Venom Review

Are audiences ready to discuss the slight possibility that Venom is a boring villain? Simple, yes. Problematic for the webbed hero absent from this feature? Absolutely. But the anti-statement is a hard nut to crack, and the Tom Hardy-led Venom is not the feature to pick apart such a trivial discussion. It puts the “super” back into the “superhero” feature, meaning it at least has fun with its source material. But what is fun without sustenance? Where light-hearted romps through the heavy-set, darker tones of this Marvel villain are had, the leniency an audience must feel for narrative scrutiny is unwieldy. Narrative is unnecessary when pure, comic-based entertainment is the end goal.

It is not as though Venom has much else to it. With journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) infected by an alien parasite, an explanation would be expected for what happens next. It is never expanded upon from there. That is all the layering needed for Ruben Fleischer’s directorial project. Space travel and explosions are all well and good if there is a point behind them. Narratively flimsy at the best of times, Venom expresses most of its plot points and story sketch marks as interruptions, rather than the focus. A jargon-packed Riz Ahmed appears with all sorts of generic space talk, but he is convincing enough in his villainous role as Carlton Drake. It is a shame that alter-ego Riot is so bland and dull.

But that dull streak is not set to last. Venom explores the context it holds as a set-piece creator. It is on the fringes of an action-packed blockbuster. Akin to that style of flashy, explosive action Michael Bay would employ on his adaptations of Transformers, Fleischer’s project works. When he throws vans over trees and relies on the CGI to take the form of a beastly incarnation of a classic comic book villain, Venom is quite fun. It is the devolution into unnecessary storyboarding that feels like the cruel ultimatum here. Hardy plays well with the inspired evaluation of a character consumed by villainy. He is the susceptible anti-hero, but it is performed bleakly and not as well as it should be with this first feature.

Where Venom does have an inherent level of fun to it, it is through the nonsensical prowess of a leading man with nothing to lose. Everyone around him plays the straight man, and Hardy has the room to grow into nothing. It is a role that he has never adapted himself to before. He is usually at the forefront of it all with a huge stake in the game, but the story passes him by in Venom, and audiences are better off for it. Ahmed bears the brunt of the dialogue, but in return offers Hardy the opportunity to take this titular role and run wild with it. That he does, but not well enough. There is room, to grow for a simple character like Venom, but this eponymous feature does little to impress and even less to disgust those audience members hoping for a darker stab at the pop-culture glaze of modern superhero features.

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