“The world has enough superheroes.”
Such is the tagline for Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, a film that looked to be the supervillain origin story of one of Spider-Man’s most infamous foes. Supervillain origin stories have never been a thing in cinema, especially from major comic companies like Marvel and DC. The closest we’ve gotten is M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, but other than that, the only villain-focused film we’ve gotten is Suicide Squad, which, simply put, is an abomination. But with Venom, the supervillain origin movie is still not a thing, as Fleischer made a movie that is less origin movie and more buddy action-comedy.
Venom stars off like any origin film, as we meet Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a reporter in San Francisco who aims to bring down big corporations and uncover important stories of corruption. When he is assigned to look into the Life Foundation and their young C.E.O, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Brock digs a little deeper than Drake wants, forcing Brock to be fired. When one of Drake’s scientists, Dr. Dora Smith (Jenny Slate), reaches out to the bottomed-out Brock about unethical practices within the foundation, Brock breaks into the Life Foundation after hours and finds that Drake is testing symbiotes, extraterrestrial life forms that came to Earth from space and need to attach to human life to survive, on homeless people in hopes the symbiotes will find the right life form. When one of the symbiotes attaches itself to Brock, everything for Brock changes, and he must be able to control his new found powers and use them to bring down Drake and the Life Foundation.
When you think of great buddy movies, what duos do you think of? Agent J and Agent K from Men in Black? Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond from 48 Hours? Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon? Whatever cinematic duo you think of, there is always one dynamic that the two have in common: one is the straight-laced square, while the other is an erratic hot-head. These two kinds of personalities always make for an interesting dynamic between the two characters, as they grow to learn to work together by accepting each other’s flaws, yet knowing their strength in numbers is what will help them.
Eddie and the symbiote, which calls itself Venom, are a classic cinematic buddy pair. Venom is wild. It knows its powers and knows it can destroy any human at any time. It understands incredibly loud noises and fire can kill it and does everything to stay away. He doesn’t understand basic human functions, like why we don’t eat people, and that’s where Eddie comes in. Being a human, Eddie understands humanity and knows the difference between good and evil, which stops Venom from running amok all over San Francisco and eating every human it sees. The two start off rough, but come together to realize they are both good for each other. They have great back-and-forth banter and bring out the best in one another. Venom gives Eddie a power he has never felt before, which allows him to do what he needs to do to bring down Drake. And Eddie helps Venom by allowing him to use his body as a vessel to survive, but also restraining him from being a maniac and making him more of a hero and less of a villain. It’s interesting and fun to watch. Unfortunately, Venom doesn’t show up until about half way through the movie, which isn’t nearly enough time for these two to go at it.
Tom Hardy gives a performance that is out of this world and fits perfectly within the movie. His accent is like a drunk Christopher Walken, but it works for his character, for some odd reason. His reaction to Venom’s powers is great facial work and Hardy always brings the physicality. But what’s most impressive is Hardy’s comedic timing, especially when Eddie is talking to Venom. I honestly could have watched Eddie and Venom go all day. The rest of the cast, featuring Ahmed, Slate, and the great Michelle Williams, are all fine and do their parts. But this is Hardy’s movie and owns every second of it.
Venom is far from perfect. It takes too long for Venom to come on screen, there’s a chase scene that goes on for about five minutes too long, a lot of the characters are thankless and don’t matter, and the final fight is a hot mess of black gew fighting dark grey gew. But the stuff with Eddie and Venom make this movie worth a watch. You will have a ball watching Hardy and enjoy the new cinematic dynamic duo of Eddie Brock and Venom.
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