Tom Awesome’s Review Score: 8.25
What do you get when you pair an alien parasite with a blackballed investigative reporter and strip away the title character’s traditional backstory and all other trappings of the Marvel universe? A surprisingly fun action film with a couple outstanding performances.
Venom has always been one of my favorite characters, and going into the film my expectations were low. I was hoping it wouldn’t suck. Overall, I found it really enjoyable!
Plot Summary – SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION ONLY
The Life Foundation, led by the charismatic Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed), is searching for Earth’s salvation. Driven to look to the stars for more resources and habitable planets, the foundation stumbles across a comet with life signatures. They collect a couple samples to analyze and bring them back to Earth. The shuttle crashes to earth, and one of the samples escapes.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is handed a puff-piece interview with Drake. He snoops in his lawyer-fiancé’s email and learns about a lawsuit against the foundation, claiming that they are doing unethical human pharmaceutical trials. When Brock asks about the allegations, Drake cuts the interview short and kills Brock’s career. Brock’s fiancé leaves him and his life falls apart.
The Life Foundation spends six months experimenting on the specimens. They start experimenting on humans, trying to bond them with the alien parasites. The results are lethal. One of the scientists wants to blow the whistle on the operation, and contacts Brock. She sneaks him into the lab, and he tries to rescue one of the patients. He is attacked, and the symbiote leaps from the previous host to Brock. Venom is born.
The parasite takes a physical and mental toll on Brock, and interactions between the two are one of the highlights of the film. The sample that escaped early in the beginning makes his way to the Life Foundation, and leaps from a previous host to Drake. This new creature is called Riot, and is more or less a gray version of Venom.
Riot has designs to take a Life Foundation rocket back to the comet to collect his kin and launch a full-scale invasion on Earth. Venom decides he likes it on Earth, and takes it upon himself to stop his symbiote kin. This leads to a final showdown between the two hybrid creatures. The other symbionts are still safe in the lab, for now.
SPOILER FREE FROM HERE ON!
- Hardy was incredible as Eddie Brock. To me, Brock will always be a muscle-bound mullet dude, and I had my reservations about Hardy. He nails it. He’s a believable journalist, and his interactions with the symbiote steal the show.
- Unexpected humor. This movie doesn’t go out of its way to make you laugh, but there were a couple very funny moments. The alien in particular was humorous, with logic that felt like it was from another planet.
- The (lack of) gore factor. Venom is a dark character who is constantly threatening to eat his foes. This movie has plenty of fighting and stays true to this aspect of Venom’s character without copious amounts of blood and gore.
- Charismatic baddie. Drake was my kind of antagonist. Super smart, very polished and ultimately looking out for humanity’s great good. He was willing to sacrifice lesser men to achieve a greater good. He was a little twisted, but I could believe his line of thinking.
- Frequent host swapping. The symbionts are constantly consuming their hosts. The movie frames this as the individual humans being incompatible hosts for the aliens. At one point Venom is driven out of Brock’s body and leaps host to host to get back to him. There wasn’t a great deal of bonding.
- Lack of other symbiotes. I won’t elaborate due to potential spoilers.
- Ho-hum car chases. There are multiple car chases, and they felt forced to me. I would have rather explored more of Eddie’s relationships.
The Final Word
I have no doubt that hardcore comic fans will hate this film. It lacks the humor of Deadpool and the grand connections that make the Marvel cinematic universe so appealing to mass audiences. Seeing Venom without the spider symbol on his chest is very strange and it’s hard to buy the Brock/Venom relationship without their shared hatred of Spider-Man.
If you can look beyond your nerd rage, Venom is a pretty good action film. Check it out, so they make the sequel they brilliantly tease at the end.