In preparation for the highly-anticipated release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the potential appearance of Tom Hardy’s Venom, I thought it’d be a good idea to catch up on what the character has been up to so far. Rather than doubling up and giving each a seperate post, I thought I’d blend the two and give each a more concise mini review… so here goes!
Venom makes his big-screen return after the mess that was Spider-Man 3 (2007), this time with Tom Hardy in the drivers seat and no Spider-Man to be found. This Sony-led MCU(?) entry follows a struggling reporter, Eddie Brock, whose world is turned upside down when he is suddenly bonded to an alien Symbiote, Venom. Together, they must learn to balance their control over the host body and put a stop to the dangers threatening Earth and its people.
Part of the reason why I never opted to check out Venom in 2018 has to do with the very mixed reviews and questionable reactions, playing into my ‘already skeptical’ mindset. In hindsight, I wish I’d seen the movie when it came out because this is a fun, action-packed and decently entertaining anti-hero film. The big draw of Venom, and the element that works best, is the dynamic between Eddie and Venom. Their banter is what elevates the film and makes it enjoyable, even in scenes where it otherwise wouldn’t have been. It plays heavily into the comedic aspects, resulting in a number of genuinely funny moments, and even shows how their bond grows and evolves over time, with their banter becoming less hostile and more playful.
In terms of the story, it leaves much to be desired. It’s a very competent narrative that serves the characters’ journeys quite well, but some moments and decisions feel a little uninspired – as if they’re somewhat forced just to speed things up. Much of what Michelle Williams‘ character has to do, especially in the latter half, feels random and out of place. It rushes through some of her character’s growth to where her understanding of what’s going on flips in a matter of one or two scenes. That being said, despite being a pretty familiar narrative with a couple of holes here and there, it’s still an entertaining watch. Even the action, of which there’s a decent amount of, is pretty fast-paced, creative and engaging. Seeing how Venom’s powers are explored and used in a variety of chase sequences and close-quarters combat scenes is one of the highlights for sure.
In the end, Venom is a great watch. It’s a fun, entertaining and satisfying action film that’s enhanced by the banter between Eddie and Venom. Tom Hardy is great, and despite Michelle Williams’ character feeling a little out of place, she does a good job too. Riz Ahmed plays a fine villain, but he’s pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things – not making much of an impact. The absence of Spider-Man is definitely not felt as Venom is set up as an engaging character on his own.
VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE (2021)
In Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Andy Serkis takes over in the directors chair and delivers a film with plenty of potential – almost none of which is capitalised on. This story follows Eddie (Tom Hardy) and Venom just getting their life back on track when Cletus Cassidy (Woody Harrelson) becomes host to a Symbiote, Carnage, and starts unleashing “carnage” on the city.
The most baffling creative decision has to be the almost 90 minute runtime, something that’s almost entirely unheard of in the superhero genre. This would have been a fantastic creative decision if it was packed with a fast-moving narrative and non-stop thrills the whole way through. However, rather than being a thrill-ride, it plays out like a regular three act superhero film just condensed to 90 minutes. Right at the beginning, it seems to be moving a lot quicker in pace, but then it just slows right down to deliver the usual first-act setup for a solid 30 minutes. By the time any real action and conflict begins, we’re 45 minutes into the movie (half way) and have just spent the entire time on setup and character development that’s just not that interesting. It’s a major misstep, with the first half being on the borderline of boring.
However, I will say that what this sequel does do well is double down on the entertaining Eddie and Venom banter. That stuff is back in full force and it’s hands down the best part of the film. But it just goes to show that despite their dialogue being entertaining and genuinely comedic, it’s not enough to make those early moments fun. Once it gets into the climax, the combat between Venom and Carnage is top notch. The final set-piece feels a little tense, but it’s too little too late when it comes to saving the film.
This sequel strangely introduces Naomi Harris as Shriek. I say “strangely” because she’s entirely out of place here. Her character comes out of nowhere and plays a pretty significant role in the film. It’s confusing to me, the decision to set up two new characters in a film that’s only 90 minutes long – as it doesn’t leave nearly enough time to flesh out both characters. Naomi is fine in the role, but the character feels oddly placed throughout the entire movie. That being said, Woody Harrelson is a menacing villain. He portrays the lunacy of Cletus Cassidy really well and definitely makes up for the lacklustre villain of Venom. If only he was in a better movie, she could’ve had more time to shine.
In the end, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a major disappointment, with the only carnage being in the writing room. Tom Hardy really is awesome as the titular character, and the dialogue between Eddie and Venom is a big plus, but the execution of the story is such a misstep that his lead performance doesn’t leave as large of a positive mark. Bordering on being boring, it’s hard to be optimistic about this one, but if you’re looking to be up to date on the character’s journey, there’s some genuine enjoyment to be had in the second half. I’d say to come for the concept and stay for the post-credits scene – which is more exciting than the movie itself!