Some time in the far future, there will be deep debates about the impact the Spider-Man universe had on superhero cinema.
First film to ever have a $100 million dollar weekend? ‚ÄúSpider-Man.‚ÄĚ One of the greatest superhero movies of all-time? ‚ÄúSpider-Man 2‚ÄĚ must be in that conversation. A superhero played by a Brit more than once on screen? Your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, of course. A hero so iconic Marvel Studios just had to get him back (in a shared capacity) from Sony‚Äôs grasp? That would be one Peter Benjamin Parker.
‚ÄúVenom,‚ÄĚ directed by Ruben Fleischer, at no point now, or 100 years from now, will ever be a part of those debates. It should also be noted that this is not a Marvel Studios film. Whatever agreement Sony and Marvel Studios had for ‚ÄúSpider-Man: Homecoming‚ÄĚ and future sequels (‚ÄúSpider-Man: Far From Home‚ÄĚ and beyond) has nothing to do with ‚ÄúVenom.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúVenom‚ÄĚ is all Sony.
This film, starring perhaps the most popular villain in Spider-Man‚Äôs deep and legendary rogue‚Äôs gallery, isn‚Äôt deep, is very predictable and might even be the type of movie that will add fuel to¬†the words of grumpy film critics who are tired of superhero films.
There are no plot twists ‚ÄĒ you can see everything coming from a mile away, despite the hilly San Francisco setting. Michelle Williams, who plays Eddie‚Äôs love interest, Anne, seems to be around just for one sure-to-be-talked-about moment and to make Eddie feel like a loser for being dumped (he deserves it). The villain is not the antagonist Venom fans want to see (more on him in a minute) and feels exactly like the type of template ‚Äúhe‚Äôs not going to be around for long‚ÄĚ movie-supervillains we‚Äôve seen before. And where the heck is the giant white spider logo? That‚Äôs the best part of Venom‚Äôs whole look.
But despite all that, ‚ÄúVenom‚ÄĚ is surprisingly enjoyable. One might almost feel a sense of guilt gushing over ‚ÄúVenom.‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs the kind of movie you‚Äôll instantly call your friends about to see if they liked it too, just to check and see if there might be something wrong with you.
Leading the way in your confusing ‚ÄúVenom‚ÄĚ viewing experience is Tom Hardy. Already a legend in comic book movie fandom for his mumbly and intimidating performance as Bane in ‚ÄúThe Dark Knight Rises,‚ÄĚ he at least feels more like Eddie Brock than Topher Grace did in ‚ÄúSpider-Man 3.‚ÄĚ (We promise there will be no more mention of ‚ÄúSpider-Man 3.‚ÄĚ You‚Äôll notice it was omitted from all that Spidey movie praise above). Hardy looks like his Eddie Brock could have been drawn by Todd McFarlane (perhaps no one drew a better Venom/Eddie Brock combo in the comics). Given how intense Brock is in the comics, you‚Äôd think Hardy would bring a few Bane-isms in his performance, but he spends most of the time in shock, being scared and confused, while forming a bond with his gooey black alien symbiote, which is just as weird to supporting characters around him as it is to the audience.
‚ÄúVenom‚Äôs‚ÄĚ action is plentiful but not spectacular. Venom‚Äôs fight with the other symbiote, Riot, who bonds with heartless bad guy scientist/philanthropist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is at first the moment you think you bought your ticket for, but you realize you‚Äôd rather see Hardy just chatting with Venom. Those conversations¬†are perhaps the best part of a movie that doesn‚Äôt have many best moments. Another big surprise? This is a pretty scary character. And while there are plenty of scenes where Venom is biting someone‚Äôs head off as viciously¬†as a PG-13 movie will allow him to, there are no attempts to make this a horror movie, as some would have expected¬†from a lead character with so many fangs¬†and an October release date.
‚ÄúVenom‚ÄĚ almost feels like ‚ÄúDeadpool‚ÄĚ-light. The thing with ‚ÄúDeadpool‚ÄĚ movies is that you knew it was going to be funny. The laughs in ‚ÄúVenom‚ÄĚ are there in part because you probably didn‚Äôt expect to laugh in the first place. The intensity was left in the editing room, apparently. As for the villain everyone wanted to see, Carnage, well, I get what Sony was doing here. Why put the only other symbiote who‚Äôs just as popular as Venom¬†in the first Venom movie if you‚Äôre trying to make more? So if you‚Äôre hoping to see Cletus Kasady, you‚Äôll have to join Sony and hope this movie performs well enough for a sequel.
Also, keep your eyes and ears open for special guest cameos ‚ÄĒ and yes, there is a post-credit scene that is as predictable as the movie was.
Hey, it‚Äôs not as great as what Kevin Feige typically scribbles on his calendar on a Tuesday afternoon in Burbank. But a good time? Yeah, that can be had here. You won‚Äôt be deeply moved. You probably won‚Äôt see it more than once. You‚Äôll probably pick up the Blu-ray and not tell anyone. Venom is not ‚ÄúSpider-Man 2,‚ÄĚ but it‚Äôs also not ‚ÄúElektra‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúGreen Lantern.‚ÄĚ
You just may find yourself realizing you‚Äôve watched the greatest guilty pleasure of the modern superhero movie era.