Venom (2018)

“Any action is often better than no action.”

While I can’t allow myself to admit that it’s so bad it’s good (mostly because I don’t believe in the phrase), Venom is still interesting because it’s so bizarre and obviously incomplete, and it’s an intriguing puzzle that we go into with the wherewithal that key pieces are missing altogether. This film has been edited to hell and back again, stripped of its back story and almost devoid of depth altogether, but it still brings a bit of personality to the proceedings, creating a new superhero endeavor that’s equally fascinating in all of its strengths and drawbacks. Venom makes absolutely no sense, and yet it barely bores. The movie is an unsolvable conundrum from abrupt start to awkward end.

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) scours the San Francisco streets for hard-hitting news as a no-nonsense journalist. He has a show and is a TMZ style celebrity reporter, although the film never justifies this observation. His attorney girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams), who soon becomes his fiancée, preps a defense case for The Life Foundation, headed by the Elon Musk wannabe Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake’s dealing with a PR nightmare after a space craft of his crash-landed, only made worse by the fact that an alien symbiotic life-form has gone missing. Eddie investigates, he’s infected by the symbiote, and an anti-hero is born, or something like that. It’s all too vague to write about with great certainty.

With a dopey open that shows more than it tells, a second act that’s downright dumb, and a finale which finally brings a little life to the party, Venom entertains as much as it confuses. Few characters have motivation or meaning, allowing the loose plot to fold in on itself like a map that’s been pinned on a wall with a single tack placed dead in the center. Ruben Fleischer’s film wastes a remarkable amount of time, especially given the fact that the movie somehow barely clocks in over 90 minutes long, and in an era where too many movies feel too long for no reason, Venom underscores itself by being so thinly told. How is a film with this title supposed to infect those of us in the audience when its bite doesn’t inflict any pain? An R-rated rattlesnake approach would’ve better served the property than this PG-13 garter snake variety. It’s been defanged.

Most of the action is rather indiscernible and over the top. The romance has no heart. And Riz Ahmed never seems to nail down the true nature of the antagonist. Venom is a sloppy joe of a film, sandwiching its ugly and messy and delicious plot in ways that bring you back for another bite. It’s the kind of thing you only serve to people who don’t care about presentation, and it’s entirely due to Tom Hardy’s maniacal performance as Eddie/Venom (his take is as if a deranged, young Marlon Brando had been offered a superhero property). Despite all of this, I want a sequel to the film, which I’m sure will come sooner than later, and I say this with the hope that next time around the movie focuses on the parasitic relationship at its core, shedding the weight of the side stories which only serve as leeches to a promisingly twisted and dark buddy comedy that never really came to fruition.

“Cooperate and you just might survive.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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