Now, I didn’t expect Venom to be exactly like the comics and I don’t think it would have been fair of me to do so seeing that comic book characters often have different versions of their origins, but I did expect a well put together and competent movie. In a way I got that, but only from the first half of it and just a little above barely if I am to be honest. The second half, however, is when the movie really starts to fall apart with bag CG, questionable writing that is downright bad at times, pacing issues, and a tone that is unfitting of the character and the situation the movie presents. And, out of all those problems, the tone is my biggest gripe.
There be spoilers ahead.
Venom’s biggest problem isn’t the omission of Spider-Man like many others are saying (more on that later), it’s the lack of a consistent tone. I was fine with everything leading up to the symbiote’s big speech after the motorcycle chase scene, but everything after it felt like a need to get the movie over with and establish a new hero in the cinematic world. The Symbiote, after the chase scene, basically tells Eddie (Tom Hardy) that he’s in charge and that’s the way it’s going to be. It was a moment that was true to character and it should have set the tone for the rest of the movie. What we got instead was a maximum increase in humor, which is something that really only worked in the first half.
The movie starts with Eddie Brock living a normal life and reaping the benefits of being a good reporter. Eddie’s happy and he shows it by being a funny, carefree guy. There are a few scenes that break up the humor with serious topics, some of which being information about Eddie’s time in New York. The movie does a great job of letting you get to know Eddie and the humor doesn’t feel misplaced as it is a part of his character. Hardy may not land every joke, but he nails most of them, more so when he is in the process of bonding with the symbiote.
Eddie’s merge with the symbiote isn’t a smooth process in the comics and the creators nailed that aspect in the movie. We see Eddie struggle mentally and physically with the symbiote and his reactions to the situation are mostly natural. I say mostly because I think the PG-13 rating left something to be desired in terms of dialogue. That’s not to say that the movie suffers by being PG-13, but I do think that the creators could’ve pushed the envelope more than they did.
The first kill we get from a fully formed Venom is one where he bites someone’s head off. And while they don’t show it in graphic detail, they let you get just close enough to get the point. But guess what? We don’t see anything of the sort again until the end of the movie. Now I understand that Venom likes to play with his prey and that he wouldn’t just run around chomping at things, but if the creators would’ve toned down the action and went with more intimate encounters along the lines of say The Wolfman, or any creature feature, then I think we would have gotten a better, scarier Venom. For example, there’s a part towards the end of the movie where Venom takes on a group of armored goons in a room filled with smoke. Instead of having a creeping Venom moseying around in the smoke talking about the things he’s going to eat, we get a full round of the Incredible Hulk aspect of the character that I think gets more spotlight than it should. Obviously brute strength is a part of Venom’s character, but his strongest comics are the ones where, again, he has more intimate encounters with his enemies. Also, they could’ve, in the same scene, had more dialogue with Eddie begging and pleading with the Symbiote as it makes its way around the room killing people, adding more depth to the struggle Eddie is going through.
Eddie’s struggle with the symbiote is something that is short lived. The symbiote eventually decides to go after Riot, the apparent leader of the Symbiotes, to stop him from bringing back more of their kind, because Venom likes being at the top of the food chain on earth with no other contenders (that he is aware of). Now that is an awesome angle that kind of rings true for the character, but the speech about the matter is filled with too much humor the matter becomes incredibly cliche. The Symbiote, not long after, has a change of heart and proclaims that Eddie changed his outlook entirely and that he must save the Earth. Now the symbiote could have been messing with Eddie to get him to take on Riot without him interfering, and that’s something that can be easily written into a sequel, but the whole thing comes off more as a typical hero transformative moment.
Another thing that bothered me is how the symbiote is all knowing one minute and not the next. The symbiote mentions being so much a part of Eddie that he knows his darkest secrets and he reveals said secrets a few times. But then there are other times where the symbiote is absolutely clueless about something in Eddie’s life, like Anne, who is Eddie’s girlfriend. The movie has too many extemporaneous, plot convenient moments and it often feels like it was written by people in completely different mindsets.
Venom is a barely functional movie and it's amazing to me that its second half drags it down so much. I can forgive bad CG and iffy writing, but I can’t overlook the blatantly obvious attempt Sony made to ride on the coattails of the Marvel cinematic universe. If they would have just taken a little more time with the movie and put a little more love into it, like the universe they are trying to ape, we really could have gotten something worthwhile. We deserved a better movie and the talent involved certainly did, too.
And now onto my opinion on the lack of Spider-Man and how I would approach the sequel.
I know a lot of people are mad about the movie not having Spider-Man in it, but I think it could work without him. Having the symbiote with Eddy first, who the Symbiote thinks is the best for him because it’s the first person he found, could strengthen/reinforce the abandonment angle that is a big part of the Eddie’s relationship with the symbiote in the comics. And if the Symbiote ever leaves Eddie only to return to him later, it would make Eddie feel that he has something to prove to ensure that the symbiote never leaves him again. Venom’s first outing may be far from perfect, but I think everything could be fixed in a sequel.
What I would do is give Eddie one more solo outing, but have it be much darker in tone. I would show Eddie struggling to get his reputation back, as well as Anne. On top of that, I would have the symbiote be more aggressive and manipulative, a result of growing tired and bored of Eddie’s rules. But on top of that, I would have the symbiote’s aggression also stem from it being “pregnant,” and, after running away from Eddie to find a new host, have it produce the Carnage symbiote near where Cletus Kasady is hiding out after escaping from prison. The symbiote would then witnesses its offspring bond with Kasady and the fear of no longer being at the top of the food chain drives him back to Eddie. I would also have Anne die during the conflict with Carnage, which would then drive Eddie back to New York in a broken state; which would later become an irritation for the symbiote, causing it to leave Eddie for a newer, stronger model: Spider-Man.