With Spider-Man finally in the MCU proper (and thriving) the decision by Sony to move forward with Venom was a bit of a head scratcher, but if you have one last thread in the Marvel tapestry, you’re bound to hold onto it pretty tightly. And if you’re smart, you do everything in your power to do the thing properly.
Maybe that’s what Sony thought they were doing when they sent an pile of writers to work on the script. But it could only have been money that prompted them to go with a PG-13 film. For a picture that strives to be as irreverent as Deadpool it sure missed the memo that audiences will come out for your R-rated comic book movie if it’s good. And maybe that version of Venom would have been good, but the one we ended up with is confused at best and sloppy at worst.
Somehow Ruben Fleisher, the merry band of writers and the Studio managed to squander a roster of no lesser talents than Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed and Jenny Slate, who might have brought exceptional color to this drab scene but is saddled with the role of forgettable scientist with a conscience, while Riz Ahmed is relegated to a boring, Elon Musk-esque villain. Impossibly, Michelle Williams gets utterly lost here, she doesn’t spark with Hardy and she’s not her usually compelling self.
But she’s not the only one. Tom Hardy shows his face and speaks intelligibly for more of Venom than you’d guess, but there are significant stretches where he scarcely registers, like the first half-hour of the picture. He’s just not good in those moments. Then you’ll stumble into a sequence where he’s doing wild physical comedy, talking nonsense, hopping into lobster tanks, and it seems it might work. Then we flip back to meandering. Then it’s fun banter with Venom and then back to forced action sequences. It’s all a jumbly mess that leaves the impression that Hardy and everyone else signed on for quite a different movie than the one they made.
Venom isn’t quite so bad as some of the first looks suggested, but it’s a far cry from good, and that’s a shame, because it might have been great.