Venom feels like very much feels like a relic of the past that hasn’t bothered to adapt to the superhero genre’s changing times.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Summary: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.
It’s been almost twenty years since the 1-2-3 punch of Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man and while those movies are good in their own way, the genre has changed a lot in that span of time. Of course it has, because that is the way of things (tastes change, as does the various forms of cinematic language that are used to construct these films). Unfortunately, it seems that Sony and all of the people involved believe that time has stood still, and they can keep doing the same things that worked back then today and it really does not work. The entire movie feels like a blast from the past in the worst possible way. The tone is all over the place with moments that are supposed to be funny, and other moments where the audience will break into hysterical laughter. Even when it’s really a moment that was supposed to be serious. The tonal yoyo-ing makes it hard to take anything seriously, and every moment that is supposed to emotionally resonate falls flat.
There is a ton of set up at the beginning and it throws the pacing off. It makes the first act feel overly long, the second act is all over the place, and the third feels rushed. The movie makes the mistake that the earlier superhero movies did – taking no time to develop the villains. There isn’t any reason to care about Riot. His motivations are simply “I am a comic book villain 101” while Riz Ahmed is utterly wasted as Carlton Drake. We see that he has motivations and we understand why he is doing what he is doing, but there isn’t any moral ambiguity to him. He might be talking about doing the best for humanity, but we also see him sacrificing people and not even blinking. It is a waste of a performance and by the time Riot gets involved no one cares and it makes no sense.
Then there is the problem of Venom himself: he is just not very interesting. Half of the movie is star Tom Hardy reacting to a voice that we can barely understand, and a bunch of jokes that only work maybe half of the time. Venom tells Eddie to do things like apologize to Annie or do anything like character growth. At one point Venom says that it has changed but it’s all tell and no show. In fact, Venom literally says “I have changed” and we are supposed to take it at face value. Then the is a big emotional moment toward the end that ends up falling completely flat because we haven’t had enough time with Eddie and Venom to believe they have any sort of connection. The movie, once Venom gets involved anyway, takes place over the course of a day or two. Much like movies that try to make us believe a romantic relationship that rushes to the finish line this movie does the exact same thing. That dynamic between Eddie and Venom is the backbone of the movie and it is broken.
Venom is a bad movie but it is bad in a way that feels lazy and unfocused rather than rage inducing. You’ll wonder if you watched a movie that came out twenty years ago rather than today and then promptly forget about it a few hours later.
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