that line was just so bad given the context and also that there was no foundation for his character to say that. But everything else in that final battle is so well done, I almost immediately got over it. Credit goes to Ruben Fleisher who directed the movie, and hopefully he will stay on for the future films.
I do have one nit-pick about a particular action scene in 'Venom', and that is the chase scene. In my opinion, that scene was far too long. The chase is perfect to give viewers a display of venom's powers and showcase some abilities that we would otherwise be unable to see - like making a sharp turn while grabbing onto a lamppost, but midway through I found myself asking why this is still going on. And since we're on that, Drake's men are recklessly chasing down a civilian in San Francisco, bombing cars and shoot lasers from drones. Does no one in that company see a PR problem here? This issue goes back to poor writing, which I have already touched on above, so I won't go on - but i'm sure you get it.
Overall, this isn't at all a bad movie. Far from it. 'Venom' may have some writing issues and a little bit of pacing one, but when it comes to superhero origin stories, it has all more or less been done. That makes it easy for me to look past the main problem I have with this movie - the motivation for Venom. Now that this movie is over, I'm excited to see what stories they come up with. The sequels are where the writers can literally go in any direction and not relay on tropes that origin stories need. The post-credit scene has already hinted at Carnage being the primary antagonist for the film, and that is enough to entice and excite all Spider-Man fans.